Beginning this month and going all the way through Thanksgiving, you’ll see pumpkins. Mounds of pumpkins, drifts and slopes and arrays of golden globes, all offered for sale. I’m talking about the real kind, the ones cultivated, harvested, piled in trailers, and hauled to market by actual farmers. But, as fresh fruit—or vegetable, if you will—these pumpkins (and squashes) have a limited amount of time to spend on earth.
You can go it one better, create a nice tribute to the season, and have decorative pieces not susceptible to decay. I’m talking about the kind of pumpkin crafted from resin or poly, and found at any craft store this time of year. They come in a jumble of sizes and shapes, just like the real thing, and don’t have to loll on tables, or perch in doorways or corners, just because that’s how everyone else uses them. Since they weigh mere ounces, you can easily nail a grouping of them on a wall for an unexpected homage to the season.
It only takes few minutes, and all you need is a hammer, nails, and a mix of different-sized artificial pumpkins and squash. First, clean and brush them with polyurethane. That sheen will make them actually look more lifelike, once they’re on the wall.
Once they’ve dried, group them in a preliminary mix on an area of the floor that approximates the wall they’ll be nailed to. If you’re sure of yourself, you can skip this step. But placing and arranging them before nailing means you can adjust, and not have to move them around once you put them on the wall.
Begin with the largest pumpkins, place each one onto a nail, then work your way down through the sizes, stepping back often to ascertain placement and perspective. Give each plenty of room, and don’t crowd them, which will make them ‘pop’ on the wall. You might want to reserve one or two to use somewhere else in the room.
When you have them arranged on your wall the way you like, then you’ll want to reinforce your seasonal and color themes by creating small effects for tables, mantel, or fireplace. Think about a mix of pumpkins, fresh flowers, potted plants, and unusual pieces of dried material. Also think about scale, and mix your colors.
Don’t forget the small touches, like a budvase of brightly mixed fruit and flowers on a stack of books. It’s these details that define the personality of the room.
And that wall of pumpkins? When you’re ready for the next holiday and its round of decorating, you can box them up for use another year.
Live Life to the Fullest
Our garden guru Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens is back, and this time he’s ready to help you rehab your containers for a summers-worth of gorgeous blooms.
My philosophy on decorating or accessorizing, whether it’s inside or outside, is to never limit yourself: be creative, and don’t just copy, rather expand on an idea. This golden rule applies even to container gardening. So many of us duplicate what our neighborsÂ do in regards to their potted containers. Why do the same old juniper tree in the center with red geraniums? Spice it up!!!
Seasonal decorations, no matter how colorful and unusual, plunked down in the same places every year, can become stale. We have all seen autumn decorations used in the same way every time the season rolls around: shocks of corn propped against doorways; singles, or duos and trios of pumpkins vigilant in corners, or marginalized on steps; ‘seasonal touches’ flanking the fireplace and lined up on the mantel. While fall conjures up visions of harvest, cornucopia, and plenty of fiery tones, how those pieces get used—and where—needs a fresh approach.
Here’s a way to get maximum usage (and a bit of thrill) by doing nothing more than using a variety of fresh pumpkins in a place you may not have thought of before. If you have a pool, a small pond, or even a birdbath, you can float your seasonal color and get a little bit of autumn, even where it’s least expected.
If you have a pool, the only decision you’ll really need to make is how to group your flotilla of pumpkins. You can let them drift about singly, or as a loose group gently pushed about by wind and current, or you can create a bit of art on the water the way I did, and provide a barrier to keep them corralled, which creates a geometrical field of color and texture.
I chose to contain them in triangles of bamboo simply because I liked this look better than having them float loosely on the surface of the water. Before, the size of the pool meant they floated around, kind of like vegetables in a stew, or apples in a tub waiting to be bobbed for. And I liked the organic ‘feel’ of adding the green bamboo.
I sourced the bamboo–all around three inches in diameter, and a few feet long—and did nothing more than lash three pieces together with twine. I liked the triangular design, and purposely did not try to make the sides even.
I chose easy-to-find hybrid pumpkins to fill the bamboo designs. ‘Flat’ pumpkins are best, since they bob in a lazy back-and-forth motion. I used ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Fairy,’ and ‘Jarrahdale’ for color and contrast.
Chlorine probably impedes the pumpkins from rotting in the water, but even then, you’ll need to be mindful. Your floating art will last about four to six weeks.
This look can be adjusted according to the size of your water feature. Even a bird bath will be more seasonally interesting with a drift of tiny pumpkins. And you can’t beat the tranquil—and unexpected—bit of autumn floating about.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Garden guru Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens shares a few tips on creating a serene alternative to a koi fish pond with a low-maintenance turtle pond.
We’ve all seen fish ponds in landscapes. Some of us even have our own raging waterfalls and huge ponds full of big beautiful koi fish. But there are those of us, including myself, that love the gentle sound of water with minimum care. Why not create a unique and low-key water fixture by building a turtle pond instead?
Thatâs just what I did in my own front yard, as it is the only spot that I have about 5 hours of pure sunshine, just what water turtles need.
Simple in design, my turtle pond is round with a six foot diameter. I built the structure out of concrete blocks and capped the exposed sides and top with flagstone. The pond is 30 inches deep so turtles can hibernate in safety and hide from predators. The walls are straight up so they little guys canât escape.
For a decorative touch, I created a sun dial design with large cut flagstone.Â I even have underwater low voltage lights so when guests come to my front door at night they can see my turtles and fantail goldfish.
What I am most excited about is that in just a few weeks my new addition to the turtle pond will be a baby albino red slider turtle. I just canât wait!Â Happy Gardening!
After the tree itself, no plant proclaims “Christmas” like the poinsettia. The workhorse of holiday cheer, poinsettias were brought to the US in the Nineteenth Century. The botanist who discovered the plant in Mexico, went on to become the first US ambassador there. A county in Arkansas, Poinsett, is named for his family. In the wild, a poinsettia is a rangy, spidery shrub, which can grow to a height of 15 feet, with only modest red blooms.
But let’s dispense with all that background; what we really care about are the more than 100 varieties now grown for use during the holidays. With painterly names like ‘Premium Picasso,’ ‘Monet Twilight,’ ‘Shimmer,’ and ‘Ombre Hues,’ the new hybrids come in a myriad of sizes and shapes, and the blooms range from glacial, to tricolor, to deep ruby . With so many choices, and such easy availability, you should group poinsettias in drifts, and think about adding some of the new colors. And maintenance is easy.
You’ll want to give your poinsettias light, so try to group them near windows, especially south-facing. Don’t place them in direct sun, or touching windows. The glass will conduct heat or cold, and burn leaves or blooms. Water sparingly, but don’t let them completely dry out, which will make petals or leaves drop. And keep them out of drafts, especially heat sources. They look great massed around fireplaces, but you’ll want to monitor them, if you’re actively lighting fires.
You might like the idea of keeping them to re-flower next Christmas, but know that you’ll have to keep a schedule of maintenance to do so. Here are some steps: slow the watering around the first of April; by the middle of May, cut the stems back to around four inches above the soil line and repot in a soilless mix. Water thoroughly, and place in sunny window. The temperature needs to be constant, at around 65 top 75 degrees, so inside may be better right now, than outside. By June, you can move the plant outdoors, in a place with a bit of shade. Fertilize, and pinch back new growth to encourage bushiness. Remember, these plants want to grow tall, so this step is important. Continue this care until October 1. Now, the real diligence begins.
Poinsettias are ‘short-day’ plants, which means they only bloom when the nights are longer than days. Take your poinsettia and place in a closet with no light at 5 PM daily, and don’t remove until 8 AM the next morning. You must maintain this daily schedule for ten weeks. Only with this regimen will your plant re-bloom. Place the plant in a sunny window during the day and don’t forget to feed and water. All these steps are tedious, but rewarding; you really can get your poinsettia to bloom again. And if you have children in the house, this plant and its routine are a good starting place for them, if you want them to learn about caring for living things.
If none of this work appeals to you, then toss your plant onto the compost heap after the last petals fall. And know that next year, you’ll have a number of poinsettias—and poinsettia colors and sizes–to choose from, and you can delight in filling spaces with their bright cheer.