If you’re like me, every October, when those big boxes of gourds land at the grocery, your mind whirls with possibilities. The cute little shapes seem to embody the essence of fall. The problem is, once you get them home, the gourds seem somehow lacking. Sure, you can toss them in a bowl. But, if you really want to get creative, decorating with gourds requires a few added ingredients.
ORNAMENTAL GOURDS FED PRE-COLOMBIAN PEOPLES
Have you ever wondered where these little guys come from? The mini soft-shell gourds are part of a family of flowering plants called cucurbita (which is Latin for gourd.) Native to the Andes and Mesoamerica, cucurbitas include a variety of melons, squashes, pumpkins and both ornamental and non-ornamental gourds. Archeological evidence shows that pre-Colombian peoples cultivated these plants as many as 10,000 years ago in the region of present-day Mexico.
Cantine variety of ornamental gourds
Nowadays, however, ornamental gourds are celebrated more for their cute size than their culinary properties. And they sure do exhibit some curious forms. These include bottle, kettle, pear, crown of thorns, egg and the popular cantine that looks like a mini pumpkin. The unusual shapes result from the gourds’ tendency to cross-pollinate not only with each other, but also with pumpkins and squash. Happily, this allows for an endless supply of design possibilities.
DECORATING WITH GOURDS: THE KEY ELEMENTS
So back to decorating with gourds. How do you spice things up? By adding some key seasonal ingredients. And autumn provides a wealth of natural materials.
One way to add interesting texture and color to your arrangement is to assemble some decorative accents likes feathers, twigs, nuts and leaves. Ringneck pheasant tail feathers, curly willow branches, walnuts and various size pinecones are all great ways to heighten the appeal.
Ringneck pheasant tail feathers
Curly willow branches
Walnuts’ large size make them the perfect accompaniment to gourds
Or, you can carve out your ornamental gourds and fill them with flowers, berries or vines. Hypericum berries, orange bittersweet, purple, red or orange dahlias or yellow lilies all make great fillers while adding pops of seasonal color.
Yellow lilies provide good color contrast
Not interested in any of the above? Carve out your ornamental gourds and add votive candles instead for a warm and toasty look.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Ready to get started? Here are some great ideas from around the web for decorating with gourds. Click on the links for more detailed information.
1. No seasonal accents here. But what makes this interesting is the combination of shapes and colors. Ornamental gourd wreath, Southern Living
2. White gourds with deep green, frilly ornamental kale and pine cones. The rustic wood bowl finishes the look.
3. There’s no mistaking here the vase-like shape of this ornamental gourd. Not only does the cluster of red flowers complement the mini gourd’s green color, but it is in perfect proportion to the base of the ‘vase.’
4. A miniature take on the traditional hollowed-out pumpkin, these different sized ornamental gourds shine with the light of votive candles.
5. Purple and orange dahlias with bittersweet berries and green leaves provide a great color complement to the butter-colored acorn-shaped gourd ‘vases.’
6. What makes this arrangement work is the fall coloration and striking similarity in texture of the gourds and basket.
7. This modernist arrangement with orange zinnias, flax leaf and feathery grass may not be for everyone, but it sure is eye-catching.
8. Looking for a great table arrangement? These slender glass vases filled with orange gourds and single strands of ivy are clean and elegant.
9. It’s all about texture and color here. White ornamental gourd vase with pink gerbera daisies, magnolia leaves, mini green cantines, flowering kale and evergreen sprigs.
10. If you have the space, these glamorous arrangements are sure to amaze – stacked gourds in black metal towers with potted yellow mums. (Notice how the pots and towers are the same color.)