"What makes a gourd desirable?" my husband asked, calling from a farmer's roadside stand where I'd sent him in a panic to find pumpkins and gourds for my fall open house. Everyone has her own answer to that question. Some love gourds with traditional shapes and colors of red, buttery yellow and persimmon orange. Others are intrigued by those with unusual shapes and hues, like ghostly white and eerie green-gray. I'm especially fond of gnarly, wart-covered gourds in crazy color combinations.
No matter your preference, gourds, pumpkins and squashes Mother Nature blesses us with each fall make fabulous decorating tools. Harvest your favorites and try some of these ideas.
CLUSTER BY COLOR: One way to create fall displays loaded with drama is to only use gourds and pumpkins that are the same color. For instance, for a fresh and fun fall dining-table display, gather a passel of white pumpkins and gourds, and wed them with green accents. Start with a table topper that sports a white-and-green floral or stripe pattern. Then layer a white dinner plate with a green salad plate topped with a white mini-pumpkin nestled in a soup bowl. For a super-simple centerpiece, fill a green urn with white gourds. Or make a bouquet of green hypericum berry sprays, then tumble white gourds and pumpkins around the base of the urn.
Or for a white-pumpkin-inspired table that's a bit more elegant, start with a black-and-white damask tablecloth. Use silver trays as chargers below gold- or silver-rimmed china. Place a black iron urn at the table's center filled with twigs, gold-misted grape leaves and clusters, and white gourds. Then create an interesting multilevel tableau out of mercury glass candlesticks and silver trophy cups, all topped with white gourds.
For another wonderful look for your fall table, group together gourds and pumpkins in traditional harvest colors of orange, red and yellow. Use a table topper of burlap, burgundy or amber. For a centerpiece, fill a tall olive vessel with branches, fall florals and pumpkin vines. Then find interesting ways to add gourds and pumpkins to your table and buffet: Load a three-tiered server with an assortment of gourds, or place a small pumpkin on a wicker cake plate under a glass cloche.
MIX IT UP: I admire the way Mother Nature mixes colors willy-nilly. You can do the same in your fall tableaus by tossing together a variety of gourds. Create a memorable display on a side table by filling a decorative wheelbarrow with a harvest of pumpkins. Or place a large pumpkin, fall statue or gazing ball in the center of a concrete mini-birdbath and surround it with a passel of gourds.
To add grace to your buffet or console table, put blue-and-white Asian ginger jars on opposite sides, then fill them with fall foliage and gourds, resting additional gourds and pumpkins at the base. Freshen up your mantel with an undulating phalanx of pumpkins and gourds of different sizes, shapes and colors. Give a few gourds added height atop candlesticks or votive cups.
TRY SOMETHING NEW: Enlist gourds and pumpkins to serve at your next party. Once, I hollowed out gourds to use as soup bowls at a fall fete in my garden. To keep the soup warm in the chilly autumn air, I served the gourd bowls on small concrete risers topped with glass cloches.
Hollow out a tall pumpkin and fill it with fresh veggies like asparagus spears or carrot sticks. Try the same trick with a short pumpkin, filling it with dip. Shave off the top of a squat pumpkin to make it level, then use it to hold a serving tray filled with seasonal fruits or cups of steaming cider. Place candles in small, hollowed-out gourds or use mini-pumpkins as place-card holders.