Fall is by far my favorite time of year. Not just for the wonderful color display on the trees, but for the exciting array of winter squash and gourds available. If you grew any in your summer garden, the wait is over. Winter squash and gourds are great for pies, breads and savory dishes, but they have an added benefit...use them for decor!

Fall Vignettes

Perhaps the simplest way to incorporate gourds and decorative winter squash in a vignette. Select groups of gourds in several sizes, colors and textures; odd numbers work best. Pair them with seasonal blooms, such as mums and asters. When setting up a vignette, you should have a tall or focal point piece. This can be achieved by placing one of the gourds on an empty, upturned pot or a cake stand. Once you have the focal piece, fill in around the piece with the other gourds or squash and blooms.
Another option is to use a decorative glass lantern or trifle bowl to display mini pumpkins and gourds. Add several sizes and colors of the squash along with fallen, colorful leaves, acorns or berries foraged from your yard.
Fill the glass vessel with a combination of your fall cornucopia and display on a mantle or hall table.

Bird Feeders and Houses

Dried and cured gourds make wonderful bird feeders and houses. In order to use gourd for these types of projects, it must be completely dried. A gourd is ready when it's light and you can hear the seeds rattle on the inside. If you attempt to use a gourd that is not cured and dried, it will shrivel and rot.
To make a simple bird feeder:
  1. Drill several holes (about 1-2 inch in diameters) into the gourd.
  2. Drill smaller holes beneath the larger holes (the diameter of a wooden rod or peg) under each bird entry.
  3. Apply glue to the lip of each perch hole you drilled and add a two inch length of wooden dowel.
  4. Hang the feeder with a small eye hook on top or drill a small hole and string piece of wire.
  5. Fill with tasty bird seed and enjoy some birdwatching.
To create a simple birdhouse, follow the steps for a feeder, except only drill one hole for an entryway.

Tea Light Holders

Fresh winter squash can be used to create a temporary tea light holder. Winter squash such as acorn and mini pumpkins are perfect candidates. This is a wonderful way to add mood lighting to your Thanksgiving day tablescape or to a fall themed vignette.
To make squash tea light holders:
  1. If the squash or gourd does not have a flat bottom, carefully slice of a piece off the bottom so that it will sit flat on the table.
  2. Next, carefully slice off the top of the gourd. This is where you will drill the hole for the candle.
  3. Use a drill (or carefully by hand) drill a hole for the tea light to sit. Only drill a hole deep and wide enough for the tea light.
  4. Repeat for as many as you need. Set them on a tray or line them down your dining table.

Plant containers

Large pumpkins are not just useful for jack-o-lanterns. Hollow one out to use as a seasonal planter. Put seasonal blooms and other fall ornamental favorites in your pumpkin planter. These planters will last for a couple weeks and are perfect to add a bit of fall decor to your front porch.
To make a pumpkin planter:
  1. Select a pumpkin that will be tall and wide enough to hold the plant you want inside.You will be inserting the entire pot and plant inside the pumpkin. When in doubt, get a bigger one!
  2. Slice off the top of the pumpkin and remove the flesh and the seeds. You might have to saw off more at the top to widen the hole.
  3. Once the pumpkin is hollowed out, cut a small drainage hole at the bottom.This will allow the water to drain from the pumpkin and help it last longer.
  4. Insert your selected plant (plastic pot and all) into the pumpkin.
  5. Water the plant according to instructions. The pumpkin should last a couple of weeks.

Bowls for appetizers of dishes

Do you need some interesting and pretty decorative bowls to hold appetizers for your Thanksgiving dinner? Gourds and winter squash are perfect natural bowls! Gourds, in particular, have been used for thousands of years as utensils, dishes, containers, storage vessels and instruments.
To create a squash bowl:

  1. Any type of squash can be used as a bowl. Gather as many as you need.
  2. Slice off the bottom of the squash so that is will sit level on a table.
  3. Hollow them out like you do a pumpkin for carving.
  4. Add nuts, berries, soups, dips, etc to your squash bowl and serve. Simple and inexpensive bowls for your next get together.

Wreaths

Almost anything can be made into a wreath and winter squash and gourds are no exception. In this case, the mini pumpkins and gourds work the best. Creating a natural, gourd wreath is a great way to show off these festive holiday decorations.
To create a gourd wreath:
  1. Gather a mixture of small and colorful gourds.
  2. Using a long, fine bit, drill through the gourds, keep the holes slightly toward the back of each gourd.
  3. Wire the gourds to a round foam or grapevine wreath.
  4. Add some colorful fall leaves or branches to fill in between the gourds
  5. Hang on your door and enjoy!
No matter how you choose to incorporate gourds and winter squash into your autumn decor, they are a great way to add seasonal flavor to any area of your home. Use them as is, or jazz them up with a craft. However you use these fall lovelies, its a great way to turn seasonal bounty into a warm, inviting and natural decor.