Use pumpkins, fall flowers to celebrate the new season
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
After the long, hot summer, you almost feel like celebrating fall's arrival. I am already seeing neighbors searching out pumpkins and doing a little fall decorating. The feeling of fall and festivals is in the air.
To celebrate, consider a little neighborhood decoration that just might catch on from one end of the street to the other. At one of my previous homes, I lived on a cul-de-sac that always had children playing, but it also had two unsightly storm drains.
To transform this liability into an asset, I went to the garden center and did a little shopping. Most fall decorating is done with bales of hay, but if you are wise, you will get several large bales of pine straw.
Next, choose an assortment of colorful, fall-blooming flowers like chrysanthemums and lantanas. Garden centers are bringing in fresh material of all sorts now, including petunias and verbenas. Don't forget that even though traditional fall colors are oranges and yellows, the blue selections will really complement pumpkins and gourds.
After a visit to the garden center, it is time to go to the farmers' market. It would not be fall without pumpkins -- lots of pumpkins -- and gourds. Some other items of interest at the farmers' markets are old fruit crates or even baskets. You can use these to hold pots of mums or other blooming plants, and then throw them away.
Now you're ready for decorating. Place the bales of straw in a building-block pattern creating some corners or shelf-like places so that you can decoratively arrange the plants, pumpkins and gourds to show off their color. To finish the project, why not add a scarecrow? These can be the store-bought version or homemade.
Don't forget to water the plants. The display will look pretty for weeks, and the children will love it. After you're through, you've got fruit for Thanksgiving pie. Smaller pumpkins make the best pies.
You can use the pine straw for mulch. Apply 3 to 4 inches of pine straw around flowers and shrubs to help hold moisture and to moderate winter soil temperatures. Lastly, you will have plants for the garden. Plant them with container-grown nursery material during the cool fall.
If you don't have a good spot at the street side, then by all means place decorations near your front entrance or display them prominently somewhere else in the landscape.
There is another great idea coming of age thanks to recent innovations in plant breeding. Consider the new violas Sorbet Black Delight and Sorbet Orange Delight. The one called Sorbet Black Delight is really an intensely dark purple that looks black.
Try mass-planting these colors in bold drifts and use pumpkins as accessories. There is even a midsized pansy called Halloween II that is virtually black and would make an excellent partner with Pansy Panola Deep Orange.
If you really want to celebrate the change of seasons, then make plans to attend the Fall Flower and Garden Fest Oct. 12-13 at the Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs. This is the best free horticultural event in the country, and it is designed with the whole family in mind.
The festival takes place from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day with seminars, plant and food vendors, wagon rides and even a scheduled Let's Go Walkin' Mississippi walk. Call (601) 892-3731 for more information.
Released: September 20, 2007
Contact: Norman Winter, (601) 857-2284
Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.