Gourds and fall go together. When most people think of fall and gourds they think of the small yellow and green ornamental gourds that are used for table decorations. When I think of fall and gourds I think of hard shell gourds.
Colorful ornamental gourds are used fresh picked, still green. They will hold up through Halloween and Thanksgiving and then start to rot. Hard shell gourds , on the other hand, are harvested one year and allowed to dry for six months, a year or more before being cleaned up and used. Once hard shell gourds are dried they will last for many years.
In the fall I use hard shell gourds for much of my holiday decorating from Halloween through to Thanksgiving, I then pack them away until the following fall.
Hard shell gourds come in many shapes and sizes. To create pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving I choose tobacco box, canteen and Copper Canyon gourds. I color the gourds using leather stain in orange and British Tan. I sometimes add highlights using yellow and red, blending the colors with a piece of sheep’s wool. I finish the gourd pumpkins with a light spray of clear varnish.
Some of the pumpkin gourds are turned into jack o lanterns using a dremil tool, an exacto knife or a jig saw to cut the faces. I also add a two inch hole in the back to hold a clip in 7 watt electric light found in craft stores. Never use a candle in a gourd as it will quickly burn.
Turn the gourd pumpkins into wonderful pumpkin shaped containers for holding dried flower arrangements. Add a piece of Sahara and go out to the yard and gather any dried material including leaves, twigs, berries, dried flowers and herbs to create a natural arrangement.
The gourd pumpkin bowls can even be used to hold fresh cut mums. Just place a small bowl filled with water and oasis and arrange the mums as desired.
I also make Primitive Jack o Lanterns using milk bottle gourds. The gourds are tall and narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, hence the name milk bottle. I color these jacks with a medium brown or British tan leather dye. The faces I cut are solemn or scary instead of happy and cheery.
I group my faux pumpkins together outdoors, mixing and matching shapes and colors at the entrance to my home. Indoors I group the smaller pumpkins on the dining table and scatter colorful fall leaves around the arrangement.
With a little practice the gourds can be turned into pumpkins that can’t be distinguished from the real McCoy and will last for years to come.