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GardenSMART :: Thanksgiving Decor From Your Garden

Thanksgiving Décor From Your Garden

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

At this time of year, many gardeners look forward to harvesting their homegrown vegetables for the Thanksgiving table. But it's not only edibles that are worth gathering. Your garden and yard hold treasures that can be collected and combined for naturally beautiful decorations that are inexpensive, recyclable, and unique to you.

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It's fun to go out into the garden a few days before, or even Thanksgiving morning, gather whatever's around that still looks good, and combine it in festive ways. (And what a good excuse to wait to clean up the garden!) Here are some ideas to decorate your home, indoors and out:

Pumpkins and Gourds

  • Instead of simply placing pumpkins, gourds, and pots of mums at the front door, pile them all in weatherproof baskets of various sizes. Carve your name or house number in the biggest, most prominent one.

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  • Make "mumkins." With an awl, poke deep holes in a pumpkin ½ inch apart. Slip an individual mum (stem should be about 2-3 inches long) in each hole until almost the entire pumpkin is covered in flowers. This arrangement doesn't last long, so make it only a day or so before you need it, and keep in the fridge or someplace cool until ready to display.
  • Pumpkins and gourds make natural vases and candleholders: place a flower-filled vase or pot of mums into a hollow pumpkin. Carve out the tops of tiny pumpkins and gourds and put tea lights or small candles in them.
  • Using clear-drying glue, glue flower petals and leaves on pumpkins for a floral centerpiece that doesn't require watering. Try pansy petals, maple leaves, fern fronds, or a combination. This looks especially pretty on white pumpkins.

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Branches and Leaves

  • Long branches – with or without leaves or pinecones  - can be fastened together with wire, tied with a decorative ribbon, and attached to the front door for a dramatic alternative to the traditional wreath.
  • Fill a shallow bowl with water, and add a few colorful fall leaves or fern fronds. Anchor them with candles. Refresh the water or leaves as needed.
  • Don't overlook the foliage of perennials as decoration. Many hosta leaves turn brilliant yellow. Ferns fade to a soft gold. Dark green, leathery hellebore leaves can be tucked into flower arrangements to add texture.
  • Broad-leaved evergreens such as magnolias and boxwood can be snipped for arrangements, as can branches from yews, pines, and spruces.
  • From the vegetable garden, look for kale leaves, nasturtium leaves, fig leaves, rosemary, sage, and bay.

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Vines, Fruits, And Seeds

  • Wrap grape- or bittersweet vines around doorways, over mantels, or trailed on the Thanksgiving table. If you can't find grapevine growing in your area, buy a grapevine wreath from a craft store, cut the wires keeping it tight, and soak it overnight in water to make it pliable. Then unwrap and use as needed.
  • Berries and seeds: rose hips, viburnum berries, or crabapples can be tucked in flower arrangements or garlands, or tied with twine to decorate a place setting. Be sure to leave enough behind for wildlife, which rely on these fruits to get them through the winter.
  • In a pinch, a bowl of apples and some scattered fall leaves makes a fast and easy display.
  • Other found and natural items that can be used in decorations include: mosses, including Spanish moss, lichen, hydrangea flowerheads, Indian corn and cornhusks, and smooth round stones or pebbles.

Other Natural Ideas

  • Mini-pots of ornamental peppers, herbs, or succulents from the supermarket or garden center make pretty table centerpieces low enough to easily see over.
  • Write guests' names on seed packets and use as placecards/party favors.
  • Fill mason jars ¼ full of acorns or other nuts – or even popcorn kernels or birdseed – and nest a small candle in a glass candleholder inside.
  • Gold metallic paint adds luster to leaves, pinecones, pumpkins, berries; you name it. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

Best of all, with few exceptions, natural decorations that come from the garden or even the store can go back to the garden when you are done with them. Split up that decorative hay bale or cornstalks and use them as mulch around perennials or in vegetable beds. Set pumpkins or berries out for wildlife. Return to the earth what came from the earth, to turn into compost.

Gardeners have so much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!


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