Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Fall is a time to rejoice in the bounty of the harvest season. The one plant that represents the quintessence of autumn is the pumpkin. The small ones are perfect for fall floral designs.
If you’re looking for a plant that is truly American, this is it. Pumpkins originated in America. They were domesticated by the native peoples in South and Central America about five thousand years ago. From there they eventually spread to North America, and were grown by the natives before the arrival of the Europeans.
Pumpkins are often used for fall decorations for homes and gardens. Traditionally they were carved into jack-o-lanterns. But that is also changing. Now there are a number of varieties with smooth, pale skin that are great for painting. For children, the painting can be as much fun as the carving. Special stencil kits are available. Though there are exceptions, painted pumpkins will last longer than carved ones. To help your jack-o-lantern last longer, dunk it into the special preservative made for that very purpose.
If you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to choose the perfect pumpkin, you’ll want to display it the best possible way. There are special iron stands for this. They are most suitable for ones with flat bottoms. You can buy a special plastic stand, called Stand-O’Lantern. It has special locking pins to hold the pumpkin securely in place. Before buying one, weigh your pumpkin, because this product comes in different sizes for pumpkins ranging from seven pounds up to almost 50 pounds.
The tiny pumpkins, such as ‘Jack-be-Little,’ are so petite they don’t require special stands. These are really fun to grow. My plants always produce many more miniature fruits than I can ever use.
To help the pumpkins last longer, store them out of direct sun. Never put one directly on carpet indoors or outdoors. It may start leaking and ruin the rug.
Pumpkins have many uses in floral design. We can turn them into pumpkin flowerpots. Cut the top part off, and scoop out the seeds. Then fill it with moist potting soil. Finally, plant pansies or mums inside the pumpkin. These will usually last for many weeks before the pumpkin begins to rot.
Pumpkins can also be used as containers for cut flower arrangements. This would be a perfect centerpiece for patio and picnic tables. Remove the top of the pumpkin, and scoop out the seeds. Leave some of the pumpkin flesh to serve as a support for the flower stems. For this project, choose blooms with thick sturdy stems, and insert these into the pumpkin flesh. Thin, fragile stems might break. Since pumpkins are mostly water, it shouldn’t be necessary to water this floral arrangement. It would be suitable as a centerpiece both indoors and outdoors. If bringing it indoors, do put it on a plate or other suitable tray.
In many areas there are giant pumpkin contests. To produce one of these, it is necessary to take special care of the plants. Generally all the flowers or fruits except one or two would be removed, so that all the plant’s energy can go to feeding the remaining ones. Champion pumpkins have been known to weigh over one thousand pounds.
Here’s what John Greenleaf Whittier had to say about pumpkins.
“What moistens the lip and brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like rich Pumpkin pie?
…When wild, ugly face we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within.”