Fall is my favorite season. I love the crisp air and the bright blue sky. The way the falling leaves make the whole world smell like a forest floor, and the cozy feeling of scarves and sweaters. We go all out in the fall. Everything from spiced apple cider around the bonfire to haybales and mums. I love making my little slice of the world as autumnal as possible, and that includes decorating with gourds.
Just down the road, our favorite farm stand starts putting out gourds and pumpkins in early September. We love stocking up on these autumn essentials as soon as possible. The kids love picking out a few of their own, and I usually fill up a little basket with them.
Shopping for gourds is fun, and if you have them growing in your garden, it’s even more fun. However you come by them, figuring out how to use them in decorations is often the most fun of all! If you’re looking for some autumnal inspiration, stick around. I’ll give you some gourd-eous ideas!
Some of the best decorative ideas involve cured gourds, instead of fresh. These cured decorative vegetables have been dried thoroughly, and then carefully cured for over 6 months. After the curing process, they’ll last for years. In fact, with proper care, they can last for decades! But, because curing is a long process, plan ahead. Harvest or buy yours about a year before you plan to use them in creative projects.
1. Horn O’ Plenty
A classic, harvest themed approach to decorating with gourds is the Horn of Plenty display. Just fill a wide-mouthed horn basket with colorful gourds, a little hay, and some mums for the ultimate autumn centerpiece. Horns of Plenty (or cornucopia) have symbolized abundance since ancient times. Filling your cornucopia with beautiful autumn fare adds a wonderful variety of colors and textures to the display. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving.
2. Making Faces
Gourds are all such unique, interesting shapes. Some of them look like grotesque faces with long noses and crooked mouths. As a result, one of the most fun fall crafts for families is decorating them with eyes and paint to make Halloween faces. You can add in hair as well! These faces are adorable autumn decorations that are fun for adults and children alike. Kids love keeping these crazy faces in the garden or in their playrooms.
Decorative gourds aren’t edible. Furthermore, once they’re dry, they’re actually almost completely hollow inside. That makes them pretty tough and tasteless at the dinner table, but it also makes them ideal, natural birdhouses. Cure your gourd thoroughly, then just cut an appropriately-sized hole in it and hang it up outside.
Pick a bird-friendly area. In fact, somewhere near a bird feeder is ideal. Soon, some of your local, autumn and winter birds will be moving in. Try making a little village of gourd-houses for the nuthatches and wrens that spend the winter with you.
4. Plant Homes
Cured gourds also make gorgeous, rustic planters for your houseplants. They can hang from macramé ropes or sit prettily in the center of a table. Simply cut an opening for the plant in your gourd, making sure the plant won’t fall out. Then, cut a few, small drainage holes in the bottom to prevent it from rotting.
Use a sharp knife or a scroll saw to cut through it easily. There should be plenty of space for potting mix and the root system of a small plant. Well cured gourd planters with adequate drainage can last for years!
5. Gourd Lights
Your gourds don’t need to be completely cured for this decoration to work. In fact, I think uncured gourds make brighter, more colorful lights. You do have to cut a hole large enough for a votive or tea light to sit inside the gourd. Then, just light your candles and let those beauties glow.
I like to line them up on the porch at autumn bonfires. They give just enough light to mark a path, but not so much that they compete with the stars. These lights make every autumn evening magical.
6. Homemade Bowls
Cured gourds are almost indestructible. Cut the fully dried and cured gourd in half, paint the inside and then coat the inside with food-grade varnish. Then you have a lovely, rustic bowl—perfect for popcorn, crackers, breads, and other dry foods. These aren’t ideal for soups or ice cream, though. Keep your bowl looking perfect by pairing it with the right (dry) foods, and never put it in the dishwasher or the microwave.
7. Fairy Houses
Nothing says “autumn magic” like gourd fairy houses all around the garden. Paint your decorative gourds with silver and gold paint, glue on some adorable doll house doors, and decorate the outsides with flowers, acorns, and trinkets. Don’t forget to add a tiny cake for your fairy guests.
Decorative gourds make the most adorable fairy houses, especially in autumn when you can embellish them with fallen leaves, goldenrod, and acorns.
8. Hanging Gourds
Whether they’re cured or fresh, hang your decorative gourds from the ceiling in a covered porch or mud room. Hanging gourds give a whimsical, harvest feel to any room. Intersperse them with dried flowers and corn bundles and throw a harvest festival or farm to table dinner in mid-October, when the leaves are at their peak.
These are easy to hang and light enough to move easily from place to place. Best of all, they’re are a fun, simple way to make any space into a cozy, fall retreat.
9. Jars of Gourds
One of the easiest ways to decorate your home this fall is just to fill large, glass apothecary jars with colorful mini gourds. These filled jars look absolutely adorable. They make fantastic centerpieces for harvest parties, or fun, fall décor in bathrooms, bedrooms, or lined up across the mantle.
You can just fresh or cured gourds, but fresh options are often brighter and more eye catching. The jars are easy to keep track of too. You won’t end up finding a rotting vegetable under the couch in April when they’re all stored together.
10. Thanksgiving Place Settings
For an extra special Thanksgiving dinner, cut a small slip in the top of cured, miniature gourds, and slide a calligraphed name card in each. There’s nothing more stunning than place settings that match the theme of your dinner. Gourd place cards are both decorative and functional. You can even send them home with your guests as party favors! Pair these creative place settings with a Horn of Plenty on your next Thanksgiving table.
11. Jack O’ Lantern Gourds
Carve out large, fresh gourds as you would carve out large, Halloween pumpkins! Jack O’ Lantern gourds will make your Halloween display stand out from the crowd. Then, just as you do with Halloween pumpkins, put a lit candle inside to give an eerie glow from within. These small Jack O’ Lanterns are a gorgeous addition outdoor autumn parties and indoor dinners. They light up any space with their unique, flickering light.
12. Rattlin’ Gourds
Make a rattle or two from dried gourds for autumn babies or spooky charades. In well-dried gourds, the seeds start rattling around inside the plant. It’s the perfect, natural rattle! Gourd rattles make fun toys for toddlers and young children. They also make eerie autumn sound effects for spooky Halloween parties. However you choose to use your rattles, they’re an essential addition to any decorative gourd collection.
13. Autumn Chimes
Gourds make interesting sounds in a variety of ways. One of my favorite autumn decorations is a wind chime. Hang three to six cured, mini gourds close together. When that fall wind blows through, your gourds will make a gentle, clattering sound, like pebbles in a stream. You can paint or varnish your gourds before hanging them, but I like to leave them natural for the richer sounds that untreated gourds produce.
14. Fabulous Fall Vases
If you only have a little time, but your want to do something unique and engaging with your gourds, cut off the tops of them, scoop out enough of the interior to set a slim vase inside, and display cut flowers and ferns inside. I love using spooky, Halloween vases that peek out above the rim of your gourds.
These types of vases won’t last as long as cured, varnished gourd ones will, but they make an adorable addition to your autumn table all the same.
15. Autumnal Pendants
The smallest gourds are ideal if you love statement necklaces. Dry and cure your tiny gourds and then drill through the shells to string them onto a light chain or leather thread. You can add other wood or stone beads to the necklace if you want to, or just keep the focus on the one large, gourd bead.
Dried gourds aren’t heavy at all, so they’re easy to wear. Pair your pendant with a simple, autumnal outfit and wear it to your harvest-themed Thanksgiving. It’s a gorgeous way to jump headfirst into fall.