By KATHY O’NEILL
Now that you most likely have put away all of your summer decorations, it is time to consider moving to a more autumnal theme. The following suggestions are decorating ideas to consider incorporating in your own homes, most of which are easy, fun and quite inexpensive.
The availability of naturally grown decorations this time of year is terrific. Use your garden whenever you have the chance. Consider drying some of your best things so after you go to all that work, you have the opportunity to use your goodies again. Pack them away carefully. I stay away from decorating too close to the road. Sadly, these days the prettier your arrangement is, the more tempting it is for malcontents to quickly reduce it to mush. My recommendation is stick close to your home. You can have a lot of success with gourds, Indian corn, pumpkins and hydrangeas.
Buy your pumpkins in scale with your home. Pie pumpkins are for dining room tables only. I try to get the giant pumpkins each year. The proportion is right for our home and because of their size I don’t have to go to much effort to have the look I want. No matter what size pumpkin you select, pick those without bruises in an interesting shape. You want them to be stable, not roly-poly. A little secret is to carefully wipe them off with a damp cloth to remove the surface debris and then spray them with furniture polish. I use Pledge. Mist the pumpkin entirely and then wipe evenly across the surfaces, even in the crevices to get a nice shine. It really makes a difference. The pumpkins will still rot, but they surely look more fresh and appealing. The really shiny ones you see in the stores are polished with floor wax.
I also hang Indian corn inside and out. This item cam be saved for years and is quite versatile. After you have made your selection of ears with the most interesting colored kernels, soak the corn in water. Just a nice dip, so the dried corn husks are flexible. You don’t want to leave the ears in the water or you may lose the kernels. The goal is to make the husks malleable. Whether you are making a wreath, clustering them down a pillar or hanging them over a door, corn is a great choice. The damp husk leaves can be peeled back and arranged so you get a peek at the pretty texture inside. Then you have the opportunity to manipulate the leaves for the best effect. If you are planning on leaving the finished arrangement in place for awhile, a spray of dried flower fixative helps to prevent shattering. If you want to add pine cones (which are on the ground now) wiring them together works well. They can be interwoven into your corn or dangled by ribbon from the stem of your polished pumpkins. Use them in their natural state now. You can spray paint them later for winter.
My hydrangeas did beautifully this summer. They are a great fall decorating resource. One year when we had a wedding, I dried them and made a lush garland which I used on the front stair railing. That garland was reused year after year for any number of occasions. I hung it from the plumbing in the ceiling of the cottage with wire hooks to help keep its shape and to reduce the fire risk. This project requires some serious fixative, but if you dry the hydrangeas slowly and then finish them with spray they are lovely and long-lasting. A cheap way to prevent dropping petals is to mist the hydrangeas with Aqua Net hairspray. Hydrangeas also make a beautiful mass arrangement. If you need to upgrade the look, add mums, roses, colored leaves, whatever and you are all set.
Display is an art. If you have not utilized the old stuff in your attic or garage you are missing some easy options. If you have a simple straight wooden ladder, lean it against a wall. Contemplate the width of the step, and then look for pumpkins. Balance a pumpkin on each rung. You can make them all the same size or graduate them from larger on the bottom to smaller on the top rung. Easy, cheap and quite sophisticated. If you have an old wooden step ladder, consider the same concept. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just stable. Potted flowers also work here or can be combined with pumpkins. Children’s wagons, big baskets, even wine crates are fun to use when combined with autumn’s harvest. Fall entertaining can be an occasion to be creative with the battery-operated candles. Dried material is very flammable. Mixing pillars or votives into your arrangements produces a lovely soft effect. Any of the supply stores also have battery-operated twinkle lights which add a professional touch. Just remember…this is fall and too many lights will look foolish. Your hope is for a soft glow. A collection of matching black or dark green plastic cachepots is useful. Get the foil-wrapped fall plants, remove that tacky foil wrap and stick it in your pot. You can line your walk or a staircase, mix them into your pumpkins or cluster them under a sideboard for a designer look without the effort. The plastic isn’t damaged when you water and your flat surface stays neat and clean. You want people to look at the blooms, so multiple plants in varied heights looks the best.
Autumn is spectacular in Cleveland. Whether we get the gorgeous color of years past or a fleeting show, the light is beautiful and the air so fresh. Take the time to honor the season. This is a chance to make everything special without a lot of money.