Creating a Gourd-geous Thanksgiving Display


By P. Allen Smith
Photos by Jane Colclasure and Mark Fonville

Whether it’s an intimate setting or a formal affair, a joyful Thanksgiving table where everyone comes together is the crowning glory. If you have time to make only one table arrangement, I suggest creating a beautiful centerpiece using gourds, pumpkins, winter squash and bits-n-bobs from the garden. The key to making it interesting is to work with objects in varying sizes and textures.

I like to use pumpkins as the main attraction. Depending on the size of the table, three to five are enough to make a statement. Winter squashes are a good size when space is limited. Be sure that it’s easy to see over or around the pumpkins so guests can talk across the table. Next, add some filler pieces for interest. Try tucking several small gourds, pumpkins, wild pears or rosehips in the nooks among the pumpkins.

To soften the arrangement, add some flowers. I usually take a walk around the garden to see what’s available. If we haven’t had a hard freeze, I’ll find chrysanthemums, dahlias, salvia and even a few roses. Some years I have to cheat and get flowers from the florist. When selecting flowers, think about blooms that will look good as small bouquets scattered around the table. Sweet and simple seems to be a good blend for the bold, round shapes of pumpkins, squash and gourds.

Keep in mind that you can set your table and create the centerpiece a day or two ahead of time. The flowers should be fresh, but most of the other elements are long-lasting and straight from the garden.

Grow Your Decorations

Gourds, pumpkins and winter squash are classic Thanksgiving decorations that you can grow in your garden. Plant seedlings or sow seeds when the soil warms up in very late spring. All three plants require full sun and a compost-rich soil. Feed with an all-purpose, organic fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. These plants require pollination to bear fruit. You need the help of bees and other pollinating insects to spread pollen between the flowers. Avoid pesticides and remove floating row covers once the plants begin to bloom.