By Ray Greenstreet
ALEXANDRIA,VA- Hello fall! After our hot summer, much-appreciated cooler temperatures usher in the season of cozy hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches. Welcome the change of season by swapping out tired summer decorations for fresh autumn colors and Halloween fun with wreaths, gourds, garlands, seasonal flowers, hay bales, and corn stalks.
Your front door is a great place to start. Choose a classic wreath of fall leaves and bunches of berries. Achieve a natural, rustic look with grapevine wreaths adorned with seed pods and burlap bows.
If you prefer a more modern look, consider an all white wreath made from fluffy cotton pods, faux white berries, or mini gourds, especially nice on a darker door. Drape the door frame with a fall garland to compliment the wreath, add a seasonal doormat, and autumn has arrived on your doorstep!
Fall isn’t fall without our favorite gourds. For covered or protected areas, line a wicker or wire basket with a piece of burlap or a weathered wood crate or bushel basket, and heap it full of gourds. Choose your palette. Gourds come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. Mix and match or go monochromatic. Fall is the season of abundance, so pile them in.
Does your arrangement seem a little flat? Take it up a notch with hay bales or stacked crates. Weave in a string wired faux bittersweet or grapevine to add color and texture. Add an outdoor fall sign painted on a chalkboard or a piece of barn wood. Large or small, handmade or purchased, these simple signs make a great finishing touch for your seasonal arrangement.
If you’re cramped for space, think vertical and stack the Jacks! Build a pumpkin topiary with wider pumpkins that have flatter tops and bottoms. Heirloom varieties work best, in classic orange or dark reds, greens, and whites. Line the sides of your porch steps with pumpkins, using all the same size for a symmetrical look, or mix it up with different colors and shapes for an informal style.
We love outdoor lanterns with so many styles and sizes to choose from. Light your front steps with weatherproof lanterns placed among the pumpkins. Or make a statement on the porch with one big lantern. Use two to three candles in varying heights and seasonal foliage – strings of faux berries and leaves – at the base of the candles.
But be safe! Use flame-free battery operated candles. And don’t underutilize these versatile, and functional, decorations. When fall turns to winter, simply swap out autumn colors for holiday greens and berries.
Got pots? Replace those tired summer annuals with fall favorites: Mums, pansies, and ornamental grasses. Get creative with your choice of containers. A rusty wheelbarrow, galvanized metal buckets or tubs, or even that old child’s wagon in the corner of your basement or garage all make great containers.
Create a fanciful porch pot using the “thrill, fill and spill” recipe: An ornamental grass with its feathery plumes or even a tall ornamental kale for the upright thrill. Mums, pansies, and shorter, fuller ornamental cabbage are great fills, and trailing pansies or ivy for the spill. Add seasonal berries or tiny gourds or leafless branches collected from your yard.
Or keep it fast and simple by using potted fall plants as you would summer annuals. You don’t need to repot them; just place the plants, still in their plastic nursery pots, into decorative containers. Just remember these are living plants and they’ll appreciate regular drinks, especially if they’re sitting in the sun.
We almost forgot the first thing most visitors to your house will see: Your curbside mailbox. This is a simple decorating project, and the busy folk who deliver your mail will surely appreciate your effort too. Dress up their stop at your house with a corn stalk, seasonal flowers like mums, pansies, and cabbage. and a big pumpkin or two.
This is also time to brighten up fading foundation plantings with colorful pansies. These happy flowers are easy to grow, and give you lots of bang for your buck. They’ll bloom until the first hard freeze when they’ll go into a slumber, but come warmer temps and longer days, they will bounce back just in time for spring. Ornamental cabbages also hold their own into winter. Plant them with pansies for a pleasing late season garden.
For a more ambitious, and permanent, landscape project, don’t overlook hardy shrubs with exceptional fall colors and berries. Both viburnum and nandina are available in many varieties, are easy to grow, and do well in our area. Fall is a great time to plant.
And for Halloween, spook up your fall décor for Trick-or-Treaters by adding pretend spiders and their webs to those hay bales or across the wreath. For a more family sensitive look, friendly ghosts and witches on picks are easy to add to flowerpots and gardens.
Whatever your taste, there are boundless ways to celebrate the change of season and welcome autumn to your home. Grab a mug of steaming apple cider, and happy decorating!