Fall for autumn, indoors and outdoors

Autumn is the bridge season between the heat, light and noise of summer and the chill, dark silence of winter. It’s time to put away our outdoor lifestyle with its happy summer banners and colourful flowering plants. We move at a more thoughtful pace in the fall, celebrating the harvest, the autumn light, earth colours and the spookiness of Halloween.

Time for an autumn update to our homes.

I feel that fall is still very much a time for nature – just nature with a different look. Many folks are predicting a rougher winter than last year’s, so let’s bring the outdoors, indoors, before it’s all a big heap of white.

Big (even small) is beautiful

Begin with the biggest symbol of the season: the pumpkin. This beauty doesn’t have to go in the green bin after its glory days as a jack-o’-lantern are over. Buy several large ones and/or a flock of little ’uns to extend your Halloween décor until it’s time for the Christmas and Hanukkah change-up.

And speaking of Halloween, you don’t necessarily have to reach for the carving knife to make your pumpkin head. Get some brushes and acrylic craft paint and let your family’s imagination run wild. Some quick tips:

• Pick a pumpkin in top condition – no blemishes or soft spots, with a good, firm base.
• Wash any dirt off with cool water and let dry.
• Grab your paints and brushes and get going! If you want, you can sketch a face or scene or symbols in pencil first, then fill in with colours. You can even use permanent felt tip markers to colour in, if that’s easier for you. (Confession: Once I got my pumpkin so early, it became too soft to carve. I grabbed a few markers and, presto! Igor the pumpkin appeared on my porch. )

Other fun things to do with pumpkins:

• Poke long sticks into tiny ones and scatter them around the garden.
• Hollow large ones out to make a dramatic serving bowl for hearty stews.
• Hollow out medium to large pumpkins and put a prettily planted pot in them, or a flower arrangement in a vase. Use the pumpkin as a holder for fall flowers in a vase.
• Line up mini pumpkins on a mantel, down the centre of a table or on your porch or stair rail. Add fabric leaves, vines and flowers in a garland if you want.

Wreaths and garlands

Vines and dried leaves, flowers and herbs make another big splash this time of year. Buy a twisted vine wreath or make your own from wild grapevines or Virginia creeper. Then gather bunches of dried herb stems, wire bunches of bright leaves together and trim dried flower stems to about 10 cm or less.

Arrange your bits and pieces around your wreath, weaving in flower stems and wiring bunches of herbs and leaves on to the vine base. If you’re good with a glue gun, glue on pine cones, interesting seed heads, and acorns and other nuts. Add a country gingham or antiqued lace bow, and you have an autumn decoration you can put anywhere, indoors or out.

Grapevines and Virginia creeper (stripped of their leaves) are both very forgiving, so you can drape them over curtain rods and pictures or wind them around indoor and outdoor stair posts. If you have lots of vines, make small wreaths, about 20 cm in diameter, and hang them in windows and unexpected places like doorknobs and light fixtures. Wire a selection of dried herbs on (e.g., sage, rosemary, thyme) and give them as gifts to visitors.

Please preserve the leaves

Just a few words about autumn leaves: If you’ve ever wished you could keep their gorgeous colours intact, you can. Press them, wax them, dry them in silica gel or treat them with glycerine. Go online to gardening.about.com/od/ craftsanddecor/ss/Preserve_Leaves.htm for directions.

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