Create a festive porch this fall with pumpkins and gourds

Nothing says fall like pumpkins. This year, try a mixed pumpkin, like those shown here at Springtime Garden Center in Front Royal. Ashley Miller/Daily

With cooler weather comes the perfect excuse to transitioning the front porch from summer to fall. And what better way to do it than with pumpkins.

Nothing quite says fall or Halloween like pumpkins. Build a pretty mixed pumpkin covered porch accented by gourds or turn a standard orange pumpkin into a “mumkin.” Incorporate white pumpkins with boxwood lining the front steps or brighten up a dull porch with urns filled with miniature pumpkins and lights.

“Early decorating calls for mixed pumpkins and gourds,” said Lamont Orndorff, owner of Springtime Garden Center in Front Royal.

Even though mixed pumpkins are fairly new to the market, Orndorff said his customers are really enjoying how different they are. The Amish in Pennsylvania introduced Orndorff to mixed pumpkins and gourds a number of years ago.

“A mixed pumpkin is a traditional pumpkin that was cross-pollinated with either another pumpkin or a gourd,” he explained. “That’s  why they sometimes look funny,” he added laughing. The funnier, the better. The texture creates a dimensional look, perfect for impressing those guests or tick-or-treaters who will be stopping by over the next few weeks.

Over the years, mixed pumpkins have dramatically changed because in developing them the Amish have gotten more scientific,  Orndorff explained. Today they can be found in all shapes and sizes. Pure white to several stages of orange, Cinderellas, just a whole array of colors, Orndorff added.

Mixed pumpkins and gourds can be found at local garden centers or farmers’ markets. They’re even at the grocery stores.

“Every year we sell more and more of them,” he added.

Orndorff prides himself on his selection. “We don’t bring in all our pumpkins at once,” he explained. He receives loads two times a week, ensuring the quality and freshness. “You can tell by the stems.”

Vertical pumpkin displays at the front door make a big statement. “Stacking pumpkins has by far become the most popular fall decoration,” Orndorff said.

He suggests mixing in a traditional orange pumpkin along with two to three mixed pumpkins.

“Because everyone’s decorating style is different, we suggest two stacking scenarios to create the perfect pumpkin topiary.” First, if the steam can be easily broken off and the pumpkin is flat, Orndorff said they could easily be stacked with no security measure. Second, if odd shaped pumpkins are used, Orndorff suggests using rebar to secure the pumpkins to one another. Adding greenery, raffia or berries can make a traditional topiary a bit more festive.

Lana Farber Le Vine, of Strasburg, finds so many uses for pumpkins during the fall. “In my opinion pumpkins and gourds have so many uses other than just Halloween or making pie.”

Vine has a knack for decorating. “I love to decorate. My husband and friends tell me I have an eye for it,” she added.

Vine puts pumpkins everywhere. From a decorating sense pumpkins can be used as vases, table arrangements and even a punch bowl she explained. Adding curb appeal for fall is just one of the many uses for pumpkins and gourds.

“I use corn stalks, and hay bales along with an assortment of pumpkins and gourds,” Vine said. “I like decorating with them because it represents fall.” Her porch has a mixture of pumpkins and gourds, commingled with sunflowers and vintage finds. Vine likes adding texture to her displays, giving it more depth.

A DIY project for a pumpkin is creating it into a “mumkin,” Vine said. A “mumkin” is a hollowed pumpkin with a mum placed inside, still in its original pot. Lining them up on the steps welcomes fall. If cared for properly they can last until Thanksgiving.

Orndorff said popularity of mixed pumpkins is growing.

“People tend to do the same thing year after year. But when mixed pumpkins were introduced into the market, customers couldn’t get enough,” Orndorff said. “Our customers really love the variety and versatility they give.”

Pumpkin decorating can lead to a sophisticated autumn arrangement on the table or a ghoulish gourd display outdoors. Creating a fall front porch with a hint of Halloween fun is easy and inexpensive. Pumpkins at Springtime Garden range from $.99 to $45. “It’s really how creative they want to be,” he said.

“The best thing about pumpkins,” Orndorff said, “is whether the person is a DIY enthusiasts or a decorating newbie, there really is a look for everyone for this fall.”