Halloween is easy -- some cobwebs, fake spiders and skulls, maybe some faux specimen jars and dry ice. You get to go hog wild, you can be as tacky as you want, and everyone will love it all the more.
But when it’s all over and time to tone down the decor ... well, those pumpkins just aren’t going to last. But here’s what will last:
You’ve seen them -- they were probably even for sale at the pumpkin patch. But you can also find them in your regular old supermarket. Dried gourds are often available, too, and if you can’t find them at the store or farmers' market, they are always online.
Most fresh gourds will keep for several weeks or even longer. Coating them with clear polyurethane may help them keep even longer. Dried gourds will last forever, cared for properly. And they are ideal for all kinds of decor, both inside and out:
Topiary -- You can keep these natural or paint them -- with all the brightly colored gourds out there, I prefer the natural. Use a large flower pot or urn; just use filler like packing peanuts or newspaper to fill the pot almost to the top. Spread Spanish moss or even regular green moss around the top. Using gourds that get progressively smaller and stack them on top of the urn. You may need to break out the hot glue gun if you have off-balance gourds.
Gilded -- This look is inspired by the mercury glass look that has been all over the designer home stores. You can push it a bit further by branching out into other metals, like copper or gold, depending on your decorating scheme. The easiest way to achieve this look is with metallic spray paint. Coat it with a high-gloss sealant to make it super shiny. You can also purchase metallic leafing kits at craft stores.
Painted -- Gourds are a very traditional type of decor, but you can create a surprising juxtaposition in styles by painting them with high-gloss paint and modern, pop-art designs. A grouping of gourds painted in contrasting colors will catch everyone’s eye. Or line them up down the center of your dining table for an instantly colorful centerpiece.
Candleholders -- Gourds are perfect for holding votives and tapers alike. If you are using fresh gourds, you will need the right size paddle bit for the hole you are drilling. Taper holders usually only need a 1/2” bit or so. For tapers, drill in nearly an inch, then clean out the pulp. Votives will require deeper drilling. You can either drop in a votive or, if you desire, pick up the supplies at a craft store and use the gourds as a candle mold.
Planters -- Use dried gourds if possible. Use a small saw or Dremel tool to cut the “lid” off the gourds in whichever shape you fancy. Seal the gourd inside and out with a waterproof sealant to prevent mold. Add a bit of soil and a decorative plant -- small succulents are especially pretty, but you could use decorative grasses or even an orchid.