The natural beauty of squash and gourds makes fall decorating easy.

By Abbie Burgess

Squash is one crop that flourishes in my garden without fail. No matter how other plants may struggle, I'm blessed at harvest time with an abundance of squash. Last fall, a nature-loving friend from California came to visit in late October. We traipsed the dormant garden that was crisped with frost and discovered a patch of small squash that had previously been hidden by overgrowth. Amazed, we uncovered more and more until our arms were full. The bounty revealed itself to us one at a time, like hidden treasure.

When everything else has been harvested, squash is the garden's last gift. But what will you do with them all?

Squash and gourds last for weeks or even months inside, so they can grace the home with their natural beauty. No homegrown harvest of your own? Support a local farmer's market or produce stand.

An Easy-as-Pie Centerpiece

This could be the easiest centerpiece you'll ever make. Create a last-minute display by arranging squash or gourds on the dining table. Want a fancier touch? Add to the drama with candles, pinecones, flowers and greenery. The graceful shape of the fruit with its variegated colors brings the beauty of fall inside your home.

Use in Unexpected Places

The dining room and kitchen are traditional locations for squash and gourds, but what about on a bookshelf or atop a side table? Add a few along the mantle or the powder room vanity. Think of unusual nooks to leave a little bit of autumn around the house.

Don't Forget the Outside

Welcome guests with a display of squash on the front stoop or atop a fence post. This is a short-term decorating idea because squash will not last outside in cold temperatures and may tempt the local squirrels. Bring them inside overnight to keep them fresh longer.

Glam it Up

If you prefer a little sparkle, it's easy to give the fruit a makeover. Coat with acrylic paint and sprinkle with glitter before the paint dries for a pretty look. Gourds are a good choice for painting, since you aren't going to eat them anyway.

Put a Bow on It

Whether you choose the natural look, a glittered exterior or a combination of both, ribbon can add an extra decorative touch. Dress squash with stems up with a simple bow, or drape lengths of wide ribbon around the display for contrast and color.

The best part of this décor is it doesn't need to be stored or tossed when the season ends-just cook and eat!

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