A tour of Henry Francis du Pont’s former extraordinary home was my destination this year to enjoy holiday style decorations. An eighteen room dollhouse, fully decorated with Christmas treasures and other handmade pieces was also one of the draws for me.
Another was the large fir in the Conservatory decorated with hundreds of multi-hued dried flowers or “everlastings” that looked as fresh as if just picked. The iconic ‘Dried Flower Tree” is a tradition for Winterthur and people are amazed when they see it.
Arrangements are placed throughout the house all year-long with fresh flowers, and after they have done their duty in the floral designs, the flowers are taken to the basement of a cottage on the property. There, they are dried in the room dubbed “the drying room”. Serving double duty, these flowers arranged on the tree create a multi-hued rainbow effect that is stunning.
For the actual process of decorating this tree, which started in 1986, look at this video.
Most of the flowers are picked on Winterthur’s property throughout the year and either air-dried or dried with silica gel, a crystalline dessicant. Starting in March/April with the daffodil, any flower that can be dried is used for that purpose.
Everything is then packed into a fumigant tent for three weeks, starting in early October, to kill any pests. In late October, the flowers are brought out and organized by color into long boxes. Starting with the topper, the staff works all around the tree, bunching many of the flowers for a bigger impact. Special flowers like peonies and roses are placed singly on the branches, wired for stability.
Queen Anne’s Lace, peonies, daffodils, and zinnias are dried for ten days with silica gel as these don’t dry well with air drying. Others like larkspur, yarrow, billy balls, safflower, cockscomb, money plant, hydrangea, and Chinese lantern are air-dried in a dark place for about a week and then are packed away until ready to be used.
Seeing the miniature tree at the visitor center got me in the mood to create one at home. A small artificial tree is all you need, preferably one with lights already loaded. I had plenty of dried flowers that I picked and dried throughout the summer months. My list included sunflowers, statice, roses, cotton, allium, strawflowers, globe amaranth, nigella, salvia, hydrangea, cockscomb, and orange slices.
A pick machine with steel picks is the easiest way to make small bunches of flowers, but if you don’t have the luxury of this great tool, you can simply gather bunches together and wire by hand.
I love Butternut squash! It is a sweet nutty squash that is very nutritious – full of vitamins A and C and fiber. Versatile in many types of dishes – soups, roasted, steamed, risotto, pies, pasta, gratins – the recipes are endless. And perfect for Thanksgiving!
Butternut squash soup is a favorite during cold months and once you cook up a batch, you can make several tasty meals from it. My absolute favorite soup cookbook, The New England Soup Factory Cookbook has the best squash soup that I have ever tasted, called Butternut Squash Soup with Calvados, Gorgonzola Cheese, and Prosciutto. I have adapted it somewhat, most notably, adding the sage leaves and using Feta cheese to the garnish. For my recent post of using Sage, an underused herb that is supposed to be “brain food”, go to Favorite Herb-Sage.
A savory treasure of a healthy soup. The topping of prosciutto gives a nice salty contrast to the sweetness of the soup
1Tavocado oil or olive oil
6slices proscuitto, cut into small chunks
1apple, thinly sliced ( I used granny smith)
handfulfresh sage leaves, chopped
1/4Ccrumbled feta cheese
1 1/2C diced onion, about 1 large
1/2Ccelery, about 1 stalk
2Cdiced carrots, about 3
1/2Cdiced parsnips, about 1 medium
2Largegreen apples , peeled and diced
2Lbs butternut squash, peeled and diced, about 1 medium
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2Clight cream
2-3TCalvados, an apple brandy, optional
In a saute pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add prosciutto and pan fry until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add sliced apples and sage leaves and saute lightly until the apples are crisp tender. Set aside for use later
In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions, apples, carrot celery, parsnips, and butternut squash. Saute for 10 minutes
Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about an hour. Turn off heat
Puree the soup in the pot using a hand blender or working in batches, with a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot if using a blender and season to taste with salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Stir in cream
Return to heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir in Cavados right before serving
Top each serving with a sprinkling of Feta and garnish with slices of sauteed apple, the prosciutto and sage leaves on top. Enjoy!!!
Overflowing my pantry, my winter squash harvest is a treasure that I use when I get the urge to cook something savory and good for you. I have new squash favorites like Kaboucha and Delicata, but I always revert back to Butternut as my go-to winter squash for soups or creamy pasta recipes.
Kaboucha, which is a Japanese pumpkin, has a fluffy, chestnut texture widely used in Asia. I would compare it to a cross between a sweet potato and pumpkin. All winter squashes are full of beta carotene, iron, vitamins, and other good stuff.
So many delicious fall recipes lend itself to these versatile tasty squashes, that I have increased the space devoted to growing them in my veggie garden. And yes, it does take some serious space! A sprawling vine, it can spread up to 10 feet horizontally or vertically, but I consider this a well-earned space in my garden as winter squashes are quite prolific and easy to grow.
Harvesting and Preparing
When the rinds of winter squash are tough enough to resist being punctured with a fingernail, cut them with a short stub of vine attached, like their cousins, pumpkins. Be sure to wait until they are fully ripened and sit the squash out in the sun for at least a week to fully cure before storing in a cool place indoors. Keeping for months, squash are handy to pull out from storage when you need something for dinner as a main or side. The only downside to winter squash is preparing them. They are very tough to chop and I once cut the tip of my finger off when chopping one up! To avoid this, you can buy the pre-cut pieces at the supermarket, or use them with the skin on.
Another winter squash that you might like to try is the Boston Marrow. Hard to find, except at farmer’s markets, I was delighted to find this heirloom squash at a local farmstand/orchard and was able to savor it for the first time.
According to Burpee who is now carrying this hard to find squash, they describe it as; “Once you taste the melt-in-your-mouth “pumpkin” pie that this squash yields, you’ll be making it as often as possible. Sweet, carrot-orange flesh, cooks to a creamy, custardy texture for perfect pies, puddings and breads. Delicious alone. A fine choice for areas with a short growing season”.
Boston Marrow History
An heirloom squash with more than 200 years of documented history, and even thought to be much older- like ancient, Boston Marrow originated in the upstate New York area. Legend has it that Native Americans gifted this squash to colonists and seeds were later passed on to Salem, Massachusetts in 1831. Marrow soon became one of the most important commercial squashes for over 150 years. But in modern times, nearly every seed company had dropped this unique treasure. In recent years, with the interest in heirloom veggies increasing, it is being picked up again by seed companies.
Used primarily as a pie squash, its skin is also thin and easy to peel. Due to its success in cooler conditions with a shorter growing season, the squash has spread throughout the US. If kept in a cool dry place, the squash can last to the following spring, another trait prized by early growers.
Growing between 5 to 52 pounds each, these squash can be made into quite a few pies. And what a fabulous pie! Flesh of the Boston Marrow squash is less sweet and dense than that of Butternut squash, which gives it a wonderful custardy flavor.
Resulting in a much better tasting pumpkin pie, it is lighter in texture and flavor. Starting with a basic recipe from AllRecipes for a butternut squash pie, I have revised the spices to my liking and substituted Boston Marrow. The resulting pie was a big hit with my family for its creaminess and wonderful flavor. Everyone was coming back for one more piece, until it was gone.
From a 6.5 pound squash, I was able to make 3 pies!
If you are a flower lover, you are starved for color right about now. I turn to the big box stores and nurseries to pick up my flower fixes. With grapefruit sized amaryllis bulbs available now, you can have bloom November through February if you start them at different times and use different species. Christmas indoor plants give us a breath of a living, blooming plant that we are missing at this time of year and I always buy several Amaryllis bulbs for starting and try to entice my old ones to burst forth with a flower stalk.
These bulbs are native to warm climates, so they don’t require a cooling period to trigger blooms. Amaryllis and paper white narcissus both belong in this category.
Of all flowering bulbs, Amaryllis is one of the easiest to force into bloom. Packaged in a single bulb, a flower embryo is waiting – ready to burst into bloom with a bit of encouragement. The Amaryllis, Hippeastrum, originated in South America’s tropical regions and comes in many beautiful varieties including reds, white, pink, salmon, and orange. There are also many striped and multicolored varieties, usually combining shades of pink or red with white. Doubles, miniatures, and some very exotic ones that look like butterflies are also available. The large flowers and ease with which bloom, make Amaryllis extremely popular. The blooms brighten a gloomy winter day and are a snap to grow.
Choosing the Best Bulb
Always pick out the largest plumpest bulb that you can find – the jumbo size. Bulbs are storage vessels and the more storage-think larger bulb!- more flowers. If you buy one at a big box store that is already planted in a pot, you usually get a plant with only 1 stem – a 26 to 30 cm bulb. You are paying a premium for the convenience of an already potted bulb, but with smaller and fewer flowers. Choosing larger single bulbs at a good nursery or ordering on-line will get you a better quality and a larger, older bulb. The larger bulbs, 34 cm + are a full year older than the smaller bulbs, so you are paying a bit more. I prefer paying extra to get a loose larger bulb with more flowers that last longer, than for a smaller potted up bulb.
In addition, look for an emerging flower bud coming out of the bulb. Choosing one with an existing flower bud means that the bulb is ready to go and can bloom within 5-7 weeks.
26/28 cm – 1 stem (occasionally 2) with 3 to 4 flowers
28/30 cm – 2 stems with 3-4 flowers per stem
30/32 cm – 2-3 stems with 3-4 flowers per stem
32/34 cm – 2-3 stems with 4-5 flowers per stem
34/36 cm – 3 stems with 4-5 flowers per stem
Quick Planting Tips:
Planting Period: October to April
Flowering Period:Late December until the end of May
Flowering time: 7-10 weeks
Larger bulbs: Produce more flowers
Always store: Loose bulbs in a cool place between 40-50 degree F.
Flower Production: 2 to 3 stems per bulb
More Impact: Try planting 2 or 3 bulbs per pot
Preparation for Planting
Place the bulb into lukewarm water for a few hours to jump-start emergence. I received my bulbs from Longfield Gardens with a heat-pack giving off warmth so the bulbs wouldn’t freeze in transit.
If you cannot plant the bulbs immediately after receiving them, store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature keeps them from blooming before you are ready.
Pick out a container that the bulb will fit into snugly, maybe an inch or two larger than the circumference of the bulb
A ceramic container is preferable to a plastic one because the weight of a flower, stalk, and leaves in full flush, will topple over the whole plant
Pot the bulb with good quality potting soil, leaving 1/3 of the top of the bulb or the ‘shoulders’ exposed; Water until you see moisture coming out of the bottom of the pot
If you want to accelerate the growth of the flower stalk and flower, place the pot on a heating pad
Keep in a sunny spot and keep moist and you will be surprised how fast the flower will appear
Once flowers appear, if you want the flowers to last longer, keep in a cooler spot
Each year that you keep your Amaryllis alive, it will get larger and produce offsets (tiny bulbs that will get larger)
From my experience with waxed bulbs, I won’t be buying these again!
Re-Blooming & After Bloom Care
Cut-Back- After the Amaryllis has stopped flowering, Don’t throw it away (unless you have a waxed bulb)! Possible to force again, you need to follow a few simple directions. Cut the old flowers from the stem after flowering, and when the leaves start to sag and turn yellow, cut it back to the top of the bulb.
Leaf Growth and development Continue to water and fertilize as normal all summer, or at least 5-6 months, allowing the leaves to fully develop and grow. I simply take all my pots outside and set them in an out-of-the-way place and never look at them all summer. Let the rain water them. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early fall when the days get cooler, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil.
Bulb Storage- Clean the bulb, removing and rinsing off all soil, and place it in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for at least 6 weeks.Caution: Do not store Amaryllis bulbs in a refrigerator that contains apples – this will sterilize the bulbs. Store the bulbs for a minimum of 6 weeks. I usually place the bulbs in a dark cool corner of my basement as I don’t have room in my refrigerator. Alternatively, you can leave the bulbs in the pots in a cool dark space. After about 6 weeks, you can pot them up.Removal from Storage- Once your cooling period is up, replant your bulbs as if it was a newly purchased one. Be sure to fertilize the bulbs with dilute plant food as the original bulb has used up all the food stores. For more impact, I like to pot three bulbs to a container.
You can safely start Amaryllis until April, so there is no rush for these to bloom!
Decorating for the fall season is always top of my list of feel good things to do. The variety and colors of pumpkins and gourds that are outside of the normal fall color range is exciting to arrange with. Also, succulents that have grown like crazy all summer need to be pruned, brought in to warmer temperatures, and are a perfect partner for fall arranging.
With my Deck the Halls-A Succulent Christmas post getting tons of views all year long, succulents are maintaining their popularity and usefulness in all kinds of ways. Pumpkin decorating with succulents has reached mainstream audiences and many decorators are using these for their table centerpieces. Go to Succulent Pumpkins For the Fall and Pumpkin Treatsto see the variety of things that you can do with the combination of pumpkins and succulents for a long lasting table and unique arrangement.
Picking up an old fashioned wicker cornucopia on my travels inspired me to decorate it with the succulent/pumpkin/gourd idea.
Placing some bubble wrap in the cornucopia to support the arrangement was the first step and then gathering my materials. I used fresh/dried gourds, dried pomegranates, air plants, cotton bolls, okra pods, oyster shells, and lots of succulent cuttings. The cuttings will last a long time through Thanksgiving and then I will recycle them into pots to root for next years succulents. Adding dried ornamental corn and baby pumpkins to the mix completes the display. No glue or oasis was used, I just inserted the materials into the bubble wrap.
Place your largest items in first; in this case, the gourds
Other Succulent Ideas
Here are some other succulent Thanksgiving ideas for centerpieces.
Baby, it is cold outside….
Those popular lyrics say it all. We are warming up inside with a glass of wine and enjoying ourselves. But if you entertain or just bring in the groceries, you need some holiday arrangements to greet your guests or lift your spirits. Here are some ideas on doing outdoor arrangements in your old containers that held overflowing annuals which are now toast. Remove those old plants and transform your pots into something magical and stunning. Add mini lights and you have something incredible to greet your visitors as they drive up to your house and enter.
Forage in your garden and on the roadside and at the local store to pick up some treasures. Shopping at a local Wegman’s, I snatched up some gold painted huge pine cones that were fabulous!! Trader Joe’s is also a great resource, perhaps for Eucalyptus and other treasures, like Winterberry. For my post on foraging on the side of the road, check out Foraged Foliage and Berries for Fall.
Choose the Right Plants
Growing the right sort of plants in your garden is the first step. I just planted an evergreen Magnolia tree, Brown’s Bracken, so that I can use the branches in future projects. I have started to trim it sparingly, but it is growing pretty quickly and I intend on trimming more in the near future.
Using the greens and berries from your own property is very satisfying and you can be sure they are fresh. Contacting my neighbor who has a huge stand of juniperus chinensis that rings around her property produced a tub full of juniper branches. She allows me to cut at will and it is a great blue grey-green for Christmas decorations. Any blue berries are a bonus.
Also, I grow red and yellow twig dogwoods and curly willow, just for the branches that I use for drama and height in my containers. All of these are easy to grow and harvest for your projects. Winterberry in both red and gold are another shrub that is easy to grow and important to add color to arrangements.
Sage has grown on me. Evoking memories of Thanksgiving meals in grandmother’s kitchen, it is a flavor that I enjoyed but didn’t use much beyond stuffing and sausage.
I nearly always used it in a dried poultry seasoning mix and that was the extent of my experience of this flavorful herb. A valuable herb for containers and a deer resistant plant are many of its attributes, but I love this fresh herb for cooking in fall and winter.
Sage uses in cooking are many beyond the traditional. Fry up the leaves in butter, add some sea salt, and use them scattered on soups, salads, veggies, and other dishes to add crunch and flavor. Use sage in a brown butter saute, add some pine nuts, and toss over butternut squash pasta. Yum!!
Chopped up fresh, sage added to your stuffing for your holiday meal is so much more pungent than the poultry dressing that sits in your herb cabinet and can be several years old. Its flavor is so intense, a little can go a long way.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, is one of the few herbs that, even as its leaves grow larger, the flavor intensifies and the leaves are still delicious after the plant flowers.
A Snap to Grow
Easy to grow either outdoors or inside during the winter, sage is drought tolerant and grows well within a wide range of temperatures and planting zones. Evergreen here in the mid-Atlantic, I still like to have a plant inside as it shrivels outdoors in the cold. The plants also seem to fizzle out within a few years and get woody, and it gives me the opportunity to plant new ones. There are several variations, like a variegated one and purple leaved type that add foliage color to containers.
Preferring a well drained sandy soil, sage is especially suited for container growing as it stays small with regular harvesting. Notice, I say sandy? When you pot up your sage plant indoors, give it grit or sand and it will be happier. I use aquarium gravel from the pet store.
The one caveat is not to over water this herb as it will rot. And indoors, you need to provide plenty of sun. If you don’t have enough sun in a west or southern facing exposure, at least 6-8 hours of sunlight, provide supplemental lighting with a grow light.
One of the most attractive culinary herbs in foliage and flower, the soft blue blooms fit in perfectly in a perennial garden. Usually gardeners plant it separately in an herb garden, but I use it throughout my perennial beds.
Ok… I am old enough to remember the houseplant mania (usually with macrame) in the seventies, but people now are just rediscovering what we knew all along……that houseplants have been reborn and many are actually very easy to take care of. Many more varieties are available to growers now than ever before, and new ones are always hitting the plant nurseries.
House Plant Fashion Show
A nearby garden center/nursery, Valley View Farms, even put on a “fashion show” of houseplants so people could see the large variety that is out there, with lots of old stalwarts, like Philodendrons.
Yes, that Monstera Philodendron that you have been growing for ages is suddenly very in and on Instagram. Who would have thought? The 70’s and 80′ s mod houseplants are the social media stars of 2019 and I don’t see any end to the trend. In fact, the bigger the plant, the better. Get rid of some furniture to make some room for plants. I removed some seldom used easy chairs from my living room to make space for some large plants.
But, just like those old bell bottoms that are shoved to the back of the closet, there are new iterations of the same “old”. Take Sheffelaria……. you can buy a variegated one now.
Collections of houseplants are in. Not just one, but many- like over 100 specimens decorating your house or apartment. The more, the merrier!
Reasons to Grow
Why grow houseplants? If you are a city dweller, the reason is simple…..to bring nature in. If you live suburban, the reason is more complex. Bringing nature in is one of them. But also, growing things that you wouldn’t normally do outside, like growing a pineapple. Yes, you can grow a pineapple in your living room! Or bring in succulents and cacti that normally wouldn’t grow for you outdoors, but with such interesting forms and shape, and ease of growth, why not? Or maybe you are fascinated with citrus….. you can easily grow limes, lemons, kumquats, or oranges. Not enough to feed you, but enough to satisfy your green thumb curiosity.
Plants elevate empty spaces and large rooms and make them alive. If you have cathedral ceilings and wondered what could fill the space…look no further. Many can tolerate fairly low light conditions which allows them to be placed near doors, stairs, and in hallways. Be sure to look at the plant requirements and try to match the correct conditions for best success.
One of the huge advantages of growing plants indoors is the improvement of air quality and the removal of toxins from the environment. Most of you will be aware from school Biology that plants convert carbon dioxide into the air we breath (oxygen), so it makes sense to allow some space in the home for them to promote good health.
NASA created a clean air study for space stations and produced a list of house plants that do more than just turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. Removing large quantities of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere is the normal everyday benefits of growing houseplants.
I like the weird ones though. The climbing onion is bizarre and a conversation piece.
There is a houseplant out there that will satisfy anyone, from someone who wants to really get into the minutiae of growing-like orchids, or just to have something that requires little to no care-succulents.
Visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA is always a pleasure and one I try to do several times a year. Fortunately for me, it is close by. I made a day trip which included a visit to Terrain, a destination nursery/garden center that is worth a trip on its own. For other posts on Longwood, go to- Longwood’s Summer of Spectacle and Christmas at Longwood.
I had never been to the fall Mum display and last week made the hour and a half journey to take it all in, and was blown away by the artful mums and stunning bamboo constructions. Blooms & Bamboo: Chrysanthemum and Ikebana Sogetsu Artistry is the official title, and features masterworks of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, and bonsai. For more information on the behind the scenes, go to The Making of Blooms & Bamboo.
Created by Headmaster of Sogetsu, Iemoto Akane Tehsigahara, the exhibit features two large-scale displays of bamboo and natural elements showcased in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. Featuring 635 rods of bamboo manipulated into spiraling, twisting, and intertwining natural works of art that were over 15 feet high, these works of art towered almost to the roof of the conservatory.
If the bamboo exhibits weren’t enough, thousands of blooming chrysanthemums trained into imaginative forms and shapes by Longwood’s own horticulture masters were on display.
The first thing you see entering the main conservatory is the massive Chrysanthemum plant that was started in the Longwood’s greenhouse 17 months ago. Beginning more than a year in advance, thousands of chrysanthemums are nurtured and trained meticulously into giant spheres, spirals, columns of cascading flowers, and pagodas. To appreciate the many different types of mums, go to Chrysanthemums: A Class of Their Own.
The Japanese art of flower arrangement, Ikebana, was showcased in the Sogetsu school which is one of the styles of Ikebana. The Sogetsu School focuses more on free expression and is based on the belief that Ikebana can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, by anyone. From the number of people who were exclaiming over them, there were plenty of admirers. For more information of Longwood’s Ikebana, go to Art For Anyone: Sogetsu Ikebana.
Numerous examples of Bonsai featuring miniaturized mums were my favorite. Bonsai is the Japanese art form of cultivating small trees or plants that mimic the shape of scale of full size trees. Through different techniques, such as wiring, shaping, and root pruning, these are amazingly like their full size plants. For more information on these, go to Character Development of a Bonsai.
You can still see the exhibit now until November 17 and you can buy your tickets at Longwood Gardens.
Porch pots are an old fashioned way to decorate a deck, porch, or other entrance to greet people with something colorful during the fall and winter season. Burning bush, dogwood, viburnums, hydrangea flowers, and other fall colored branches are available for the taking along road sides or your property.
Foraging in the Wild
Burning bush has escaped to the wild as an invasive and you can spot it a mile away on the side of the road with its flaming branches. Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, a native, shines with a yellow light through the woods and Bittersweet, another invasive, tangles through trees.
Rose hips, wild Hawthorne, Jack in the Pulpit berries, Sourwood tree foliage, and Kousa Dogwood foliage and berries- the list is endless. Just walk down your neighborhood streets with pruners and start trimming off some branches. Be sure to be careful where you trim. If it is a neighbor’s property, ask permission first.
Jack in the Pulpit berries
Christmas Porch Pots
Porch pots are an easy inexpensive way to dress up your entrance and they are especially valuable for Christmas entertaining. For my recent article on Christmas porch pots in The American Gardener, go to;
But in the mid-Atlantic, our fall has been such a long Indian summer, the fall foliage is waiting for me to pick and use it.
Be careful as your forage for fall materials. Poison Ivy also turns a beautiful color!! When stopping on the side on the road, pull off far enough that you don’t stop traffic. I always wear gloves, long pants, and good sturdy shoes.
Top 10 Materials for Fall Arrangements (Mid-Atlantic Region)
1 Viburnum foliage and berries-the berries come in red, yellow, pink, and blue
2 Blueberry-flaming red foliage
3 Dogwood-foliage and berries
4 Maple-Japanese Maples and Sugar Maples have awesome colors in the fall
5 Oakleaf Hydrangeas-turning a burgundy color, these are long lasting for foliage or flowers
6 Sassafras-brilliant orange and red foliage
7 Nandina-berries and foliage
8 Fothergillia-beautiful burgundy and oranges
9 Grass Plumes-adds great texture
10 Burning Bush-flame red colored foliage with berries
Starting with a pot of soil left over from your dead annuals, simply insert the cut branches into the soil which will hold everything in place. Soil is better for these large pots rather than floral oasis as it holds up better and the large branches stay firmly in the soil.
For the western part of the US, quaking aspens, Salal, and Eucalyptus are valuable additions to your tool box of foliage.
With Halloween around the corner, pumpkin carving skills need to be honed and executed on the most perfect orange sphere that you can find in the pumpkin patch. If orange isn’t your thing, there is a rainbow of colors to choose from. Check out my post on Decorating Pumpkins-Pumpkin Eye Candy.
Making Your Creation Last Longer
Make sure you thoroughly clean out and scrape the guts. The cleaner and drier you get with the gooey pumpkin innards, the longer it will last.
Rinse the entire pumpkin in cold water and dry.
Spray the pumpkin insides with a solution of 1 Tablespoon of peppermint soap or bleach to a quart of cold water. The peppermint soap acts as an anti-fungal and the bleach kills any organisms that lead to rot and decay.
Apply a thin coating of petroleum jelly to the outside to stop the pumpkin from drying out.
Place pumpkin in fridge in a plastic bag to store overnight or place outside in the cold. The colder it is (not freezing!) the longer it will last.
Rehydrate with a spray of water when you take the pumpkin out of the bag.
Don’t use real candles as the heat and melted wax will hasten the demise of your pumpkin. Use small small floral votives that last for hours.
When you are at the farm stand picking out your perfect specimen, be sure to look it over for soft spots and gouges into the outer skin. If either of these are present, your pumpkin will likely rot before you can start decorating it. Poke and prod the pumpkin all over to make sure it is healthy. Have a plan of what you would like to carve as that determines the shape, size and orientation(sideways, upright, upside down) of your final creation. If you want the pumpkin at its best on Halloween, don’t carve it too early. One day ahead or the day of is perfect so that the pumpkin holds up.
Picking out from a local market means you won’t get a bruised and battered pumpkin that traveled far from the farmer.
An outdoor work area is preferable as the job can get quite messy. Using brown/butcher paper or a trash bag underneath makes cleanup a snap.