Thanksgiving Centerpiece of Gourds and Pumpkins

Thanksgiving dinners require a WOW centerpiece to go with the cornucopia of food. I recently attended a floral design class with Jane Godshalk at Longwood Gardens and created a centerpiece that was a fitting accent at the table. Low enough to talk over and interesting and creative enough to grace any dining room table, I learned a few new techniques to create a stunning centerpiece.

My starting supplies- new biodegradable agra wool oasis, small gourds and pumpkins, wheat, and moss

Sustainable Base-Agra Wool

The base is all important in your design and traditional green oasis is getting a bad rap with floral designers, as it isn’t a sustainable choice because it doesn’t decompose. Agra wool is a compressed rock wool product that you can reuse multiple times and when you are finished with it, will decompose. I was curious about how this new oasis substitute would work. Another option for a sustainable base would be chicken wire encasing moss, but that can be hard to work with.

To set up the base, two agra wool blocks are attached with tape and plastic pins to the base. Water is added to the blocks which will keep everything hydrated, and additional water is needed as it evaporates. Then, I started to green the base with fresh cedar and pittosporum.

Gourd Accents

The greening of the base was quickly done and the more interesting work of attaching the gourds began. Gourds and small pumpkins have a very tough skin, so you need to pierce them with a sharp awl or use a drill. I used bamboo picks that were dipped in clove oil (to retard decomposition) and inserted two into each gourd so that they were firmly attached and didn’t move around. Trying for different color variations with the gourds is all part of the design process and attaching them in a manner so that they ‘flow’ through the arrangement.

Pierce the hard-skinned gourds with an awl so you can insert picks
After you pierce the gourds, insert bamboo picks to attach to the agra wool base

The base is all greened up and gourds attached

Icing on the Cake-Flowers

The gourds and greens made this a great centerpiece without any additions, but flowers brought it up to the next level. Ranunculus, blue veronica, mums, dried wheat, and chocolate cosmos were all added using floral water tubes as the agra wool is tough to pierce with soft flower stems. The addition of flowers made this a ‘garden style’ arrangement that could be the star for any Thanksgiving table.

Flowers and dried wheat adds a lot of interest and movement to the centerpiece
Greens, bronze eucalyptus, blue veronica, mums, freesia, and cosmos, were available to enhance the arrangement
Instructor Jane Godshalk displaying the sample centerpiece

I would highly recommend any of Longwood’s floral design classes as even though I am an experienced floral designer, I picked up a lot of tips. Afterwards, I got to see Longwood Garden’s Christmas decorations! For tickets, go to Longwood Gardens.

This arrangement will last for weeks with additional water, and you can easily switch out the flowers that are finished with new ones. For Christmas, you could change the gourds to pomegranates and apples, and add red roses, white lilies, and white ranunculus to create a festive Christmas centerpiece.

Conservatory display at Longwood


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