Foraged Foliage & Berries For Fall

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.

Spicebush on the edge of the woods
Blue Amsonia, a great perennial for fall color is the yellow in this arrangement

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.

I found this abandoned hornets nest
The nest is really beautiful!

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

I gathered bittersweet and also the lichen covered branches of this dead tree
The lichen covered branches are really interesting in porch pots
Japanese Maple, Hairy Balls, lichen covered branches, burning bush, blackberry lily berries, winterberry, and nandina

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;

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Christmas porch pot

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.

Orange Fothergillia makes this porch pot stand out
The Oakleaf Hydrangea leaves and Winterberry make this arrangement

Safety Tips

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.

Poison Ivy turns a great color, but beware!
My blueberry bushes turn a brilliant red in the fall
The large yellow leaves are Calycanthus or Carolina Sweet Shrub

Top 10 Materials for Fall Arrangements (Mid-Atlantic Region)

Gather materials and plunge them into a big bucket of water

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

Variety of fall berries that you could use
Fothergillia turns a brilliant orange color

The Process

Begin with a tall well formed branch as the backdrop

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.

Dogwood and Burning Bush branches with Viburnum berries are stuck in a container that had annuals all season
The addition of the yellow and red Viburnum berries add texture and color
Nandina berries draping over the edge adds dimension
Finished container measures 4′ x 4′
Japanese Maples turning color
Color spectrum of Japanese Maples

For the western part of the US, quaking aspens, Salal, and Eucalyptus are valuable additions to your tool box of foliage.

In Colorado, Quaking Aspens are great for yellow and orange foliage colors, photo by Amy Sparwasser

Garden Lady Scarecrow

Halloween is scarecrow making time and I had the opportunity to create one with some friends and enter into Ladew Gardens ‘Garden Glow’.  Our Monkton Garden Club had unlimited space to work with, but we had to make sure it looked good both in the daytime and nighttime.

Looking over our space and gathering our supplies

Lighting was accomplished with many strings of tiny white fairy lights on a timer that you can set to go on for 6 hours and off for 18-perfect timing for the evening!

Tiny white lights were arranged all over our scarecrow- even in the wine glass; photo from Darlene Wells

My first stop was to gather gardening clothing. Salvation Army was the mother lode source for a plaid shirt, denim coveralls, and green gardening boots. While there, I noticed the all body romper suits for infants and snatched one of those up for the baby scarecrow. Gardening gloves for the mommy scarecrow completed her getup and fake pumpkins for the baby and mommy heads finished it off. The Styrofoam fake pumpkins are light weight and easy to impale on a stake for the head.

For stuffing, we used light weight plastic grocery bags and bubble wrap instead of straw to keep it from soaking up any rain.

The scarecrow was put together at my house and then we transported it to Ladew to set up the whole vignette. A trellis, pumpkins, crates, snake gourd, flower arrangement, butterfly lights, shovel, and a watering can completed the garden lady scene. My friend Darlene, carved 2 awesome jack-o-lanterns that were set up at the base of the hay bale.

Clothing laid out on a straw bale; the stake that the scarecrow will be built is stuck into the straw bale
Darlene is starting to build the body
The body was stuffed with bubble wrap and recycled plastic bags
Taping a wire hanger to the stake formed the shoulders

We impaled the Styrofoam head on the stake and knotted raffia and glued it on top of the head for a bouffant hair-do!
After gluing the hat on the head, Darlene painted a beautiful face; we attached stuffed garden gloves for the hands, and glued a wine glass to the hand
Working on the baby and adding lights
Monica adding lights to the raffia hair
An over-sized sunflower decorated her hat
Lighted butterflies on the flower basket; photo from Darlene Wells
We added some scary carved pumpkins at the base; photo from Darlene Wells
We draped a snake gourd on the trellis behind the scarecrow
Darlene adding some features to the snake gourd
Fireside basket complete with hairy balls  and seasonal flowers from my garden finished off the scene

Easy Fall Centerpiece Ideas

It is time to start thinking about your fall holiday table and entertaining for Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas below.

If you want to see me decorate for the fall season with pumpkins, succulents, and other naturals, come see me at The Baltimore County Cockeysville Library in Maryland, where I will be creating and demonstrating centerpieces. I will be demonstrating for about an hour and a half starting at 7PM on Thursday evening, on October 24, 2019.  And you might go home with an arrangement!

If you can’t make it, check out my posts on how to design with succulents and pumpkins at Pumpkin Treats-Decorating with Succulents, Succulent Pumpkin Centerpieces, and Succulent Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin On a Stick

Use pumpkin on a stick in fall displays

Halloween is around the corner and people are starting to decorate with the many types of pumpkins available at the farmer’s market. The past 10 years have seen an explosion of all kinds of colors, sizes, and shapes of pumpkins, but I am in love with a diminutive one, which actually isn’t a real pumpkin, but an eggplant., specifically Ornamental Eggplant, (Solanum Integrifolium). For different types of real pumpkins, go to my Pumpkin Eye Candy post.

Pumpkin on a Stick seed packet at Botanical Interests

Ornamental or Food?

Falling in the eggplant family, the little pumpkins, Solanum integrifolium, are not really pumpkins, but an ornamental used in stir-fried Asian dishes. I grow this cute ornamental jack-o-lantern for jazzing up my Thanksgiving table and fall flower arrangements as it dries nicely and lasts a long time.

Native to Southeast Asia, it grows 3 to 4 feet tall with very large fuzzy leaves that grow from a purple thorny stem. It towers over other eggplants in my garden and the plant looks remarkably like Bed of Nails or Solanum quitoense, profiled in Plant Geek Alert.

Bed of Nails

Culture

Around for over 125 years which makes it an official heirloom vegetable, it has also been called Pumpkin Tree and Pumpkin Bush. Planted directly in full sun in your garden, the plant needs steady moisture and benefits from regular fertilizing as it grows large fast. Pretty soon, the insignificant blooms appear, followed by pale green nubby fruit that turn into their final pumpkin ribbed shape a few weeks later. Insects like to gnaw on the leaves as you can see but deer and rabbits leave it alone because of the wicked thorns.

Started from seed in my greenhouse, by early spring, the plants (with stakes) grow quickly and are ready to plant in the garden as soon as we are frost free
Pumpkin on a Stick growing in my veggie garden has thorns and can get tall (3-4 ft tall)

Harvesting

In late summer, the fruit changes to a scarlet color and when frosts start to hit, the eggplants turn their final rich orange color. You can harvest up to a dozen pumpkins on one plant. When you pick a stem of pumpkins for fresh use, cut the stems and use as is. If you want to dry the pumpkins, hang the entire stalk upside down in a cool dry location, removing leaves. This treatment prevents the fruits from sagging. Fruits will shrivel and the orange color will intensify. For eating, pick the fruits when orange and use in stir-fries.

Cutting my pumpkin on a stick plants
Remove all the leaves and hang to dry
Available in the fall at trader Joe’s

Pumpkin on a stick at the wholesale florist
Pumpkin on a Stick used in a seasonal arrangement

Easy Thanksgiving Centerpieces

 

Having Thanksgiving at your house?  Whipping up a table centerpiece now will save you a lot of time on Thanksgiving Day.

Living on a pretty large property (2 acres), is a lot of work with weeding, pruning, mulching, etc. The chores are endless. But it is all worth it when I look out my window and see the makings of a Thanksgiving centerpiece, there for the taking. Evergreens, berries, peppers ripening, pine cones, and pods, were at my fingertips. Fresh cut sunflowers, oasis, and picking up a few colorful veggies,  were the only things that I had to purchase to come up with a dynamite centerpiece. Keeping for weeks with regular application of water and misting, you can segue this same centerpiece into a Christmas themed one with different flowers and accessories.

Surprisingly easy if you have access to greens, you can always poach on your friends and neighbors properties if you come up short. Ask first though! Usually people are happy for you to prune or thin their evergreens.

Start with a hurricane globe filled with fruit and a candle; place the oasis on a charger

Starting out with a 10″ oasis ring on an inexpensive charger plate, I had an old glass hurricane shade that I pull out for each Christmas to act as the focal point. If you can’t find an oasis wreath, then just cut your wet oasis into chunks and piece together a wreath shape.  Inserting a cranberry colored candle in the hurricane shade, I dropped some shriveled mini pumpkins (See pumpkin on a stick) and some mini hardy oranges into the space around the candle. Other options are fresh cranberries, dried corn and beans, or nuts.

Start inserting short pieces of greens

Insert your greens first, trying to cover as much of the oasis as you can. But leave room for your other berries, veggies, and flowers. This should only take about 15 minutes. For my centerpiece greens, I used Thujopsis, Nandina, Golden Arborvitae, Leucothoe, and Aucuba.

After greening the oasis, add your berries and fruit; the Nandina berries exactly match the color of the mini pumpkins
Stick picks into colorful peppers
I bunched the radishes together with wire and picked them also
Completed centerpiece without flowers

Once Thanksgiving is over, set the wreath in a cool place, not freezing, and bring it back in at Christmas and add seasonal naturals such as roses, pomegranates, and red carnations. Even a small birds nest or snowmen would add a nice touch.

Sunflowers will last about a week

Materials

Here is a list of suggested materials. Just explore your yard or the woods and you can find many others to make it more interesting.

Evergreens

  • Aucuba
  • Rhododendron
  • Cherry Laurel
  • False Cypress
  • Juniper
  • Nandina-foliage and greenery
  • Andromeda
  • Boxwood
  • Pachysandra
  • Hellebore
  • Pine
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea

Vegetables

  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Lady Apples
  • Cabbage
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Small Pumpkins
  • Gourds
  • Grapes
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Mini Peppers

 Berries and Flowers

  • Gerber Daisy
  • Mums
  • Winterberry
  • Beauty Berry
  • Sunflower
  • Wax Flower
  • Lilies
  • Grapevine tendrils
  • Roses
  • Hydrangea
  • Bittersweet
  • Lotus Pods
  • Pine Cones
  • Pepper Berries
  •  Hydrangea
  • Rose Hips
The radishes will last a few weeks and then shrivel up
Step By Step

  1. Place oasis ring in warm water and soak for 30 minutes until heavy. Or piece together a ring with chunks of oasis
  2. Place ring on charger and set your hurricane glass in the center
  3. Fill the glass with a candle surrounded by your choice of beans or fruit
  4. Insert cut pieces (3-5″ long) of greens into oasis ring so that the oasis is covered
  5. Insert your chosen veggies after first inserting picks. If you don’t have picks, use short twigs
  6. Add berries, pods, or nuts
  7. Sunflowers go in last. Other suggestions for flowers are carnations, dahlias, roses, lilies, and mums
Veggies and Berries
Placing picks in Veggies, Pods, and Berries
For another pumpkin centerpiece idea, go to my post Thanksgiving Centerpiece .  
For a totally different look, try making the one below with candles and gourds, ready to go in 30 minutes.

Autumn’s Colors

autumn

 The autumn color palette is astounding here in the mid-Atlantic for weeks in October and November. Magenta, orange, scarlet, persimmon yellow,  and purple tones are well represented. Here are some of my favorite plants to enjoy and plant for their beautiful displays in the fall.

Smoke Tree and Amsonia
Smoke Tree and Amsonia

Amsonia, Fall Perennial

Amsonia and Smoke Tree
Amsonia and Smoke Tree

The frostier it gets, the colors display better and more intensified hues. For plantings, if you plant the perennial amsonia, you will have great fall color and a perfect backdrop for the fall show of colors.

Amsonia hubrichtii turns golden yellow in fall for weeks
Amsonia hubrichtii turns golden yellow in fall for weeks

Turing a flaming golden color when the nights turn chilly, amsonia is the perennial for fall. I ignore amsonia through the summer adorned with it’s feathery green foliage and starry blue flowers, suddenly noticing it in the fall, admiring the perfect backdrop effect to set off autumn colors.

Amsonia has a smallish blue flower that is pretty but not outstanding
Amsonia has a smallish blue flower that is pretty but not outstanding

Almost over night, the feathery green foliage turns a beautiful golden-yellow, which becomes a perfect foil for fall flowers, notably Dahlias and other large-leaved accent plants like Castor Oil Bean. The fine foliage of amsonia is a perfect companion for coarser leaved plants.

Amsonia and Castor Oil Bean
Amsonia and Castor Oil Bean

Dahlias, Fall Flower

Dahlias, another overlooked plant in the early summer comes into its own in the late summer and fall, lighting up the garden when the nights turn cool. Sporting large bold foliage, Elephant Ears becomes a perfect backdrop for this beautiful bloom. Dahlias bloom for weeks and weeks starting in the late summer, continuing into November with painterly splashes of bright color.

Dahlias and elephant ears
Dahlias and elephant ears
Dahlia
Dahlia
Dahlias pop up tall in the fall garden backed up by the fall color of dogwoods
Dahlias pop up tall in the fall garden backed up by the fall color of dogwoods

Dahlia

Maples, The Best Fall Tree

If you plant a maple, you will have fall color guaranteed! There are few maples that don’t put on a colorful fall display. It doesn’t matter if it is a red maple, Japanese maple, or a sugar maple, you are in for weeks of brilliant colors.

Norway Maple
Norway Maple
Acer aconitifolium
Acer aconitifolium

 

Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples

 

Under the canopy of Japanese maples
Under the canopy of Japanese maples
Japanese maples
Japanese maples