Autumn's Last Harvest

Use the season's bounty to decorate your home.
Article: Ellen Ruoff Riley

Nature lures us this time of year to hunt and gather the last lovely garden offerings before frost. Flower petals exude the sun’s radiance while fluorescent berries and vivid vegetables blaze in autumn sunset colors. Make another sweep through the garden, bringing these enduring gems indoors; celebrate and decorate with the season’s grand finale.

If you don’t have a garden of your own, fear not; Indian corn, petite pumpkins, and dazzling fall fruit are all easily found in grocery stores, along with pomegranates, persimmons, pears, and gourds spanning the rich autumn palette. Look to farm stands for more unusual items including cockscomb, broomcorn, sunflower seedheads, and berry-covered branches.

Seasonal Greetings 
An entryway is an excellent place to begin. A big basket overflowing with a harvest assortment is simply lagniappe. If your container is large, fill the bottom with an empty box or pinecones to reduce the amount of perishable materials by about half.

Wreaths are a wonderful way to bring the season indoors. Florist foam rings are the bases for our displays, providing moisture and keeping flowers fresh for several days. Soak the forms thoroughly, and stand them in the sink to drain. For the sunflower wreath, run florist wire through the backs of three sunflower seedheads, and attach them in a triangle pattern. Push the flower stems, cut 3 to 4 inches below the bloom, into the foam, filling out the arrangement. Perch this sunny presentation on your mantel, or lean it on a wide windowsill—this ring is too heavy to be hung.

You can also place a wreath on your table as a centerpiece. Duplicate our flower-and-fruit arrangement by setting a plate or saucer under the damp florist foam. Working from the bottom, start with a layer of broomcorn or corn tassels around the base; then add crimson cockscomb, leaving space for small pears. If the flower heads are too large, gently break them apart into smaller pieces. Cluster the fruit in groups of three; use florist picks to pierce each one, and gently push them into place on the form. The fruit will remain fresh for three to four days, while the flowers will dry and become a permanent arrangement.

Construct an easy-to-assemble Indian corn garland beginning with a piece of sisal rope. If you like, dye it dark brown or a golden maize shade. Wrap it with broomcorn, corn tassels (stalks are available at farmers markets), or other dried grasses. Place corn along the rope single file or gathered in bundles of three. Wire corn securely in place, and then tie raffia on top for a finishing touch. Hang your garland across a door or from your mantel.

A flat-sided basket hanging on a door adds another dash of welcome. Filled with brilliant berries and a small pumpkin or two, this arrangement is splendid and quick.

The garden’s last harvest lends itself to simplicity. Put these beautiful materials together in easygoing arrangements for supremely seasonal decorations.