Monday, October 31, 2011

The potential of pumpkins

  Just because Halloween comes and goes does not have to usher in the rush to chuck that pumpkin on Tuesday, not when there is another month to use it, through Thanksgiving.
Pumpkins still have plenty of potential uses for the final month of harvest season.
Randy Rogers, manager of Flowers by Richard in Myrtle Beach, said October starts a two-month season in which four shades of colors reign: yellows, oranges, rusts and butterscotches. Pair them up with live, uncarved pumpkins, and they can doll up any room, he said.

  Randy Rogers, of Flowers by Richard, shows off his centerpiece as it nears completion. It began with a pumpkin.“It’s still kind of fallish,” he said, happy to doll up a table, mantel and any “nook or cranny” of a house.
Inside his family store, named after his father, Rogers put together a fall flower arrangement Monday afternoon using a “baking” or pie pumpkin 8 inches in diameter as a pot. He cleaned the pumpkin out and sprayed it with a sealer coating inside and out to prevent fast rotting, then placed a moistened green floral foam base in a 4-inch-tall liner cup that fit into the pumpkin.
Rogers’ fun started with filling the green base – a pincushion for plant stems – with cattails, then adding a variety of other plants and colors to round out the design in dimension and color. Options included revilia dyed red, as well as red rovers, lilies, button mums, golden aster, purple liatrus and red coffee berries, which he said make a popular component in Christmastime arrangements.
Eager to add his declared “touch of spookiness,” Rogers made a spider and a web to help stretch the Halloween angle into more of an overall autumn edge. Having cut a piece of round foam and spray painted it black, he held the body in his palm. He inserted two dressage pins with red heads to serve as the eyes on the body, and added eight bent pipe cleaners as legs, which he curled on the leaves.
“It looks like he’s actually walking on it,” Rogers said.
Such flexibility with items available in a flower or craft store allows for decorations that go beyond Halloween because “you add your own touch to it,” he said.
‘All over the house’
Billie Caswell, owner of Four Seasons Interiors in Myrtle Beach, also sees pumpkins’ extended value this season.
“Some of the more decorative pumpkins make great table arrangements,” she said. “You can get all kind of gourds. They’re wonderful if you put flowers in a centerpiece.”
Other prime pumpkin spots beyond go beyond dining room tables, to kitchen tables and counters.
“You could really put them all over the house,” Caswell said.
She said blending gourds with leaves entails a quick way to “tablescape” an arrangement, and that the leaves “will pick up the colors.”
Caswell said the store receives inquiries from customers about decor for the various seasons.
“You can always do something a little festive,” she said, calling Halloween’s standing among holidays “a big one.”
Sara Millar, manager of horticulture at Brookgreen Gardens, near Murrells Inlet, said pumpkins are a Halloween tradition, but are still part of a bigger season that extends through Thanksgiving.
“For special dinners and functions here at Brookgreen,” she said, “we fill large vases with small pumpkins and gourds and combine with fresh-cut flowers to make unique fall arrangements.”
Besides turning hollowed pumpkins into flower pots, Brookgreen officials spread them out.
“We also mix pumpkins and gourds with corn, dried flowers, seed pods and twigs to create a cornucopia of colorful decor,” Millar said.
For outdoor use, as long as pumpkins are kept out of sunlight and away from moisture, they can last “for a suprisingly long time,” she said.
Seeds for thought
Carved pumpkins also have another life as containers for fall annuals, and later for direct planting in the ground.
“Pumpkins are full of nutrients and make a great addition to a compost pile or simply buried in the garden to enrich the soil,” Millar said. “Pumpkins that were carved are not fit for human consumption, but they can certainly be enjoyed by birds, deer and other wildlife.”
The pumpkins that don’t go under the knife for carving can become ingredients for a variety of culinary dishes, even for Christmas.
“Pumpkin seeds can be roasted, and the flesh used for pies, breads and soups,” Millar said. “Pumpkins can be hollowed out and used as decorative serving bowls for soups, salads and dips. Here at Brookgreen Gardens, our favorite pumpkins to use as decorations are the heirloom varieties. They often have unusual shape, color and texture and are very unique, especially long-lived, and have wonderful flavor.”
Thoughts of spring always sprout early for Millar, even before winter sets in.
“My favorite thing to do with pumpkins after fall is over is to remove the seeds and try to grow them in the garden the next year,” she said. “Collect your seeds, dry them and store in a cool place until the following spring. After the threat of frost is gone, seeds can be planted in the garden. Pumpkins and gourds enjoy full sun, and need room to spread.”

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