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Decorating for Thanksgiving

Rachel Burrows

This is a wonderful time of year to go for a drive on our back roads to look for natureís bounty. The leaves are changing colour and you can find some marvelous things to decorate your Thanksgiving table or front door. Take a bag and a pair of snips with you when you go for a drive or a walk. Look for interesting seed heads, berries, bark from dead trees, fungi, cones and lichens. Some other things to keep an eye out for include sumac seed heads, milkweed pods, the round galls on Golden Rod and Queen Annís Lace seed heads. See how many different textures and shapes you can find. You may even be lucky enough to find an abandoned birds nest.

There are still many seed heads, flowers, berries and grasses in the garden. You may have poppy seed heads, hydrangea flowers, Chinese lanterns, honesty seed heads and one of my favourites, love in the mist seed heads. Most of the sedums are at their best right now and will look spectacular in arrangements. If you want to dry any flowers, pick them on a dry day and hang upside down in a warm, dry, dark room. Hydrangeas dry best when cut and placed in a vase with one or two inches of water. After they have used up all of the water, leave them in place for a couple of weeks. The Peterborough farmers market has several stalls selling dried and fresh flowers at very reasonable prices.

There are an amazing variety of ornamental gourds, pumpkins and Indian corn available. Look for these at farm gates and markets. Donít forget the produce department at the grocery store when you are thinking of decorations. Citrus fruits are in the stores in all shapes and sizes. You can use these fresh or dry them. Look for a thick rind and ones that are not too juicy. If you wish to dry them, make vertical slits in the rind, just into the flesh. Dry them in a 200F oven for 6 Ė 10 hours. Small pomegranates can be dried in a similar manner. All the brightly coloured peppers make wonderful decorative accents.

Chrysanthemums are at their very best right now and are inexpensive and long lasting. Visit your local florist to see the wonderful fall shades.

A table centrepiece should be low enough so that guests can easily see over it. Co-ordinate the flowers with your linens and china. A very simple centrepice can be made with gourds and mini pumpkin. The latter can be hollowed out and a tea light inserted for a pretty effect. A centerpiece of fresh fruit looks wonderful and portrays our thankfulness for the harvest. Apples give off a gas, which hastens fresh flowers demise, so donít mix the two.

Large pumpkins make great containers. Choose one that sits flat and firm, cut off the top and hollow it out. I do suggest that you put another container inside, as the pumpkin will begin to rot and smell if the water is put directly inside it. I usually use plastic containers such as yogurt pots.

Another nice idea is to have a small arrangement inside a mini pumpkin at each place setting. You can make napkin holders by twisting any vine into a circle and decorating with a few fresh herbs, rosehips or bittersweet. If any of you live near wet areas, look for horsetails. Although they are an awful weed, they do make great decorations.

Now is the time to make grapevine wreaths while they are still pliable and easy to work with. If you do let it dry out, soak the vine in warm water for an hour before you use it. All sorts of vines can be used such as bittersweet, honeysuckle, and morning glory. Strip off any leaves and with one hand, hold the longer strand at the thicker end. With your other hand, bend down the opposite end of the vine to form a circle that is slightly smaller than the desired diameter of the finished wreath. Keep weaving the vines around the circle until the wreath is as large as you want. You may need to use small pieces of wire to tie the circle together. You can also use wire coat hangers to make a wreath base. When finished, wrap it floral tape completely the wire. This will make a light wreath, which will take dried flowers well. Hydrangea heads make a lovely wreath and can be packed fairly tightly and attached on using a glue gun. There are many other types of wreath bases available from craft shops. If you use fresh flowers and want to dry in place, remember that the stems will shrink as they dry. Therefore it is a good idea to glue them in place. Wreath bases can be covered in moss or lichen for a pretty effect. Finish off with a colour coordinated bow and your wreath will look spectacular.

Let your imagination run riot, get the arrangement done ahead of time and wait for the compliments. Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Rachel Burrows is a Master Gardener. Have your garden questions answered by visiting our website at or through our garden phone hotline at 705-741-4905.