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Pumpkins are a familiar sign of autumn as they show up in fields and roadside stands. A favorite part of the décor for the season, the orange orbs have easily recognizable and enjoyed. But that color is becoming more secondary as a number of varieties have been making their way to gardens throughout the nation ranging from green to white with varying tones in between. These old types are redefining this autumnal tradition.
Jack o’ Lanterns have been around for many years with their beginning in Ireland as folklore and the idea immigrated to America, evolving from that point. In the new millenium, pumpkins are being appreciated as home and outdoor décor in their natural form. Warted or plain, round or oval, miniature or full size, with the variety of colors mentioned earlier, these fall ornamentals don’t need anything to make them show worthy. Some even come in a striped version.
Even the names can cause a person to sit up and take notice. Familiar ones like Jack-o’-Lantern, pie and Connecticut Field are known by many who grow them. Then there are the romantic names like Fairytale or Cinderella that are enjoyed. Taking the name game a step further, international titles are given such as the Jarrahdale from Australia, Marina di Chioggia hails from Italy and Galeux d’Eysines, or the Peanut Pumpkin, is a French heirloom. Imagine an international pumpkin patch in your back yard!
While these unusual pumpkins are available, the traditional pumpkins are still the most common at roadside stands. They make a great canvas for decorating with paint, glue and accessories. These projects are being promoted at fairs with contests for the best decorations. In Coldwater, MI, the district library system is having a pumpkin decorating contest with the goal being to create a favorite book character with no cutting allowed. Many of the entries will use basic art supplies to make their ideas come to life.
That said, there are artists who push the boundaries with their natural materials and methods. An interesting idea for decorating a pumpkin is with relief carving. This technique takes advantage of the skin and flesh of the hard-shelled squash. Artisans use wood carving tools to create images in the sides of the pumpkin, incorporating the colors of the shell and the flesh.
A number of seed houses and businesses have jumped onto the pumpkin bandwagon offering a myriad of types, colors, and varieties to their customer base. Several well-known and prolific companies are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange and Sand Hill Preservation with many others to choose from. Order their seed catalogs now and a gardener’s favorite reading material will be heading out before Christmas with a few months to dream of your future pumpkin patch.

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