How to create simple & stylish autumn decorations from the garden
Autumn decorations are vibrant, welcoming and easy to create. Find them for free in your own garden.
Top 10 autumn decorating plants from the garden
- Squashes, gourds and pumpkins – scrape out flesh to cook, then use as vases
- Berries – such as pyracantha, ivy and holly
- Chestnuts – scatter along the table or mantelpiece
- Fallen autumn leaves – glue to a wire wreath
- Crab apples – if you don’t make jelly, use for decorating
- Quince – these have a fabulous fragrance for the home
- Richly coloured seasonal flowers – such as chrysanthemum and dahlia
- Seedheads – poppy seed heads, crocosmia, Japanese anemones, physalis
- Combine garden greenery with flowers from the florist
- Grasses – a few stems of pampas grass or miscanthus can look stunning
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If you don’t grow them, look for pumpkins, gourds and fruits in your veg patch or at farmers’ markets.
Or enjoy foraging for twigs, chestnuts, fallen leaves and seeds on long country walks. Technically, you do not have the legal right to gather fallen twigs from the ground. So if you are doing any foraging in the countryside, you are advised to check with the landowner. It’s hard to imagine a council prosecuting anyone for picking up fallen twigs from the pavement – but they could!
And out in the garden (yours or a friend’s), there are clippings, grasses, berries and seed-heads, all of which make great autumn decorations.
While you’re out shopping or walking, you can also find inspiration in shop windows and the countryside. And, of course, books, Pinterest and Instagram.
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A simple lunch party decoration
We had friends for lunch, so I decided to try out Louise’s Winter Squash vases from The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley (now out of print but available second-hand). They’d be perfect for any kind of party between now and when the Christmas decorations come out of the attic.
I bought some winter squash at our local farm shop and cut some dahlias from the garden. The instructions were easy to follow (and I am not particularly crafty). Just cut the top off the winter squash and scrape out as much of the inside as possible, then fill with water and use as a vase.
Louise advises that the arrangement will probably only last a day, though, so do it the same day you need it. Or you can put it in the fridge if you do it the night before. Here’s my interpretation:
I bought three squash, but decided only to use two of them as vases – the third was so beautiful that it worked on its own. Here’s how they looked on the table:
Key decorating plants for autumn
Louise’s book is not only inspirational, but it also has lots of helpful information, including her key decorating plants for each season. For autumn, she includes dahlias, chrysanthemums, crab apples, liquidambar leaves and poppy seed heads. As I was cutting the crab apples for an arrangement, I spotted that my quince tree was ready for harvest too. And that there were other seed heads I could use, such as crocosmia and Japanese anemone.
Be inspired by local shops and themes
Fired up by the ideas in the book, I also went down to the local market (in Faversham), where there is a farmer’s market on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, plus a number of shops that I use for inspiration. Florists are a good starting point, but look in other shops, too.
Faversham is an ancient brewing town, so windows suggested that beer bottles as vases and brewery memorabilia (along with hops from the garden) would also make good autumn decorations.
Decorate your mantelpiece – a quick and beautiful treatment
I also adapted some of the ideas in The Crafted Garden for other seasons – for example, there’s a lovely Christmas suggestion for filling a glass vase with pine cones and using as a base for twigs. I wondered if I could do the same with quince and crab apples.
The result is (I think) rather wonderfully Old Master-ish. I’ve used it as a mantelscape above my fireplace. And it would also look good with the small, red apples I saw on David Simmons’ market stall in Faversham. The apples are too small to be sold to the supermarkets but would be great for autumn decorations. And I will certainly be using Louise’s version for Christmas.
A ‘grown-up’ version of the traditional pumpkin
If you want to give the typical Halloween pumpkin a twist, then borrow ideas from Julie Davies Flower Workshops. Julie uses a pumpkin as a vase and puts in florists foam, then adding twigs, flowers, ivy and lichen. For detailed instructions and other inspiring autumn decorations, see her post here.
And don’t forget that a pumpkin plus wet floral foam will be heavy so you may have to arrange in situ. Also, this is another arrangement that won’t last long – once the pumpkin flesh is exposed to air it will begin to rot. So try to do it the same day of your party, or not long before.
More decorations from the garden
If your party is outside, then here’s how to choose the best pop-up gazebo for your garden.
I’m often asked for recommendations, so I’ve put together some useful lists on The Middlesized Garden Amazon store. For example, here’s my list of garden party essentials, as well as my top choices for the garden tools you really need.
Pin to remember autumn decorations from the garden
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