It’s hard to resist the urge to get decorating at this time of year. As we head into the dark, cold times, we’re also welcoming family home to share food and warmth. Hence the pumpkins, the wreaths, the candles, and the spooky stuff. If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at what follows.
1) A time for feasting: We live in a time when we can eat fresh mangoes in winter. But back when food miles were the only miles, and what you grew was what you ate, people seriously gave thanks for what they tucked away in their larders at the end of the growing season. Those pumpkins that sit beside front doors at this time of year are linked into this – they’re symbols of a good harvest. So gather together colored ears of corn, pumpkins and gourds, then look around at the garden center for some great foliage plants to work into the mix. Think strappy foliage in interesting colors, like Festival cordyline’s Raspberry or Burgundy. Or the delicious glossy chocolates, reds and pinks of the Pacific Sunrise and Sunset coprosmas. Now it’s time to put it all together into a glorious heap of abundance. Set the plants to the back, hide their pots with pumpkins, and fill the gaps with smaller vegetables. And if the loose look doesn’t do it for you, here’s a classic. Along a path, up the steps or across a porch, alternate pumpkins with a set of potted plants. Be sure to use the same plant type in matching containers, and try to use same-sized pumpkins.
2) It’s about warmth and light: As the days grow shorter and darker, we light candles and fires. In summer the door may sit open to encourage drop-ins, but in winter it’s shut against the cold. So how can we make it welcoming? By dressing it with a wreath and by draping the porch in festoon lighting. Wreaths are symbols of reassurance: that the seasons follow each other, that we continue to cherish friends and love our families. As for the lighting, the soft glow of festive lights beckons us, promising us warmth and welcome inside where, if you have an open fire, you should have it lit as often as possible. Candles are also a great way to add emotional warmth to your home: at the table center; along bare window ledges; anywhere that is safe for a naked flame. If you’re decorating the table for a special meal and aren’t keen on candles, lay a tangle of fairy lights down the middle, then add in foliage, flowers, fruit and vegetables. It’s a flexible approach that let’s you pull together different color themes: team rainbow lights with Pacific Coprosma Sunset foliage and bright red chillies; or white lights with white lilies and albino squash.
3) Keeping evil spirits at bay: There are many back-stories for Halloween but most of them agree that it’s the night when spirits – good or evil – are out and about. Good spirits clearly aren’t the problem: it’s the bad ones we have to guard against. Luckily we have a few tricks up our sleeves. The most obvious is to carve a Jack-o-lantern and light it up at dusk so that its grin can scare away the ghouls. No two faces cut into a pumpkin are ever the same, thanks to the fact that every pumpkin has its own quirky shape. But if you want to do something different, try cutting stars out all over. You can even carve just the surface of the vegetable, taking away the skin but leaving the flesh to glow. Look for inspiration online: patterns of swirling mist, licking flames, ‘welcome’ or your house number. Another way to ward off bad luck is to hang a swag of platted garlic heads over the door or make a wreath of red chillies to ward off the evil eye.