Gourds (Cucurbita pepo) have been used for thousands of years since containers, eating utensils and decorations. Pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) belong to the same family as gourds, but have been increased mainly as a food supply. Currently pumpkins are increased as autumn decorations as well. You may substitute artificial gourds and pumpkins as decorations, but not for any other purpose.
The fruits — gourds — develop on vigorous vines around 15 feet long. The gourds may be as small as an orange or as large as the birdhouse gourd that’s 14 inches long and 12 inches wide at the widest part. Many have a crook or narrow section leading to the wider round section. The gourd isn’t typically eaten by men and women, but used as decorations. Pick the gourds when they’re fully formed and coloured. Colors include light green, dark green, yellow, orange, cream, brown and gold, often on precisely the same gourd. The texture of the skin may be smooth or include warts or bumps; in any event it will be hard. No treatment is essential to carry on the gourds for one season. If totally dried out they may last another year.
The luffa (Luffa cylindrica) you see in the bathroom section of the drug store is just a natural gourd treated to remove everything but the abrasive fiber network of the interior. Sometimes in case you look closely you’ll see a seed or two left at the fiber. The gourds are left on the vine until the skin becomes somewhat brittle. The skin is removed and the interior fiber washed with a powerful blast of water, then left to dry.
Since natural gourds take up a good amount of space in the garden to get an inedible and sprawling plant, the gardener may not need to devote space for this particular plant. Artificial gourds resemble actual gourds, particularly when the natural gourds have been shellacked or sprayed with another preservative to make them shiny. The artificial gourd may be manufactured out of plastic, papier-mâché or alternative materials. Use as you would natural gourds in autumn decorations with the exception that the artificial gourd may not be rain proof.
Think of autumn, Thanksgiving and Halloween and you think of pumpkins. Pumpkins vary from the size of a baseball to huge fruits over 36 inches in diameter. The biggest pumpkin ever weighed over 1 ton — 2,009 pounds to be exact. Most are orange. However, pumpkins also develop in yellow, green and cream blushed with pink and white. When choosing pumpkins to your garden, remember what you’ll use them to get. Pumpkins for pie are smaller and thicker than varieties grown for decoration.
During autumn holidays you’ll find artificial pumpkins that look real, outrageously synthetic or decorated and lighted as Jack’ O lanterns. You’ll also find them made of ceramic for use as soup or dessert bowls in the table. Artificial pumpkins are created as candle holders in addition to candles. Even though you may not consider a chocolate cake shaped and frosted to resemble a pumpkin as artificial, you’ll see them in the grocers.