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Howling Fall displays

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Howling Fall displays

I love this time of year.  The crisp air, the cool combination of rain clouds and rainbows, the smell of stew simmering and the fun Fall displays.  (I do, however, take issue with Christmas decorations already up at some big box stores.  Really, people!?!)


This was a display I did a couple of years ago

Local nurseries are full of plenty of fall flowering cabbage and kale and mums and pumpkins galore!  As you can see, the fun part is working with what mums.

annual mums, flowering cabbage, kale

Of course, once I got started on the Fall garden makeover, I realized, hmmm, I’m not done.  In a nod to my mom, I bought something kitschy.  She loved gaudy stuff.  Thing is, she could pull it off.  What’s really fun about Fall decorating outdoors is that you can also add dead branches, fallen leaves, dried grasses and flowers.   If you did some straw bale gardening this year, they’re perfect for Fall fun! *remember if you leave straw bales on your lawn more than a few weeks, you’ll kill the grass.

I love the funky pumpkins too!  I got mine at Eco Gardens in Northfield.

Pumpkins GB size

Those old plastic flowers that are in your basement could be dug out and stuffed into the straw bale.  And here you thought they were junk!  Now that’s recycling!

plastic flowers fall GB size

Fall display 2

If you grew corn this year you have a great tall accent for your décor, cut the stalks and tie them to bamboo or hidden p-v–c pipe to keep them propped up.   Those fallen leaves can be used for decoration before composting using kids clothes and rubber bands.  Stuff the clothes with the leaves to overflowing closing the holes with rubber bands.  I’ve put them in wheelbarrows using pumpkins as their heads or prop them up against trees.  If you have a penchant for scaring people, hang a few in the trees!  If they haven’t been blown to bits by the wind, you can preserve small branches of Fall-colored leaves by setting them in a glycerin/water mixture for a few days.

leaf stuffed scarecrow

Preserving Fall branches from Martha Stewart.  If you go to the site you have to sift through a bunch of advertising…


  • Cut branches with leaves
  • Pruning clippers or handsaw
  • Hammer
  • Deep bucket
  • pH testing kit (lemon juice or powdered lime, if pH is off)
  • Glycerin (available at local drugstores)
  • Surfectant, such as Spreader Sticker (available at local garden centers)
  • Florist’s wire; wreath form


  1. Select a dozen or so small but leaf-heavy branches from trees at their peak of color. For best results, cut branches at night. Use ones that have not weathered a frost this season; the process will not work on leaves that have seen a frost. Keep in mind that glycerin will change the leaves’ colors. Yellows respond best, becoming more intense; reds and oranges turn a ruddy brown; green magnolia leaves take on a chestnut color but retain their glossy veneer.
  2. Cut branches from trees with pruning clippers or a handsaw. Pound the end of each branch with a hammer to expose its vascular system.
  3. Fill a deep bucket with a half-gallon of water. Test the water with a pH testing kit to make sure it has a pH between 3 and 4. (If pH is too high, add citric acid — lemon juice. If too low, add powdered lime.) Add 17 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) of glycerin and 4 to 5 drops of surfactant to the water. (The surfactant breaks down the glycerin molecules into smaller ones, enabling the branches to absorb glycerin more easily.)
  4. Stand the branches in the bucket; place them out of sunlight while the branches and leaves draw up glycerin. After 3 to 5 days, leaves will feel supple. Magnolia branches may take 3 to 6 weeks to absorb the glycerin.
  5. Pick leaves from branches and, with florist’s wire, bind into small bunches. Position a bunch on a wreath form and bind with wire to hold in place. Wire on a second bunch so that leaves overlap wired stems. Continue until circle is complete.

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