FORTE: Thanksgiving table decor — you can do it
White pumpkin topped with a miniature succulent bouquet in shades of violet and blue created by Katie Mazi of Mullen Garden Market was easy to put together and will last for several weeks indoors. (Theresa Forte/Special to Postmedia News)
With Thanksgiving just days away, I’d like to share a trio of garden-inspired decorations for your holiday table.
Katie Mazi (KM) at Mullen Garden Market in Niagara Falls was kind enough to share a few tips and techniques for creative pumpkin decorations.
I’m looking for something unique, using pumpkins and fresh materials. Mazi suggested combining succulents and pumpkins. While I chose a pumpkin, she pulled together a few materials for the design. Join us at the design counter as we assemble this pretty centrepiece.
KM: What we have are some hardy little plants that will be long lasting on the top of the pumpkin without planting or without water. We used premium succulents and then foraged for other items in the garden: stonecrop, sedum, lavender, and a few hens and chicks. Look for plants with interesting texture and colours that will work together. Clean the bottom of each sample so that you have a long clean stem to work with, five to eight centimetres long. With the planted succulent, you have to clean off all of the soil for this project.
TF: Do you wash it off?
KM: Yes. Initially shake the dirt off, then run it under the tap to wash off all of the little extra bits of soil that cling to the roots. You want to end up with a very clean stem or stump (if that makes sense) also, clean off any dead petals or leaves from the underside so that it’s very clean. The stump is very sturdy, it gives you something to latch on to. After cleaning all of the items that you are going to use, you want to get about 15 cm of florist wire per stem. Fish hook technique: Thread the wire through the bottom of the succulent, hopefully it will come through the centre of top, then bend down the top of the wire (to make a hook), then pull the hook back in out of sight.
TF: The wire secures the flower head without tying a wire around the stem.
KM: The long wire becomes an extension of the stem. Top heavy stems like the hens and chicks or succulents need the extra support, so we use the fishhook method to secure them. Wind a small piece of florist’s tape around the stem and the wire. The long stems of lavender and the sedum don’t really need the extra support. We are using a white pumpkin with a long stem, the handle will be used to secure the bouquet to the pumpkin.
TF: How long will this last?
KM: The pumpkin and succulents can last for several weeks, the succulents will probably outlive the pumpkin.
TF: So we could make this arrangement for Thanksgiving, and it would still be nice for Halloween?
KM: Yes, in the house, no problem.
TF: You have fit three stems together, one succulent and two hens and chicks.
KM: Now tape the stems together, just a little piece of floral tape, as close as possible to the base, just to keep things together. Next, see how it will sit on the pumpkin, look for the prettiest side of pumpkin and how it will fit beside the stem. Use another piece of wire to secure the bouquet to the stem. Wrap the wire around all of the stems to strengthen them. Trim the wires and thread pieces of moss in and around the stems to cover the wires.
TF: The succulents look as if they are just growing out of the top of pumpkin on their own, it looks very organic — but also fresh and modern.
KM: We also make the succulent toppers here, if you don’t want to make one yourself. Or you can buy the pumpkin planted with succulents.
TF: That sounds like a fun project to tackle with the younger crowd.
KM: It’s an easy project. You will need an orange pie pumpkin (about 20 cm wide), a 500-ml plastic cup and three miniature succulents. Hollow out the pumpkin, cutting a hole the size of the container. After cleaning out the pumpkin, dry it with paper towels (excess moisture will encourage mould). Be sure the container fits snugly, you don’t want it to fall into the pumpkin.
TF: I used the top of container as a template to cut the opening in the pumpkin, keeping the opening on the small side and cutting it to size after the pumpkin was hollowed out.
KM: Fill the cup with a layer of gravel and potting soil then plant with potted miniature succulents and finish with moss to conceal the edges of the pot. We are using red mini kalanchoe, spiky haworthia and blue echeveria; three plants are enough for this project.
TF: How would you finish the planter?
KM: Bend pieces of floral wire into giant U-shapes (like a large paper clip) and push the wire through the moss into the soil to keep it secure. Pull bits of moss down so that it completely covers the edges of pot. The final result should look as if the plants are just growing out of the top of pumpkin — you shouldn’t see any of the hardware.
TF: Can we use regular potting soil?
KM: Cactus soil is ideal. I like a mix of potting and cactus soil, or mix a little gravel in the potting soil. The plants will rot if they are too wet. At planting time, lift the succulents from their pots, if they are dry, dip the root ball into a cup of water before planting. These plants like it dry, water once every three weeks.
TF: Can we recycle the succulents after Halloween?
KM: When its time to dispose of the pumpkin, lift out the container planted with succulents and move them to another decorative container — they will live quite happily indoors.
— Theresa Forte is a local garden writer, photographer and speaker. You can reach her by calling 905-351-7540 or by email at email@example.com.