These Heirloom Pumpkin Arrangements Show the Wild Side of Autumn
Channel your inner artist by harvesting gourds, flora and fauna, and a few scary surprises.
Something wild is happening at Martha's Bedford farm: This year's pumpkin displays are crawling with the eeriest flora and fauna we've ever seen. At first glance, they look like surreal art (hello, Dalí!). But dare to stare, and spine-tingling details—from alien flowers to reptilian textures—emerge. The effect is so pretty, it's scary.
Let your entry table moonlight as a gothic still life, with a warty Hubbard squash as its subject. It's flanked by inky eggplants, figs, and an acorn squash, and an under-worldly arrangement of oxblood birds-of-paradise, chile peppers, dahlias, calla lilies, and fiddlehead ferns you'd swear were tentacles. They're arranged in E. R. Butler Ted Muehling Collection Biedermeier Candlesticks, both in oxidized bronze (price available upon request, store.erbutler.com) and Wet Vessels by Aviva Rowley Vase (price available upon request, wetvessels.com). Ethically sourced preserved scorpions (from $10, bicbugs.com) add a final pinch of venom.
Tropical cuttings turn a pile of unsuspecting heirloom pumpkins into a Halloween hothouse. Lobster-claw heliconia and giant paper moths ($15 each, vidogo.etsy.com) flit above deeply ribbed Musquée de Provence, along with just-turned foliage from the yard. Mingling in the shadows (and crawling with ants) are prickly durian and lychee fruits, knobby Black Futsus, and a potted heuchera plant.
Specimens resembling claws and brains give this fresh table runner real shriek-chic. The lifelike lineup, from left: a blister gourd, prickly chayote, eel-esque Autumn Wing gourds, Buddha's-hand (otherwise known as the most Thing-like citrus ever), and cerebral celosia blooms. Bigger squashes hollowed out with an electric drill stand in for vases: Spider mums scuttle out of a Porcelain Doll pumpkin, Mayo Bule gourds sprout gloriosa lilies and milkweed pods, and spaghetti squashes hold rattlesnake ginger and dyed reed grass. We set the table with Open Kitchen by Williams-Sonoma Matte Coupe Dinner Plates ($29 for four, williams-sonoma.com) and West Elm Frayed-Edge Napkins ($20 for four, westelm.com). Don't mind the moths (from $8 each, bicbugs.com), lizard ($13, amazon.com), or green lobster-claw heliconia creeping onto your plate. They won't bite... or will they?
It's truly a jungle out here. To re-create this snake-gourd-infested set, drill a hole in a big pumpkin, like a Blue Lakota, and stick in a datura branch full of pods. (If you have small kids or pets, choose a different type of branch, since datura is toxic if eaten.) Dangle fuzzy amaranth from the limbs, and stud the base with a ridge of spotted begonia leaves (tucking them into smaller drilled holes). Then place gourds and squashes below—Blue Hubbard, apple gourds, and flat, stackable Jarrahdales—as a breeding ground for larger-than-life lotus pods (also stuck into drilled holes) and a crew of cold-blooded residents, such as praying-mantis insects ($8 each, happyhentoys.com), frogs ($9.44, amazon.com), or a lone iguana ($8, store.safariltd.com).
Brighten your front steps with a tumble of pumpkins that beckons passersby to come slither. This ombré array includes (from top) peachy Porcelain Doll, mottled Kakai, and blood-orange Cinderella Rouge varieties, plus green-dappled Lakota winter squashes. Then scale up the spookiness with pincushion protea—sea-urchin-y blooms that will last all season—and camouflaged rubber snakes ($12, store.safariltd.com), bugs, and lizards ($13, amazon.com).
Created by Naomi Demañana; Art Direction by Abbey Kuster-Prokell.