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OUTDOOR DECORATING FOR FALL: The Key is Simplicity


Fall is my favorite season! I love the cooler weather, the gorgeous golden light, and watching red and yellow leaves from our liquidambar tree carpet the yard. By early October I’m ready for pumpkins and cozy sweaters (assuming we’re not broiling here in California), and by mid-month, it’s all about decorating for Halloween. OK, I will admit, in some past years it may have looked like the local Halloween store threw up in my yard!

This year, though, especially with trick-or-treating essentially cancelled, the idea of dragging all my creepy stuff out of the attic—spiders, rats, skeletons, witches, headstones, bloody body parts, etc.--unpacking it, putting it up, taking it down, repacking… just feels like waaaayyy too much effort for what will for surely be an under-appreciated result.

Instead, I’m yearning for a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I want to be able to sit outside and feel the comfort of the season; I want my neighbors who walk by to enjoy the same. So, I’ve decided to follow the lead of my dear friend from Holland. No one does simple decorating better than her. She understands how a few thoughtful, well-placed items can make a big statement. No need to go all out. (What a relief!)


In this spirit of simplicity, I decided on two categories of decorations: twinkle lights and pumpkins, and a fall color palette of orange, green and purple. First thing was to purchase ten strings of twinkle lights--six orange and four purple, along with a couple of outdoor extension cords and timers. I draped the lights haphazardly (oops, I mean artfully) through three small trees in our courtyard, plus the small one outside our gate—no tedious wrapping or arranging. The purple lights glow against the bluish tint of the two podacarpus trees, and the orange ones look cool in the grey-green olive tree.


Next, I put out an assortment of funky pumpkins from Trader Joes. There are red-orange Cinderella (Rouge Vif D’Etampe), stripy Kakais, a few warty orange Knuckleheads, some mini white ones with quirky stems, green/white striped North Falkland Island squashes and a few pretty green and buff colored Musquee de Provence squashes (three of which we grew in our garden this summer). I scattered some of these pumpkins under the lit trees and piled a few outside the gate.


The pièce de résistance is an 80-pound Big Mac. A couple weekends ago we drove south to a huge pumpkin farm, where customers can take wheelbarrows into the fields to select (and carry out) their own giant pumpkins. It was super crowded, but there were hundreds of huge pumpkins to choose from. Although this turned out to be a case of “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” with regard to fitting it in the car, we finally got the monster home and installed near the front door.

And that’s it! Simple, and it captures exactly the mood I wanted. The decorations look nice during the day, and beautiful when lit up at night. Our courtyard is cozy and perfect for enjoying the season, and our neighbors can also appreciate the lights.

Oh, and I forgot to mention two other benefits of this simple design. First, since the colors and pumpkins symbolize the fall harvest season, this simple design will look good through Thanksgiving. You can carve some of the pumpkins for Jack-O-Lanterns and roast the seeds for Halloween, then keep the rest as Thanksgiving decorations.

Second, squash and many pumpkins are delicious cooked, especially the french Musquee de Provence and Rouge Vif D’Etampe. So, no need to throw them all away after the season. Save the remaining ones (without any soft spots or nicks in the skin) in a cool location for a few more months, to be roasted and eaten at your leisure! Or spray paint them white, then stack to make a snowman--especially fun for kids.

Either way, it’s a win/win for economics and the planet! Pass me my hot apple cider and a handful of roasted pumpkins seeds, please!


 
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