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Debbie Grubb: Write Your Own Column: Fall decorating stickier than it sounds

The arrival of fall brings with it Mother Nature's spin of the color wheel, replacing the vivid pinks and yellows of summer for the deep oranges and reds of autumn. We replace roses and azaleas with pumpkins and chrysanthemums, and the long, hot, humid days of summer are followed by the clear blue skies and crisp, cool nights of September. Fall also means it's time to redecorate.

I am typically about a month behind in my seasonal decorating. I plant my summer flowers long after the Mother's Day rush--Memorial Day weekend if I'm on my planting toes -- but June is not out of the ordinary. The advantage of procrastinating is that the farmers' market growers have reduced the prices on their plants in preparation for the arrival of fresh fruits and vegetables. The disadvantage is that my neighbors' petunias and geraniums are well on their way to adulthood by then while mine are struggling to graduate kindergarten. And once the summer growing season has passed and everyone else in the neighborhood has cleared their flower beds and prepared them for fall, I'm the one with the fossilized marigolds waiting to be turned into compost.

Autumn is no different. It wasn't until the first week of October that I decided it was time to hang the fall flag and get into the season's decorating swing. Everybody already had their mums strategically arranged amid pumpkins, scarecrows and hay bales while I didn't even have an inkling of a plan.

I trekked to the Farmers' Market in search of chrysanthemums, hoping to find a few adult plants that were still willing to bloom before the first frost but, given the abbreviated remaining growing season, were reasonably priced. There, between the last of the summer tomatoes and the odd assortment of multi-colored gourds, I found three bright yellow adult-sized mums that were exactly what I was looking for. I painstakingly wedged my beautiful plants in the back of my SUV between two pillows, my purse and an umbrella to protect them from accidental toppling and potential disaster.

We arrived home safely, and once successfully transplanted, the mums looked lovely in front of my house. Lovely, but lonely. 

I definitely needed a plan. Not being the creative, inventive type, I did what every self-respecting crafty wannabe does: scour Pinterest for ideas.

Pinterest provided a wide variety of decorating ideas, from pumpkins stacked like snowmen with complex skeletons carved to glow in the candle light (definitely not something I wanted to tackle) to simple garlands, wreaths and wheelbarrows laden with colorful blooming plants (definitely the wrong idea when deer so freely roam our neighborhood in search of dessert). I decided on pumpkins to round out my as-yet undefined decorating scheme, and I knew I wanted the pumpkins to have a design, but it needed to be simple. Rather than carve the pumpkins, which would shorten their ornamental lives, I decided to monogram one with a "G" and another with "Boo!" Not particularly imaginative, but doable.

So, back to the farmers' market I went, my husband in tow, looking for pumpkins of just the right size and shape. We found two larger ones and four smaller ones that would provide a simple, well thought-out design.

I wasn't sure exactly the right technique to use to apply the monograms, so again I reached out to social media and asked my Facebook friends for ideas. Duct tape was one idea; another friend suggested I follow her lead and buy vinyl, stick-on letters. Additional research suggested cutting letters out of scrapbook paper and applying them with an adhesive. That seemed to be the simplest, most cost-effective solution.

The directions, though, were a little vague. One obvious but important tip that the crafter pointed out was to be sure that the letters were securely affixed to the pumpkins, especially if the letters were curvy (such as a "G" and all three letter in "Boo!"). What she failed to mention, however, was that applying any letter to a pumpkin is tricky, because pumpkins are imperfectly curvy and ribbed, and getting the letters secure without distorting their shape requires patience and some sticky maneuvering.

I managed to successfully get the letters in place before the glue dried and placed the pumpkins proudly on display with my newly-potted mums. A little ribbon tied around the pumpkin stems and my decorations were complete.

Looking at the calendar, I realize how little time I have left to plan my decorations for Thanksgiving. Maybe I should skip Thanksgiving and go directly to Christmas. I wonder how chrysanthemums would look strung with tiny white Christmas lights.

Debbie Grubb lives in South Charleston and may be emailed at Debg1214@gmail.com.


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