Halloween, in its scary, malevolent guise, has never found its way into my family traditions. However, I find it impossible to resist the allure of pumpkins, squashes and gourds in all their curious shapes, varied colours and improbable sizes. With the rising interest in heritage vegetables, all manner of quirky, unusual pumpkins has become available to grow from seed and buy from greengrocers and florists. Their names are often just as fanciful as their fruits, ranging from warty ‘Musquee De Maroc’ to sweety scented ‘Tokyo Blue’ and pure white ‘Long Island Cheese’, a fruit that looks strangely like a wheel of camembert.
So, instead of adorning my home with faux cobwebs (I have enough of the real thing), Jack o’lanterns and plastic skeletons, I opt for artfully-placed candles and a selection of colourful pumpkins that I can enjoy for a few weeks before being turned into soup or roasted in big wedges with rosemary and sea salt. A carved pumpkin is a wasted pumpkin - according to Hubbub, we will buy 39.9 million pumpkins this Halloween, and of these, a whopping 22.2 million pumpkins will go to waste. That’s £32.6 million worth of edible food!
In this post, I share how to make a sophisticated display of miniature pumpkins in a terrazzo bowl. You could just as easily use a small crate or a large pot saucer if you prefer. What I like about this project is that the orange candles and pumpkins can be removed when you’re tired of them and replaced with a Christmassy colour scheme of red candles and glass baubles. If you’ve got a brightly-lit spot, you could even incorporate potted plants such as coral bead plant, Nertera granadensis (below), or spooky succulents.
To replicate my arrangement, you will need the following:
- A shallow vessel, preferably without drainage holes
- Grit or sand to create a stable base layer
- Cushion moss or good old-fashioned lawn/roof moss
- Rustic pillar candles: different heights and odd numbers work best
- A selection of miniature pumpkins, squashes and gourds
- Glass decorations (optional)
- Battery-powered micro-LED lights - those on a bare wire are especially effective and easy to manipulate.
- A few strands of ivy
- A handful of seedheads from old man’s beard, Clematis vitalba.
Watch the timelapse video here:
Start by blocking any drainage holes or gaps in your chosen container so that nothing can fall out. If the bottom is not flat or the vessel is deep, create a level base using grit or sand. Then position your candles evenly, ensuring they’re not close or touching. If your arrangement is destined to be viewed from one side, position taller candles towards the back.
Next, fill the space around the candles with moss. The moss should be damp rather than wringing wet. Its purpose is to provide a soft cushion for your pumpkins to rest on and a pleasing, natural-looking base on which to arrange the other elements. If the moss is bone dry, use a plant mister filled with rainwater to restore its bright green colour.
Now arrange your pumpkins. Have fun with this and play around until you’re content. I happened to have some gourd-shaped glass ornaments, so I used those too; you could also add apples or nuts. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, weave strands of ivy in between the candles and pumpkins. Trim them to the correct length using a sharp pair of snips. If the foliage keeps springing up, you can pin it down using short lengths of wire poked into the moss.
I love the white, whispy seed heads produced by old man’s beard, Clematis vitalba. It’s a native climber commonly found in woodlands and hedges, especially where the soil is chalky. Plucking a few seedheads won’t curb its immense vigour. Added to your arrangement, old man’s beard will give the illusion of smoke bubbling up through the moss. Keep it well clear of the candles, so there’s no risk of it catching alight.
When it comes to candles, you know the drill! Don’t leave burning candles unattended, and be extremely careful not to allow any flammable materials to come into contact. Molten wax should be contained within the pillar candle. Should it dribble out, it will be caught and held by the moss and gravel underneath. If you don’t want to take the risk or prefer to keep your candles for decoration, twine a set of battery-operated LED lights through the arrangement, and they will provide all the sparkle you need.
Your completed arrangement could be pretty heavy, so place it on a firm surface with a mat or coaster underneath for protection. It should look good for 2-3 weeks, by which time you’ll be ready for a change. There’s no need to water it, but you can spray the moss and ivy occasionally to keep them fresh and perky. Finally, don’t forget to eat your precious pumpkins - they’ll store for months if you don’t have time to prepare them straight away.
Happy Halloween! 🎃