Home & Garden

First day of fall signals pumpkin time

They may not be soft, but pumpkins are the throw pillows of the garden, Jimmy Turner, director of gardens at the Dallas Arboretum, says in the fall issue of Country Gardens magazine.

I love the comparison. When I visited Walters Pumpkin Patch in Burns this week, I found myself picking out one of every shape and color of pumpkin, squash and gourd: orange, of course, in the oblong, Cinderella and pie versions, along with green, blue, all-white, white veined in orange, tan and pink.

That latter is a new variety this year at Walters, called Rascal. The pumpkin patch will donate part of the proceeds from the sales of the pink pumpkin to breast-cancer awareness.

The creases, warts, tufts and stripes of pumpkins add to the pillowness of them. A long, multi-colored ribbon of pumpkins leads down one trail at Walters, and it is tempting to want to re-create it on the porch at home. I’m sure some people will. But I needed a smaller display, and Becky Walters helped me pile up a few favorites. I still liked too many “pillows” – what’s new – so Becky focused me with this simple but effective setting she’d seen in a Martha Stewart magazine: one tannish-pink pumpkin, a blue one and a few miniature orange pumpkins to really pop.

I substituted a Rascal for the tan pumpkin, and threw in an orange-veined white pumpkin to loll by itself against a yellow pouf of mums.

Despite the drought, and the fact that the Walterses don’t water their pumpkin patch or corn maze, the crops grew fine this summer. The area must have enough sub-moisture to take care of business, Becky Walters says.

Families who visit the patch at 10001 U.S. Highway 77 usually hike down to the fields to pick their pumpkins straight from the vine, she says. Women who simply are keen on decorating with pumpkins choose from ones that already have been cut from the vine and hauled up the hill, usually by another woman – Amy Motter, the Walterses’ daughter. She has an eye for the pretty ones, and she removes them expertly from the vine, Becky says.

Walters also has a gift shop that includes giant gourds that dry during the winter and then are decorated as jack-o’-lanterns and in other holiday themes. Smaller apple gourds are left alone, and in their natural state they look like – pumpkins. Adding a touch of the spooky to the patch are Yugoslavian finger fruit, a squash that can be tossed among the pumpkin pillows.

The Walterses also are putting together a ready-made fall-decorating package that includes a hay bale, a wheat shock, a pole to hold up the shock, and pumpkins (price range: $30 to $75). We city slickers who sometimes are at a loss for the farmyard accoutrements welcome the helping hand.

A trip to any pumpkin patch is festive now that fall officially begins Saturday. On my trip to the country, monarch butterflies dodged the windshield (Don’t hit it, pretty butterflies! You have plenty of other problems), and sunflowers nodded smilingly from the roadsides, apparently unfamiliar with summer’s drought.

Some beautiful and perhaps spooky throw pumpkins for the front porch are a satisfying take-home from such a trip. But since we’re still a ways from Halloween (and I like to keep my pumpkins through Thanksgiving, if possible), remember that temperatures above 80 or below freezing (huh?) will shorten their lives.

For more information about Walters, go to the website www.walterspumpkinpatch.com or call 316-320-4150.