You'd have to be out of your gourd to miss these beauties

In the Garden with Mr. Bee

November 10, 2011|By Lou

The roadside produce stand was fully stocked with fall-season goodies, and although there were plenty of items to chose from, I was preoccupied with purchasing gourds to use as centerpiece components. While I was looking over the gourds, though, a curious thing happened.

I was distracted by acorns falling from a nearby oak, and this caused me to recall a fable written by Aesop, the famed Greek story teller from the sixth century B.C.

In Aesop's fable, a man was relaxing beneath an oak when it occurred to him that lightweight acorns hang from huge limbs, yet heavy gourds dangle from flimsy vines.

Nature, then, he deduced, had made a mistake. The man quickly changed his mind, though, after an acorn fell from an oak and struck him in the face. He was grateful that gourds don't dangerously dangle from tall trees.

Gourds are native to Europe and were introduced to the Americas by European colonists. Members of the Cucurbit family of plants, they're related to cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and summer squashes.

When Europeans first settled the Americas, Native Americans were using "winter squashes" — not gourds — for fishnet floats, cooking pots and ladles.

However, they later embraced using gourds for similar purposes.

I selected several gourds that measured 8 inches long and 4 inches wide, because after I've finished using them as centerpieces, they'll make ideal disposable houses for small birds.

Planted in full sun and where soil drains freely, gourd seeds are sown directly into the garden during spring, after the danger from a late-spring frost has passed.

Gourds grown for decorations are left to ripen on vines until their stems turn brown. Once harvested, they're washed in a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution prior to being stored where air circulates freely.

Completely dry gourds "rattle" when shaken, and this is when they can be varnished, left natural or carved.

Maybe I'll fill a pair of hollowed-out gourds with acorns and then use them as bookends for holding together my classic collection of Aesop's fables.

This week in the garden

Even though Jack Frost recently paid us a visit, our chrysanthemums are still buzzing with bees, butterflies and plenty of other types of pollinators.

Lou Boulmetis is a certified master gardener who lives in Littlestown, Pa. Call him at 1-888-727-4287 or email hippodromehatter

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