Enjoy the warm tones of autumn before winter’s chill

If your petunias are getting leggy and your geraniums have seen better days, it’s time for an autumn

If your petunias are getting leggy and your geraniums have seen better days, it’s time for an autumn makeover.

Many people overlook the opportunity to spruce up their home’s exterior for fall, said David Siders, co-owner of Experience and Creative Design in Schenectady.

“It’s such a beautiful time of the year, but they rush through it,” he said. “And then let’s face it, the department stores probably have Christmas out already.”

Siders recommended incorporating some less-conventional items like clay pots and barbed wire into the fall decorating scheme, along with the traditional pumpkins, hay bales, gourds, cornstalks and bittersweet.

“There’s all kinds of farm implements like pitchforks and tools, hay sickles and things like that that we can work into door pieces and swags. Copper pans and copper molds are great to work into door swags and things too. It’s that wonderful, warm metal to work with,” he said.

Siders cinches bunches of cornstalks or cattails together with ribbon and intertwines bittersweet with the bow. Those decorative dry bundles look pretty tied to a lamppost or standing sentry on either side of the front door.

Hanging baskets that held flowering summer annuals can become a fall focal point when filled with leaves, pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.

If mice or blue jays tend to use the autumn display as a snack bar, David Michael Schmidt, owner of Renaissance Floral Design in Albany, recommended using artificial decorations. Choose accent materials that lean toward warm, sunset colors and deep jewel tones, he said.

Live flowers like mums and asters can add another burst of color to fall displays. Schmidt suggested planting pansies as well, in colors like yellow and orange.

“They love the cold weather and they can take the frost and they just keep flowering and flowering,” he said.

“Also vines are great for the fall,” he added. “If they wanted to just do a big grapevine or bittersweet wreath, that could be very pretty.”

If using live pumpkins or gourds to decorate with, choose ones with the stems still attached. The stem helps to regulate the interior moisture content of the pumpkin or gourd, which will make it last longer, he advised.

“Once you start carving them or putting them on stakes and stacking them and things like that, they don’t last as long,” he cautioned.

Before the first hard frost, Schmidt suggested taking pumpkins and squash inside and transforming them into pies and soup.

“You can carve the skin off of them and then de-seed them and then just boil them down and freeze them. You wouldn’t believe how many batches of pumpkin soup we make with leftover stuff,” he said.

As daylight diminishes, adding exterior accent lighting will extend the number of hours that fall decorations can be enjoyed.

Schmidt suggested easy-to-install lights that turn on automatically at dusk and then stay on for a set amount of time.

“The daylight changes so rapidly in the fall, so you don’t have to keep resetting your timer if you get something that turns on for a certain duration at dusk,” he explained. “Just shooting the light up into trees as they are covered with that fall color, even after they lose their leaves, they’re still really pretty to have lit up.”

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