In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
November, 2000
Regional Report

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Decorated gourds for the holidays. These were made by Shirley Gray.

Gourd-geous Gourds

Ever notice how different our holiday decorations are from those you see in other parts of the country? If there's a leaf, or seed pod, or flower to be found, we'll paint it gold, wrap a ribbon around it, and hang it up for all to see. My favorite must be "birdhouse" gourds transformed into angels and elves, hanging ornaments, and even Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer. These gourds will "hang around" for years to brighten the holiday scene.

To Drill or Not to Drill

Most dried birdhouse gourds that you buy will be hollow and drilled with an entry hole so birds can get in to build a nest. If you dry your own gourds, you can choose to drill a hole in the surface to let the seeds fall out, or not. I have worked with both, and I like the sound of the seeds rattling around inside.

A drilled gourd gives you a focal point for decorating, like the ornament and angel in this picture. If you want a solid surface to paint, such as an elf, but don't want the sound effects, you can drill a hole in the bottom of the gourd, or simply turn a drilled gourd around so the hole doesn't show in your design.

Decorating Gourds

Clean the surface of a dried gourd to remove dust and dirt, wash it with a bleach solution (1 part bleach in 4 parts water), then sand it smooth. Hand sanding is fine for one or two gourds, but you'll want to use a drill with a sanding attachment to save time if you make more. Drill a small hole on each side of the gourd's neck to attach a loop of leather or a metal hanger if you want. Paint the whole gourd with white latex paint. If the weather's wet, dilute the latex with water so it will dry faster. You're just establishing a paintable surface, smooth, sealed, and ready to paint. Let the gourd dry completely.

Creative Designs

Now the fun part. Choose a design and rough it out on the gourd surface in pencil. Go for it freehand, lay on a stencil, or trace around shapes you've cut from paper. Use another gourd, wood scraps, or metal to cut out details like elf's ears, Rudolph's antlers, and angel wings. Sand if needed, then attach the details with tacks or small nails and glue. Use wood filler to close the spaces between the gourd surface and added details and sand them flush with the gourd.

Use acrylic paint for easy cleanup and a wide color range. Paint the largest areas of color first, then add small areas and details. Use masking tape around solid areas if you, like me, like to color within the lines. Tack on nongourd pieces like the angel's halo and elf's bell. Add hangers and enjoy!


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