Planning an Awesome! Autumn Display

Autumn is fast coming around the corner. I am already seeing the stages of autumn forming in the landscape around us, with goldenrods, asters, and other native plants beginning their fall displays. Now that I have a little down time, I am beginning my planning for my fall displays. I usually put together 8 in-ground and 50 container autumn displays. I begin planning for these early in the year, but the real rush begins in late August as I gather ideas and find the plants and decorations needed for each display. Planting and layout begins the 3rd week of September. 

Each year, we grow a number of the things I use for the displays- pumpkins, gourds, mums, ornamental grasses, and frost-tolerant annuals. I also collect bittersweet berries, Osage Orange fruits (hedge balls), hops vines, pine cones, sumac berries, and ornamental corn. I also have to get large and medium ornamental pumpkins and gourds to add to what we have already grown. 

Each display takes careful thought and layout for the setting. I have to remember to use heavy pumpkins and gourds at the highly visible locations (McDonald’s), because medium sized pumpkins are often stolen. I like to use an element in my displays that reminds people of the past or of harvest. Last fall I used a half-bushel basket planted in the ground between mums to mimic the effects of a cornucopia.

My mother-in-law and I both have a passion for outdoor decorations and we often put our ideas together to create some stunning displays. On the porch I might use a homemade wheelbarrow, galvanized water tubs, or a reclaimed cast iron sink to build my display around. Adding live plants and burlap to the display makes it a delight for the eyes. 

When building your display, start with the plants or the largest pumpkins and gourds. They usually have to be planted in the container or ground and cannot be easily moved. I start with grasses and mums, and also add other ornamental plants with fall colors. I like to mulch next, using pine straw or alfalfa mulch to give it a harvest look. Then put in your medium pumpkins and gourds and work down to the smallest of gourds and mini pumpkins. Add in berries and seedpods, hedge balls, and pine cones. Finally, water the plants. Your display is complete!

Plants for Autumn Displays


  • Switchgrass ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘Northwind’
  • Blue Grama ‘Blonde Ambition’
  • Little bluestems
  • Big Bluestem ‘October Skies’
  • Indiangrass


Other Plants

  • Ajuga
  • Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’
  • Ornamental Peppers
  • Asters
  • Dusty Miller
  • Bergenia (Pigsqueak Plant)
  • Ornamental Kale & Cabbage
  • Stock
  • Sedums
  • English Ivy
  • Pansies

Other Additions

  • Sumac berries
  • Bittersweet berries
  • Hedge balls
  • Pine Cones
  • Pine Straw
  • Alfalfa Mulch
  • Mini Straw Bales
  • Aronia berries
  • Hops fruit
  • Ornamental Corn
  • Pumpkins
  • Gourds
  • Squash

Happy planting!

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