Spicing Up Your Autumn Displays

Now that summer is finally over, we want to build autumn displays. It is still going to be hot, and cold, and whatever. My wife thinks its already sweater weather and is ready for bonfires, pumpkin pie, and cool weather. To spice up your autumn displays, you will need to think outside of the box of the typical outdoor display.

While there are tons of ideas on the internet, your own creativity is all you need when it comes to designing autumn displays. When I put together autumn displays, I tend to head for rusty farm implements, berries, grasses, and squash (the bigger the better). But there are so many things you can use, and so many ways to put them together.

Working for a nursery gives me a virtually endless supply of annuals, perennials, and grasses to use for autumn displays. And I use them. I also bring in a plethora of scrounged items, wild berries and seedpods, and my favorite display items for my clients. Each one gets their own unique flavor of spice for fall. Let us take a closer look at the items used, and the different themes for autumn displays.

Themes of Autumn Displays

You would not think it too hard to pick a theme for your display now would you? I think a lot of people struggle with this, and end up just adding pumpkins and mums together and calling it good. But you can be much more creative than them. Picking a theme for your autumn display will help it grow into a real part of your landscape, becoming its own personality. You may even decide to use it for a fall parade or event.

There are an endless number of themes to choose from, but the following 7 are great ways to get started on creating your autumn displays.

  • Harvest/Cornucopia
  • Apple/Cider Festival
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Pumpkin Carving
  • Football Season
  • Corn Maze
  • Scarecrows

Harvest or Cornucopia

This is one of my favorite themes for autumn displays. And there are so many ways to do it. I like to create a display for my commercial customers which mimics an over-abundance of harvest, with many fruits, pods, and plants put together with a few choice farm or garden implements. To create a cornucopia feel, try using a 1/2 or full bushel basket placed on its side, with pumpkins, gourds, and other fruit spilling out of it. Add mums, grasses, and asters around to catch the eye of the visitor.

Or maybe you want it to be bigger. There is always the pumpkin tower (if you have enough pumpkins and gourds). Or you can build a tower of straw bales and set mums in containers, pumpkins, gourds, and ornamental corn on each level. Here at the nursery, I use our antique manure spreader as the display item, and fill it with mums, pumpkins, and other garden produce.

autumn displays
The author created this harvest themed display for a client
Apple themed autumn displays
Apple themed Autumn display

Apple/Cider Festival

When you have a store in Nebraska City, Nebraska, then you have to be ready for Applejack, a festival which celebrates the harvest of apples and much more. Apples are one of America’s favorite fruits, and using them as the theme for your autumn display might be a must-have. But apples also do not last. They begin to rot after only a few days, outside, once off the tree. This is mainly to do with the temperature and humidity of outdoor weather.

So how do we create an apple cider autumn display? Well, one thing to do is to find an old cider press or fruit press and use it as the centerpiece. You could put apple baskets or an orchard ladder around it. Maybe some straw bales, with cider jugs, and fake or wax apples spread over it. I also believe a red and white or a red and black checked cloth goes great with this theme. Add in some mums, ornamental kale, and asters and you have the right idea.

Pumpkin Spice Autumn Displays

Who does not love pumpkin spice? Well, I am not particularly fond of it, at least not in drinks. I prefer mochas. But there are millions of Americans who find pumpkin spice everything irresistible. But how de we create such a display with this in mind?

Maybe start with what you think of when the words pumpkin spice enter your head. To my wife it conjures of visions of fall weather, bonfires, hot cocoa, pumpkin spice coffee, and not surprisingly, pumpkins. So build a fake or use a real fire pit, and surround it with straw bales for seats. Group together pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, sunflower heads, mums, and sedum. Then lay a blanket over one of the bales, and set it with mugs and cinnamon sticks. Maybe group two roasting sticks by another bale. Have a fake fire lit up at night for the final touch.

carved pumpkin autumn displays
Carved pumpkin display

Pumpkin Carving

Each October, since I married my wife, we have gone to what we call the Pumpkin Carve with her family. This get-together started many years ago with her great aunt. We bring our pumpkins and knives, and and some good food and spend the whole day. Some watch football in house. And all the kids carve pumpkins, or decorate pumpkins. In past years I have simply cleaned out a pumpkin, filled it with soil, and planted fall plants in it. There is no end to the creativity when carving pumpkins.

For an autumn display theme of pumpkin carving, you can line up straw bales, and set carved pumpkins on them, showing off your carving prowess. Or you could find wooden or plastic jack-o-lanterns to display. Maybe you have a collection of trick-or-treat pumpkin containers. Or maybe you have carved a giant pumpkin and want to highlight it.

Football Season Autumn Displays

This might really make you think outside the box. It did for me. How could you put together a themed display centering on football season? Well, start with a backdrop of straw bales. Or maybe a small homemade section of bleachers. Or a salvaged scoreboard. Drape your favorite players’ jersey over a corner of it. Add in some tailgating items such as a BBQ grill, empty bottles of your favorite brew, and a few footballs. Add in some mums, asters, and grasses for extra effect.

Football themed autumn displays
Football themed autumn displays could be on the porch or the back of a pickup truck

If you really want to get creative with this theme, build a set of goalposts, add a score to the board between your two favorite rivals, and set two helmets on bales facing each other. Or dress a scarecrow up in your teams colors.

Corn Maze Autumn Displays

This is where it gets tricky. A corn maze is usually an experience, not a display. Each autumn, our homeschooling group goes to a farm with a fun corn maze, and other fall activities. But how to incorporate a corn maze into an autumn display? Well, one take could be to have your front entry become the corn maze.

You do not need to plant an acre of corn to build a maze. All you need is cornstalks and something to tie them to, such as bales, posts, or a fence. Layer them just thick enough to hide what you are tying them too, and make a curvy walkway, or the path to your front porch a maze. If left up until Halloween, I am sure that trick-or-treaters will find it quite a spooky lane.

Scarecrow Autumn Displays

Many small towns in Kansas and Nebraska have a scarecrow decorating contest in September or October each fall. Sometimes its an entire display, and sometimes its just a single scarecrow. Up in Nebraska City, our store is participating in a scarecrow display contest, and I think they have a winning display. They created a red farm truck using recycled pallets and put mums and pumpkins in it. And a scarecrow behind the wheel!

Even if you are not participating in a contest, you can deck out your fence, porch, or garden with any number of homemade scarecrows. Put them with pumpkins, mums, cornstalks, or other autumn paraphernalia, or have them do everyday things like fishing from a barrel, roasting marshmallows, or driving a beat-up Chevy truck.

Materials for Your Autumn Displays

Now that I have shared some potential ideas and themes for your autumn displays, we need to look at all the different things you can use in them. Again, your own imagination and creativity are your limits. I am just giving examples of things to use and how to use them. There are two categories for materials to use, organic and inorganic. Organic items include plants, seedheads, berries, etc. Inorganic items include tools, buckets, wagons, etc.

Organic Materials for Autumn Displays

Most of these materials can be found at your local garden center, though some may need to be foraged, or grown on your own. I do a lot of foraging both for autumn and for Christmas displays. Some of these materials can also be used for Christmas.

  • Pumpkins
  • Gourds
  • Winter squash
  • Sumac berries
  • Bittersweet berries
  • Hops
  • Osage orange fruit
  • Ornamental corn
  • Cornstalks
  • Pine cones
  • Okra pods
  • Sunflower heads
  • Cattails
  • Wheat heads
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Antlers
  • Straw bales
  • Pine needles
  • Mums
  • Grasses
  • Ornamental Kale or Cabbage
  • Sedum
  • Chard
  • Pansies
  • Asters
  • Ferns
  • Ivy
autumn display materials
Pumpkins, gourds, mums, bales, and squash make up this tower

Inorganic Materials

Some of these items may be hard to find, or may cost a lot. Although, some of them could be found at flea markets, antique stores, or your grandparent’s farm in the junk pile. I get some of my best items from the junk pile.

  • Galvanized buckets or washtubs
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Peach buckets
  • Wagons
  • Rusty wheels
  • Cornucopia baskets
  • Baskets
  • Barrels
  • Crates
  • Scarecrows
  • Lanterns
  • Birdhouses
  • Barbed wire
  • Pitchforks
  • Rusty tools
  • Picket fencing
  • Sports equipment
  • Cider press
displaying pumpkins
Galvanized tubs are great for displaying gourds and pumpkins


Spicing up your autumn displays is as easy as letting your imagination run wild. Pick a theme, or several, and create displays that will wow your neighbors and become the delight of your eyes when you come home. Most of all, have fun.

Happy planting!

author of spicing up your autumn displays

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