CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Get Your Craft On--Hortie Style

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I recently took this incredible class at the Gardens on Spring Creek. It was taught by volunteer extraordinaire, Nancy Frank, who teaches a number of classes, including one on making holiday wreaths (yep, I'm signed up for that one too).

This class focused on taking miniature pumpkins (or gourds if you prefer) and gluing succulents on them. Now, before you think this is plant torture, look at the result! They are soooooooo cute!
Pumpkin centerpiece with succulents.
The succulents, in fact, will root and grow. Nancy said she had one in her home for nine months before she tossed it. If you keep yours through the winter, she suggested cutting off the top of the pumpkin and planting it outside (when the weather allows) or planting it in a container. Since we used hardy succulents, primarily sedum and hens and chicks, they will do really well in Colorado gardens (and elsewhere).

Here's the thing--you do nothing to the pumpkin except snap off the stem. You don't cut the pumpkin or carve it. You don't fill it with potting media. The pumpkin stays intact. Interested in doing one for yourself? Try it. It's a lot of fun. In fact, I just taught eight of my co-workers to make one and they couldn't get enough.

Here's what you need:

  • Hot glue gun (low temp preferred to reduce burning of your fingers)
  • Spray adhesive (found at a craft store or office supply store)
  • Miniature pumpkins or gourds
  • Sheet moss (found at any craft store; I bought a bag that made at least 12 for $3.99)
  • Succulents, such as sedum or hen and chicks
  • Adornments, such as berries (real or fake), acorns, ornamental grass plumes, seedheads, etc.

Here's how to make it:

Plug in your hot glue gun and let it warm up. Wash your pumpkin if it has any soil or grime. Dry it thoroughly. Then snap off the stem. A well-cured pumpkin will have a straw brown stem and the flesh cannot be punctured by a fingernail. Take a small portion of moss and fit it to the size of your pumpkin. The moss should not be too thick, nor should it cover the entire pumpkin.
Snap off that stem! And size your moss.
Next, spritz a little spray adhesive on top of the pumpkin. It doesn't need to be a lot. Make sure you do this step in a protected area or you'll have spray glue everywhere. Then position the moss on top of the glue. Pull off any moss bits that went astray or that you don't like.
Spray adhesive...just one of many you can buy.
Moss stuck to the spray adhesive.
Now you design. Plan your pumpkin like a landscape and try to pair larger, more visible items, in groups of 3 (or 6 or 9). You can place some of your succulents and other adornments prior to gluing them into place. But trust yourself. It's going to look amazing. I promise. Also think about layering the items...make it three dimensional. For the most part, you will use smaller items and just the tips of succulents. When you're ready to glue, squirt a bit of the hot glue on the end of the succulent and then push it onto the moss. Repeat this until you're happy!
A little glue will do 'ya!

Hen and chicks are fantastic for this project.
The tip of Angelina sedum. Do you know about Angelina? She's amazing. Lime green all summer and then turns orange when cold  temperatures set in. She's awesome and I can't say enough good things. Every garden needs Angelina.
Keep filling in with sedum and other succulents.
Once you get the majority of your succulents added, then pop in a bit of color with berries, acorns, seedpods, ornamental grass plumes...whatever moves you.
Micaela used alder cones, the arils from euonymus, ornamental grass plumes and succulents. Can we say Ah-Maze-Ing? Amazing!
To care for your masterpiece you will spritz it with three squirts of water ONCE A WEEK. Do not put it under a faucet, as the area where the stem was can hold water, which will lead to rot. For those of you who like to water, restrain yourself. Succulents need very little supplemental irrigation to survive. In a few weeks you should see new roots. Place your pumpkin in a bright area, out of direct sunlight. If you put it on a wood surface, consider placing it on a plate. That's it. Super easy and so much fun. I'll leave you with some additional photos to inspire you further.
Various types of sedum, penstemon seedpods and eucalyptus seeds.

How great is the pumpkin coloration on the left?! This one has bittersweet berries.
The one on the right is a cute white pumpkin with sedum with red tips.

This one has acorns and poppy seedpods.

The gourd that looks like a shoe! The stem really makes this one, I think. I made this one and it's my favorite of those I created. 


  1. Absolutely gorgeous, thanks Alison!

  2. Beautiful! Our Chamber is sponsoring a pumpkin decorating contest next week and I have leftover succulents, so guess what I'm making??!! Thanks for the tips!

  3. I just got this great tip from a fellow Master Gardener--if you use acorns, you should bake them for an hour at 200 degrees. This will kill any insects that may have taken up residence in them.

  4. So my daughter invited 3 friends to have a sleepover tonight. Of course Mom had to come up with some fun things for the girls to do, along with yummies and drinks and everything else you need for a sleepover. I saw this yesterday and knew it would be perfect for the girls. I had little pumpkins from the garden and had the girls hunt in my gardens (tons of sedum and hens and chicks) for fun stuff to glue. They had the BEST time and made the cutest pumpkins ever. It was easy, quick, fun and even educational when I answered questions about the seeds and plants they were using. Its a perfect craft for kids with short atention spans. Plus the kids got to take something fun home to their moms. One idea that you might try is to put the stem side down and glue the moss to the bottom of the pumpkin, which then becomes the top. The flat top, now the bottom, keeps the pumpkins from rolling. And you don't have that dimple on top to catch too much water if people don't follow directions about watering them too much. This might only work with some pumpkins, but worth a try anyway. I absolutely love you blog and tell all of my friends to read it. You helped make Allie's sleepover so fun that I just had to tell you.

  5. Thank you so much for the comment, Happy Pueblo Mom! Excellent idea about flipping the pumpkin over...a co-worker did that and it worked out really well. I'm so happy the sleepover was fun and the girls had a great time. Hopefully it becomes an annual fall tradition!