Return of the Great Pumpkin

I wasn’t surprised that so many enjoyed my recent Wordless Wednesday photo, but have a bit of explaining to do. The eye-catching display isn’t my creation, but the work of a talented neighbor. Here is a photo from October 2010, taken just weeks after Tim and I moved to our current home, along with excerpts from a column I wrote that year for The Greenville News.

Lisa's display is an eagerly awaited autumn treat.

Lisa’s display is an eagerly awaited autumn treat.

Return of the Great Pumpkin

There is a special essence about autumn mornings that make me eager to get up and begin my day. I love the awakening touch of cool floor boards against my feet, and soon after, the chill of outdoors on my cheeks as I walk the dogs up the still-quiet street.

There is a sense of expectation, not just at my house, but throughout the neighborhood. Dogwood trees have abandoned summer-green frocks to gather burgundy cloaks about their shoulders, and towering oaks pelt the earth with storms of acorns. Squirrels collect the bounty, flicking grey tails in excitement, while migrating Monarch butterflies, oblivious to hurry and scurry, flit their way towards the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.

There is another sign of the season, too. On the front stoop of neighbors Lisa and Jeff Tice, an annual display of pumpkins slows traffic to a crawl.

The story of this exuberant and colorful show is as much about the circle of life as it is a celebration of the season. Now a long-standing family tradition, it was Lisa’s father who first collected pumpkins each October, delivered them to the Tice’s home, and helped arrange them. Since his passing six years ago, Steve has filled those big shoes. And every fall, Lisa has the pleasure of remembering happy times with her dad, as well as making new memories with her own family.

Truth be told, that’s why autumn is my favorite, too. The season’s cool weather and colorful foliage remind me of my agrarian childhood, especially tobacco and peanut harvests, and the loving grandparents who taught me about gardening.

The Tice’s Autumn Display

Lisa, an accomplished portraiture artist, puts her eye for color and form to work in her autumnal displays.

Two large urns, planted with trailing vines and stuffed with a vertical arrangement of faux branches and orange floral stems give height to the design and provide a backdrop for the fall fruits. Bright orange pumpkins of all sizes sit upright or are turned forward, so they showcase their serpentine tops and dried stems. Color contrast is provided by variegated green and white fruits, and several purple-tinged ornamental kale plants.

Steve and Lisa find their pumpkins at the Asheville Farmers’ Market, noting they have to go earlier each year to get the pick of the litter, as many of their friends and neighbors have followed suit.

The large pumpkins are probably ‘Big Max’, a hybrid squash-type pumpkin believed to be bred from Hubbard squash. The green and white crookneck-shaped fruit is a variety of Cushaw squash, a winter squash with yellow flesh that is very similar in taste to pumpkin. The extremely long, curly fruits are commonly called snake gourds. My guess is they are an edible gourd, possibly Trichasanthes auguina, commonly grown in India and eaten in curries or stuffed with spicy meats. One cultivar, ‘King Cobra’, grows up to 6-feet long.

7 thoughts on “Return of the Great Pumpkin

  1. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Christina–I agree, they are fun, and I might make more of an effort if my grandchildren lived nearby. I’ve grown so lazy, my solitary pumpkin doesn’t even have a face this year:^)


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