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Plentiful Pumpkins, Gorgeous Gourds and Sensational Squash

By Kari Getchonis, on October 21, 2009

Pumpkin picking in progress Pumpkin picking in progress.

Autumn is in full swing at Longwood—and from now until November 2, we have a huge variety of pumpkins, gourds and squash on display in the Idea Garden and in front of the Peirce-du Pont House.  Longwood does not grow all of the wonderful cultivars here, but we do have them grown just for us by two producers in Lancaster County, PA. They have been growing these cool cucurbits for our autumn displays for more than 10 years.  (Pumpkins, gourds, and squash are all in the Cucurbitaceaefamily and are known collectively as cucurbits.)  In mid-September, a group of staff, students and volunteers went out to the “pumpkin patch” to harvest close to 100 different cultivars from a 2-acre field.  We brought the cucurbits back to Longwood and began to set up our displays.

Many Cucurbit cultivars in the Idea Garden Many Cucurbit cultivars in the Idea Garden.

 In the Idea Garden, just outside of the vegetable garden, the display showcases the many different shapes, sizes, colors and textures of pumpkins, gourds and squash.  Each different cultivar is labeled, and I find that reading all the different names is just as interesting as looking at the gourds themselves.  ‘Caveman’s Club’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Jumbo Pink Banana’, and ‘Speckled Snake’ are just a few of the cucurbits that are currently present.

 This display is also supplemented by many unusual pumpkins, gourds and squash that are brought here from The Great Pumpkin Patch in Illinois.  These additions have brought the total number of cultivars that can be seen in the Idea Garden to over 200.

Outside of the Peirce-du Pont House, a huge cornucopia spills a bountiful harvest across the lawn in stripes of color.  This cornucopia is the same one that was used in the Music Room at Longwood last autumn with glass pumpkins in it.  It’s made out of grapevine that we wove through a metal frame, which was made here at Longwood by the very talented guys in our Sheet Metal/Welding Fabrications Shops.  The different cucurbits were sorted into three color schemes before being placed in and around the cornucopia.  It is intended to look like the cucurbits in each color stripe were all randomly thrown together, but the assortment was intentionally chosen for the varied shapes, sizes and textures.  Although it seems like a solid mass of pumpkins, gourds, and squash just inside the cornucopia, there are actually several platforms that the cucurbits are sitting on.  This allows for air circulation around some of the fruits in the back that will be hard to reach if they start to rot.  The staff checks on the displays regularly and replaces any cucurbits that are beginning to go bad.  Behind the cornucopia, garlands of miniature pumpkins encircle the posts on the Peirce- du Pont House porch.  Happy Autumn!

An autumn cornucopia in front of the Peirce-du Pont HouseAn autumn cornucopia in front of the Peirce-du Pont House.