(Carol O'Meara / CSU Extension)

If the thought of Thanksgiving floral arranging leaves you more panicky than grateful, gather up your pumpkins and calm your mind. With a quick cut and scooping of seeds, you can transform leftover, whole pumpkins into centerpieces that will wow your guests without a lot of fuss.

A floral arrangement for the table is one thing my mother insists is a cultured hostess' mark of excellence, a standard by which the fete is judged. But with all the duties of a hostess, getting around to making something inspiring is usually last on the list.

If you have a whole pumpkin at hand, you can turn it into a centerpiece worthy of your feast. First, check the pumpkin to ensure it sits securely in place; wobbly ones can fall over should anyone bump the table too hard. Second, size matters: Medium is the largest pumpkin to use for a centerpiece, unless you'd like to line up several smaller ones down the middle of the table.

• Wash the pumpkin to remove any soil, then cut open the top and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Line the inside of the pumpkin with thin plastic.

• Floral oasis blocks, found at local hobby stores, are ideal for holding fresh flowers and branches without vases. Soak the oasis in room temperature water for a half hour before use, then place in the pumpkin to build the display. You want the foam to fit snugly into the pumpkin, so if the top is narrower than the interior of the pumpkin, cut the oasis into two or three smaller pieces to fit inside.

• Choose a variety of material from your garden and the local florists' shop. Soft-stemmed seeded eucalyptus is nice for arching downward from the opening of the display, while branches with persistent berries add vertical interest. Or work with culinary herbs, such as rosemary, sage, or thyme sprigs in honor of the feast.


• Begin at the bottom of the display, layering greenery in a circle to give foundation to the design. Work around the arrangement in an upward circle to place material into the foam. When inserting stems into the foam, push in to the desired depth, but don't pull it back to try and reseat it; once the stem leaves the foam, it won't be able to take up water from it.

• Cut stems of flowers and branches at differing lengths to keep the arrangement interesting. Strip off leaves from any part of the stem that will be inserted into the foam.

• Firm fruits, such as apples or pears, also reflect a fall food theme and can be inserted into the arrangement. Spike the base of the fruit with a floral pick or longer wooden skewer clipped to fit into the display, and insert the skewer into the foam.

• If arranging for the center of a table, keep the design low to avoid obstructions to conversations with those on the other side of the table.

• Mist your arrangement daily to keep petals long lasting.

Your pumpkin centerpiece can last up to three days if kept out of sunlight in a cool room.

Carol O'Meara is the extension agent in horticulture entomology for Colorado State University's Extension in Boulder County. Contact her at comeara@bouldercounty.org.