Orange Rind Luminaries

Orange Rind Luminaries
If you want a little of the October feel but aren't so into the pumpkin, these orange rind luminaries are a great alternative to the ubiquitous fall decor.

Best of all, they're easy to make and they're a fun way to style a fall season gathering.

First, draw a line two-thirds up from the bottom of your orange then cut in half along the line you've created.

Scoop out the flesh.

Take the top one-third of the orange and use a cookie cutter to make a hole in the top. I used a half-inch diameter cookie cutter for this, but you could also cut it out manually.

On both halves of the orange, remove the inner pith of the rind with a carving tool, making sure not to carve all the way through the skin. Create a fun design on both the top and bottom that will glow through once lit.

Light the tea candle and cover with the top third of the orange.

I love the soft glow of these natural luminaries on a cool autumn evening. And they release the most subtle scent of fresh citrus as they burn. 

Making a Magnolia Wreath

Making a Magnolia Wreath
Magnolias are an iconic structure of the South known for their larger-than-life blooms and evergreen leaves. During the winter, the leaves of this stately tree can make the most impressive garlands and wreaths.

If you're fortunate enough to have access to this Southern beauty, take advantage of their bountiful leaves by making a wreath to add a little greenery to your soon-to-be winter landscape.

Begin with a wreath. Any wreath will do, but I love the natural look of a grapevine wreath. Mine were made by my mother well over 15 years ago, and I've used them many many times over the years.

Begin bundling the magnolia leaves in sets of three by tying the stems together with florist's wire. Make enough bundles to cover the wreath.

Add the bundles a few at a time by tucking the stems into the wreath. Snugly secure the bundles onto the wreath by wrapping with florist's wire as you go along.

Continue adding bundles until the wreath is covered. Be sure to take advantage of the beautiful copper colored back of the leaves to add interest to your wreath.

Last, add a few magnolia pods to finish off your creation.

You can enjoy your wreath for several weeks or more if placed out of direct sunlight.

I love adding fresh evergreens to my winter landscape by taking advantage of the native greenery in my area. And on a chilly morning, there's nothing more invigorating than a thermos of hot coffee and a walk in the woods foraging for fresh boughs.

Make a Kokedama String Garden

Make a Kokedama String Garden
I've always had a crush on Kokedama string gardens and really wanted to create one of my own. But because most of these plants require a high level of upkeep, it was never something I was willing to dedicate myself to. But when it came time to repot one of my favorite houseplants, I realized my low-maintenance staghorn fern just might be the perfect plant for a project like this.

Staghorn ferns really don't require much upkeep to speak of. They don't need soil and are more than content to hang on your husband's left-over wood scraps all their happy days. The only thing they ask of you is to bathe in a tub of water once a week or so and maybe a little fertilizer every so often.

If you can manage to do these two things, a staghorn fern will gladly reward you with the most beautiful display of staghorn-like fronds you've ever laid your eyes upon. 

moss ball staghorn fern

So with that said, I gave the Kokedama technique a try using my potbound fern.

To make a Kokedama ball, gather some sphagnum moss that has been sufficiently soaked in water, some twine (or monofilament for a longer-lasting string), and your staghorn fern. 

staghorn fern tutorial

My staghorn had two plants growing in the pot, so I divided them using a serrated knife.

dividing a staghorn fern

dividing a staghorn fern

Next, I snugly packed a generous amount of moss all around the root ball (be sure not to cover the brown sterile fronds which are a necessary part of the staghorn that helps secure the plant to its host). As you pack the moss, form it into the shape of a ball in a thick mass of moss about two to three times the size of the root ball.

Applying moss wrap to a Kokedama staghorn fern

Once I was happy with the general shape, I began firmly wrapping twine around the moss ball in a random pattern. You will have to deal with moss falling off, but don't worry. Just keep replacing it as it does so. Eventually, as you have enough of the twine wrapped around the ball, the moss will begin to stay in place for you.

Two very important details as you start are 1) begin winding your string at the top of the plant so that it will hang properly in the end, and 2) leave a few inches of excess twine at the beginning so that you'll have enough to tie off.

Binding a Kokedama style staghorn fern

String garden Kokedama

After you have secured the moss ball with twine, use those few excess inches of twine you made at the beginning to tie off the string. Next, cut the twine at the desired length for hanging.

After you have done this, soak your Kokedama in a bowl of water for a few minutes, let drain, then hang your beautiful creation in a well lit spot.

kokedama string garden

I'm happy to say that it's been over a year now and my Kokedama is thriving with just a weekly soaking and a water soluble fertilizer added about once per month. I'm pretty sure gardening doesn't get any easier than that.