There is something magical about the transition into autumn, when leaves start to change from lush greens to resplendent shades of crimson and gold across much of the country. This explosion of colour lights up our gardens, parks and countryside from March to May, as well as providing delicious new fruits to enjoy. Places such as Canberra, Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges and Tasmania’s Mount Field National Park provide plenty of interest at this time of year with their symphony of changing hues. Though in the North and around many cities you won’t see much in the way of colourful foliage, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the season. With just a few simple tools and a handful of blooms and branches, anyone can create a festive wreath or autumnal display.
Craft an autumn wreath
From autumn to winter we can enjoy a bumper crop of pumpkin and squash, both tasty to eat and striking to look at. Miniature varieties such as squash gold as well as ornate ornamental gourds - available to purchase from farmers’ markets or to grow at home - make eye-catching additions to a colourful autumn wreath.
Crab apple trees are largely grown for their gorgeous spring flowers but come autumn they bear deep pink, sour fruits delicious in a crab apple jelly, or to bring a touch of colour to a seasonal display. The leaves of a crab apple tree also look glorious in autumn and can be collected once fallen to thread in between clusters of fruit.
Around Australia conifer trees will be shedding small gnarled cones that can be gathered to add texture to your wreath. There are plenty of beautiful blooms you can add to your display too, including vivid helianthus. A member of the daisy family, one of its best known species is the common sunflower, still in bloom at this time of year. Its sunny yellow heads will add a touch of vibrant colour when entwined amongst pine cones and pumpkins.
Once you’ve gathered your autumn materials, wind and thread them around a simple wire ring (available to buy from craft shops), packing them tightly together and securing in place with a little florist wire.
A basket of blooms
Why not trade your vase of shop-bought flowers for a wicker basket of home-grown autumnal blooms instead? Sunflowers are easy to grow and are still in flower at this time of year. Even past their best, semi-dried and dried sunflowers make an eye-catching addition to a bouquet. Take a wicker basket or large bowl and fill with the vibrant heads of beautiful sunflowers for a unique autumn ornament sure to be a talking point.
Create an autumn centrepiece
Table decorations are a simple way of brightening up an autumn lunch with friends. Gather a few seasonal fruits, such as apples, pears, pumpkins or figs, and arrange around some pillar candles or lanterns. You can even twist a few thin branches around the outside to make a circular centrepiece, with a smattering of autumn flowers, such as chrysanthemums or asters, tucked in between.
Tie a leafy garland
At this time of year there will be plenty of fallen leaves lying about for the taking, and what better way to tidy them up than by making a decorative indoor garland? Gather handfuls of leaves in all shapes, sizes and colours and lay out on a table. Choose the most eye-catching colours and combinations and, using a length of string, begin tying the stems of the leaves to it at intervals, ensuring you space them out evenly. You can even add some festive tags along the garland to remind you of all your favourite things about autumn. Hawthorn leaves, claret ash and crab apple trees provide some of the season’s most colourful leaves perfect for bringing the shades of the season inside.
Homemade apple candles
One simple yet effective way of wowing your visitors is with some home-grown apple candles. Take a few ripe apples from your autumn crop and use a tealight candle to measure out a circle around the top of each one using a pencil. Level off the bottom of each apple with a knife, so they stand upright, then carefully cut around the marked circle atop each apple, slicing around 1cm deep or the depth of your chosen tealight candle. Use a spoon to help you scoop out the round of flesh, then insert a tealight candle into the top of each apple. Set around your table or home and light for an eye-catching autumnal arrangement.
‘Tis the season for bountiful nuts, in particular chestnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios, and whilst we love to eat them they can also make a decorative addition to an autumnal arrangement, whether in or out of their husks. These versatile nuts can be glued on to a Styrofoam ball or wreath for an eye-catching ornament or decoration for the door, used to fill a glass jar – insert a tall candle for a striking table centrepiece, glued on to the tag of a present, or turned into nut brittle displayed in cute paper bags for a thoughtful homemade gift.