Ornamental gourds are one of the most unique fruit types coming in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Ornamental gourds make great autumn decorations and are commonly seen on display during the fall and early winter months (in the Northern Hemisphere). These decorative gourds are used in fall pumpkin and harvest displays both indoors and outdoors and make great additions to table centerpieces and decoration, especially popular at Thanksgiving. Here are few ornamental gourd varieties you might elect to grow in your garden.
Ornamental gourds that are members of the C. Pepo species and include: Jack Be Little, Baby Boo, Crown of Thorns, Bicolor and Striped pear gourds, Carnival Squash and various other ornamental types. Turban squash are also considered as an ornamental gourd and belong to the C. Maxima species. These decorative gourds can have colors that are white, light and dark green, yellow, light and dark orange, red, even somewhat purple in color and can exhibit a whole myriad of shapes.
The Jack Be Little and Baby Boo gourds will usually grow from 1 to 2 lbs and look like miniature orange and white pumpkins, respectively. The Crown of Thorn gourds can grow up to a few pounds and come in various colors and shapes that somewhat resembles a rounded space ship with fins or as the names suggests a crown of thorns. Bicolor and Striped pear gourds grow to just over a pound usually yellow or orange and green or some variation of. Carnival squash grow to around 3 lbs and are flat at the stem end and taper to a point on the blossom end. Carnival squash have a variation of white, yellow, orange and green striping along its length. Turban squash fruits can grow to well over 10 lbs but often will produce smaller sized fruit and have a beautiful mushroom shape that can exhibit colors of red, green, white, yellow, and even sometimes slight purple. Turban squash unfortunately are also a favorite of insect pests such as squash bugs, cucumber beetles and squash vine borers.
These ornamental gourd varieties will mature from seed to harvest in about 75 to 110 days. In growing these decorative gourd plants, just as with hard shell gourds, an integrated pest management program to combat insects such as squash bugs and cucumber beetles as well as diseases like powdery mildew is essential to protect plant health. Harvest periods should be planned ahead of time for ornamental gourds as within several weeks, the gourds can begin to lose the richness and vibrancy of colors due to fading.
Interestingly enough, the C. Pepo species which includes the decorative gourds also includes Jack o Lantern varieties as well as summer squash and zucchini, meaning that the species members can cross pollinate if planted in close proximity resulting in non true to type seed. Turban squash share the C. Maxima species with Hubbard squash, Jarrahdale winter squash and the largest pumpkin variety, Atlantic Giants, and again cross pollination can occur between members of this species. Cross pollination only becomes a concern when saving seed to plant with in the future.
References / Resources:
Grassbaugh, Elaine, Metzger, Susan & Riofrio, Marianne. Growing and Curing Gourds in the Home Garden, HYG-1630-96. Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Horticulture and Crop Science.
Retrieved from: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1630.html
Anthony Bratsch, Extension Specialist, Vegetables and Small Fruit. Reviewed by Allen Straw, Extension Specialist, Southwest Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Specialty Crop Profile: Ornamental Gourds.
Retrieved from: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/438/438-101/438-101.html