Inspired by our garden neighbor Marilynn who grows birdhouse gourds for Earthlinks, my garden partners and I started growing them several years ago. We found that these gourds are easy to grow with prolific vines that produce close to a dozen study green fruits every September. After harvesting the crop each autumn, we divide the haul and suspend them with twine to dry from a kitchen pot rack or the ends of curtain rods. This drying process takes at least six months, sometimes more. Fast forward several years and we’ve amassed quite a collection of hollow brown gourds. So this year, we finally got a date on the calendar to turn these garden treasures into art. We were especially fortunate that our newest partner on the garden team, Suzanne Buntrock, took the time to do some research about paint, design and construction before our long anticipated get together.
Susan, Suzanne and her daughter Clare and I gathered at the kitchen table with the pile of dried gourds and various paints, tempera and acrylic. After my husband Dave graciously agreed to drill out the holes – a 1 inch round one in the side and a small one for drainage on the bottom, we proceeded to remove the seeds and dried membrane from the gourds and saved most of the seeds. We wondered if these seeds would produce the same gourd next season or had they cross pollinated with another species — something to research this winter.
After laying down newspaper, setting up paints and brushes and checking design ideas on Pinterest, we embarked on our artistic adventure. Suzanne and my son Dylan tried various tempera paints but found after it dried a bit that the paint starting flaking off. Susan and I worked with acrylic paints and found that the paint seemed to stay on better. We had read that the final step should be a layer of polyurethane to protect the gourd from the elements. Unfortunately, even the addition of this layer did not prevent the tempera paint from flaking off. In the end, we got the project rolling and although some of us still need to add detail to the solid first coat on our gourds, we made some pretty cool birdhouses. Here are some highlights of our creative afternoon.