Now Blooming In a Yard Near You

Some of you may remember me talking about growing birdhouse gourds in the garden and drying them a couple years ago. They’ve been hanging out on a wire in our utility room since. I had painted three or four- one and gave to our neighbor with a barn scene for his birthday, I drilled holes in a couple and played with the idea of making lamps.

I was looking at a social media thread discussing Missouri Native trees and wildflowers when I decided I knew what I wanted to put on these gourds. I’ve been paying more attention to what I plant here at the farm than I did at our previous place at the Lake. When we bought that property, the topsoil had all been scraped off, there was a barren red clay mess of a yard that not even weeds wanted to grow in. I planted and encouraged the growth of what would take, which was often aggressive and even invasive plants like Chinese Wisteria, Floribunda rose and Mimosa trees (Chinese silk tree). Not that they weren’t all beautiful and they grew like wildfire, but at least one of those is on the no no list of Missouri invasive plants and the other two clearly aren’t native to our state.

You hear people stressing “Grow Native!” all the time now, but I feel like a lot of folks still don’t understand why it’s important. Native plants are already adapted to local conditions. From a gardener’s perspective, they save time, money and water. If you’re from any of the states running out of water right now, you know what a precious resource it is. Native plants and flowers provide vital habitat for birds, wildlife and pollinators. Some species of butterfly only exist if their host plant is available. Most of the public knows about monarchs and milkweed, but did you know that the fritillary butterflies need violets as their host plant to survive? Many consider violets a weed, but no violets, no fritillaries.

Another plant that gets hate is the dandelion, though it is a very important early flower for emerging bee populations, it’s edible, has medicinal properties and if you have kids, they love the fluffy seed heads.

Ok, I know, I ran off on a tangent about natives and this post is supposed to be about painted gourds, but the paintings on each of these isn’t just a pretty flower to look at. I chose each one because it has value as a Missouri Native Wildflower.

Here are my gourds, they go up for sale this week on Etsy.

Wild Violets (Missouri Wild Violet. Viola missouriensis)

The one below is already sold. We had friends over for dinner last night and they wanted it before it went on the store. 🙂

Black-eyed Susan (Missouri Coneflower. Rudbeckia missouriensis)

I had some Prickly Pear at the Lake that I had gotten a start of out of my Mom’s yard. I had no idea at the time that it grows wild in Missouri. I’ve since seen some in the ditches alongside roads and found some near the edge of a pasture here at the farm. I bought some from the Missouri Wildflower Nursery last year.

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

I love my little lions, I think the one below is my personal favorite.

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

I hope if you choose to buy one of these, that you’ll look up the native flower painted on it. Do a little reading on your plant and share with your friends why native plants and trees are so important and what it does for our state’s ecosystem. Even if you aren’t from Missouri, it’s something you can talk to folks about besides doom/gloom and politics. We could all use a little light and nature in our lives right now.


Birdhouse Gourds

Remember all those gourds I grew over the summer and have been drying?
I wound up with about 40 of them that dried properly, so one of the projects I’m doing with my 4-H crafts group this year is to make birdhouse gourds.

I pre-prepped a little before they go there, bleached them and scraped that thin slime coat off with a flat razor blade and let them dry over night. The girls drilled holes yesterday, cleaned out the insides and saved whole envelopes worth of seeds to take home and hopefully grow their own gourds. I’m posting the instructions I gave them before. (Pictures aren’t mine, they are screenshots from the tutorial I used to figure all this out at


  1. Grow and dry a gourd.

You can buy birdhouse gourd (bottle gourd) seeds online or at your local nursery. They take 6-8 weeks to grow before the last frost, so you’ll want to start seeds inside and transplant into your garden, or get them in the ground right after last spring frost (around Mother’s Day in this part of Missouri)

To dry your gourds, you need to hang them in a place where they will get air flow on all sides and if inside, warm and dry. Do not hang them in a basement or cool, damp area- they’ll just rot. You can leave them outside, but make sure they are in a sunny area with good airflow on all sides. I trim the stem long- leaving about 6-8 inches- then run a needle through the base of the stem and poke a thin piece of wire through to hang the gourds from a nail or fence.

Your gourds are ready when you tap on them and they sound like a tight drum, or you can shake them and hear the seeds rattling around inside.

  1. Clean your gourd and drill a hole.

Using a hole saw, drill a 1 ½ inch hole into your gourd. We use 1 ½ in particular, because this will keep bluebirds safe if they nest in your gourd. A larger hole can allow aggressive European Starlings access to the bluebird’s eggs or young and the starlings will destroy them to take the nest.

With a long knife or spoon, clean out the seeds and pulp left inside. It doesn’t have to be spotless, the birds wont mind.

Use fine grit sandpaper to smooth the outside of your gourd, then soak for about an hour in a bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Wipe clean, then let your gourd dry completely.

  1. Use an exterior latex paint to seal and prime the outside of the gourd. (Avoid oil based paint- they take WAY too long to dry) If you prefer the natural look of the gourd, you can also seal it with wax.

If using paint, do two coats, let both dry completely, then spray with a clear coat of outdoor polyurethane to protect your paint. If you’re going to decorate your gourd with designs- you’ll want to paint your design before the polyurethane step.

  1. Drill some small holes in the bottom of the gourd for drainage so it doesn’t hold water if rain gets inside. You can also drill a couple small holes through the neck of the gourd to add a bit of wire or a strip of leather for hanging.

*Painted designs will last longer and stay brighter if you choose a spot out of the sun. The birds will also appreciate a shady location when it starts to heat up outside! 🙂