It's easy to show the world you're a sports fan. Wear a team T-shirt or ball cap, drink from a souvenir cup and plaster bumper stickers on your car. You can even dress the kids up in pint-sized uniforms and cheerleading outfits and tie a sport bandanna around Fido's neck.
But your team spirit needn't stop there. Your home's entrance and front yard can cheer for the players all season long with outdoor decor and plants in color combinations that let the neighbors know your favorite team.
Retailers, mail-order companies and Internet shopping sites offer enough garden accessories, front door paraphernalia and holiday decorations to fill a football field. Add seasonal bedding plants from a local garden retailer — or go all out with foundation and perennial plants that bloom each fall — and you're sure to have a winning team tribute.
Julie Papalardo loves football, especially her alma mater's team: the University of South Florida Bulls. Every football season she creates several dozen college and pro custom wreaths using pennants, game souvenirs, feathers, beads and other decorative items. The one-of-a-kind team wreaths, which retail from $79 to $89, are sold at her Largo store, Julie's Cottage at Provence, and at Beach Papery and Gifts in St. Petersburg.
"I did it on a whim, and it just took off," she says of the first football wreath she created 20 years ago. "It's become a fun thing to do during football season."
University of Florida Gators wreaths have been big sellers for several years, says Papalardo, who also crafts wreaths for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Florida State Seminoles, the USF Bulls and any team requested by a customer. Add a brass or pewter door knocker with your team's athletic logo, and you'll be the No. 1 fan in the neighborhood.
Bedding plants and containers can show your team colors and boost your home's curb appeal. Gators fans have it easy: Blue plumbago and orange ixora shrubbery are in full bloom this month. Add orange-blooming plants, such as impatiens, snapdragons, celosia, geraniums, orange-toned marigolds and crossandra, and your yard will truly be Gator country. For even more fall-time blue color, there's perennial blue daze ground cover, blue pickerel weed, blue porterweed and blue salvia.
Chrysanthemums in crimson and yellow-gold shout "Go, Noles!" when placed in front porch containers or planted along the front walkway. Burgundy coleus, garnet and yellow lantana and yellow varieties of snapdragon, celosia, pansy, marigold, chrysanthemum and petunia are other good choices for FSU fans. Those same yellow varieties mixed with any dark green foliage will do the trick for USF Bulls fans.
There are plenty of red-blooming annuals for Bucs fans, including red impatiens, celosia, dianthus, petunia, salvia and geranium. Numerous landscape shrubs produce bright red flowers throughout the year, such as hibiscus, firecracker plant, jatropha and ixora. True black plants are harder to come by, but there are some deep maroon and chocolate-hued plants, among them ''Blackie'' sweet potato vine, Persian shield, purple fountain grass, ''Black Magic'' elephant ear and chocolate coleus.
Beyond the garden
There are bird baths, bird houses, stepping stones, outdoor bistro sets, door mats, wind chimes, garden gnomes, stained-glass signs, fountains, team flags and more that display team logos and colors (see shopping list at right). Short on cash? Spring for a few cans of spray paint in team colors for pots and garden items you already own.
What if your team goes all the way and makes it to the bowl games this winter? Holiday team wreaths, hologram lawn figures, Santas dressed in team jerseys and fiber optic displays not only celebrate the season, but shout "Go, team!" well into the new year!