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Everyone has his or her own answer to what makes a gourd desirable. Some love gourds with traditional shapes and colors of red, buttery yellow and persimmon orange. Others are intrigued by those with unusual shapes and hues, like ghostly white and eerie green-gray. No matter your preference, gourds, pumpkins and squashes make fabulous decorating tools. Harvest your favorites and try some of these ideas. Mary Carol Garrity, Scripps Howard News Service

Cluster by color: Create fall displays loaded with drama byusing gourds and pumpkins that are the same color. For instance, gather a passel of white pumpkins and gourds, and wed them with green accents. Start with a table topper that sports a white-and-green floral or stripe pattern. Then layer a white dinner plate with a green salad plate topped with a white mini-pumpkin nestled in a soup bowl.

For a simple centerpiece, fill a green urn with white gourds. Or make a bouquet of green hypericum berry sprays, then tumble white gourds and pumpkins around the base of the urn.

Mix it up: Mother Nature mixes colors willy-nilly. You can do the same in your fall tableaus by tossing together a variety of gourds. Create a memorable display on a side table by filling a decorative wheelbarrow with a harvest of pumpkins. Or place a large pumpkin, fall statue or gazing ball in the center of a concrete mini-birdbath and surround it with a passel of gourds.

For an aside: To add grace to your buffet or console table, put blue-and-white Asian ginger jars on opposite sides, then fill them with fall foliage and gourds, resting additional gourds and pumpkins at the base.

Freshen your mantel with pumpkins and gourds of different sizes, shapes and colors. Give a few gourds added height atop candlesticks or votive cups.

Try something new: Enlist gourds and pumpkins to serve at your next party. Hollow out gourds to use as soup bowls.

Hollow out a tall pumpkin and fill it with fresh veggies like asparagus spears or carrot sticks. Try the same trick with a short pumpkin, filling it with dip.

Shave off the top of a squat pumpkin to make it level, then use it to hold a serving tray filled with seasonal fruits or cups of steaming cider.

Place candles in small, hollowed-out gourds or use mini-pumpkins as place-card holders.