Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Two-year-old Avery Allen of Lilburn picks out a pumpkin on Wednesday afternoon at Randy's Pumpkin Patch in Lawrenceville.
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LAWRENCEVILLE -- Jean Scharle is here to help you.
Whether you're after a carved, candlelit outdoor display or a decoration to add fall flavor to the home's interior, Scharle can point you in the right direction.
Every day over the next several weeks she'll be outside Randy's Perennials and Water Gardens carting around big, orange orbs for locals. Sporting sunglasses, cut-resistant gloves and a friendly smile, Scharle said she's glad to be a part of an annual tradition: harvest time for the big, beautiful gourd-like squash better known as the pumpkin.
"The main thing you want to look at is shape," said Scharle, leaning down to examine a row of the orange-shelled fruit. She put her hand on top of one of the pumpkins and rolled it from side to side. "If you're going to carve it, you want one that's going to face somewhat upward so that what you carve can be easily seen."
Another factor to consider is the stem, she said. "You want a strong stem that doesn't feel like it's about to break off. The stem is the first thing to go on a pumpkin," Scharle said, adding: "Never pick a pumpkin up by the stem though."
Customers trickled in Wednesday afternoon as Scharle worked in the nursery, hauling pots, plants and pumpkins around the lot.
Duluth resident Andrea Clark stopped by with her 10-year-old daughter, Megan. They walked the grounds looking for a good dining room centerpiece.
"We've already got our scary jack-o-lanterns out on the porch," Clark said, gesturing toward her daughter. "She's done three of them. Now, we need something for the table."
Interrupted Megan: "And one more jack-o-lantern?"
"We'll see," mom said.
Scharle said she cautions customers who buy jack-o-lanterns while it's still warm outside. "When it gets up above 80 degrees, that's hot enough for them to rot quickly," Scharle said.
When searching for the autumn decoration, she said, "If you want the right one, you've got to really look for it."
Nearby, at Randy's Pumpkin Patch in Lawrenceville, customer Leeanne McDaniel searched for "just the right kind" of pumpkin.
"We'll know it when we see it," McDaniel said, laughing.
She and her sister Amanda were shopping nearby when they decided to stop and have a look.
Other pumpkin seekers like Christine and Ned Kirby sought a slightly larger orange orb for their front porch. "We need something that will stand out in the neighborhood," Christine said. "We've got to keep up with everybody."
As Scharle spun and turned the hard-shelled fruit, examining pumpkins Wednesday afternoon, she offered the following advice:
"Mix it up," she said. "Get several different kinds to put around the house, but make sure you examine them well before you buy."