You wait all year for fall, for the leaves to turn brilliant colors.

You enjoy the color for a few weeks, then you watch leaves waft down from the trees and fill every inch of your yard like an autumnal carpet.

Then you haul out your rakes, your blowers, your leaf vacuums, your mulchers and your compost wagon, and you get to work. You rake and blow and vacuum and mulch and compost until not a speck of a colorful leaf is left.

Fall, for you, will then officially be over.

But it doesn’t have to be.

This year, why not make those beautiful leaves part of your indoor decor?

You can save leaves from the compost pile by using them as table decorations for a fall dinner party, says Karen Gallagher, an interior decorator from North Yarmouth.

Or you can preserve leaves with wax and string them up as a fall-themed garland in your front window, says Amanda Russell, the volunteer coordinator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, who also runs a woodlot at Wind Ridge Farm in Edgecomb with her husband.

You can also take the preserved leaves and just “splash” them around the house on your dining table or coffee table, or pile them in a wooden bowl as a centerpiece.

“It’s really very easy to preserve fall leaves, so you can retain that color forever,” said Russell, who has conducted craft workshops at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

So whether you want to use leaves to dress up your home for a specific event or preserve them and use them season after season, here are some ideas to consider.

From Karen Gallagher:

You don’t see a lot of freshly fallen leaves as indoor decor because they don’t last that long, Gallagher says.

But you can use them in a variety of ways for short-term decor. For instance, if you’re having a dinner party with an autumnal theme, you can tuck some big colorful leaves under a plate or a salad bowl, or scatter them on the table.

To make them last a little longer, put leaves in a clear vase and fill the vase with water, then use it as a centerpiece.

“You can also have sticks or twigs sticking out of, it with the colors of the leaves showing through the glass,” Gallagher said.

In addition, you can collect branches, leaves or sticks and make your own Halloween tree for fall. Gallagher suggests finding a gnarly, twisted branch that you can lay on a table or stand upright in vase. Then have the family create decorations — paper ghosts are a good one — and attach them to the branch.

“It would be great if you could find an old mossy branch,” Gallagher said.

Fall is also a good time to find acorns, chestnuts and pine cones and display them around the house, in bowls perhaps.

From Amanda Russell:

Russell says there are two very easy ways to preserve autumn leaves to use in decorations.

They both involve paraffin wax, the kind found in grocery stores and sold with canning supplies. That’s because people use it to cover jars.

Russell heats her wax by taking a hot plate outdoors (it can get messy) and putting the wax in the cover of a cookie tin or a similarly shallow, heatable container. Then she slowly melts the wax until it starts to bubble.

She takes very dry leaves and dips them right into the wax before holding them in the air to dry, then sets them on a paper bag to finish cooling.

The other method is to take very dry leaves and press them for two weeks in a heavy book before dipping them in wax. With this method, the leaves come out very flat.

If you dip them in wax without pressing, they retain “a more natural shape.”

“It all depends what you’re making. Sometimes flat is better; sometimes it’s not,” Russell said.

Russell likes to string preserved leaves together with pine cones to make a fall garland. She uses a hot glue gun to put the whole thing together.

She’s also used the leaves to decorate “snowmen” and other characters she creates with pumpkins.

Russell says yellow leaves, like sugar maples, have a brilliant color once preserved. Some bright-red leaves look brown once preserved. If she wants preserved leaves to look red, Russell looks for ones that aren’t quite red on the ground.

“I look for ones that are almost pink, and once I dip them in the wax, they’re red,” she said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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