Easy Rust Activated Abstract Pumpkin Topiaries

Do you prefer a unique non-traditional twist for your fall decorating? If so, this rust activated abstract pumpkin topiaries are just that. Not your run of the mill stacked pumpkins and will have your neighbors doing a double-take. They are easy to make but the best part of this pumpkin craft is watching the rusty goodness magically happen.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Rust Dripped Pumpkin Topiaries

This is the third incarnation for these faux pumpkin topiaries and they are holding up well. Like I often say here on the blog, if you no longer like the look of something, change it with paint!  

They originally started as traditional fall topiaries in bright autumn colors. When we replaced our front door a few years later I decided to go less traditional with black and copper stacked pumpkins.

Here we are again with makeover number three, except this year I added a third pumpkin to the mix and like them much better.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

How To Make Rusty Pumpkin Topiaries

This post contains affiliate links so you can see what products I used or recommend for this project. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

You will need three pumpkins per topiary in different sizes. If you can find them each with different shapes, even better. I used two from the former incarnations and added a third small foam pumpkin from the dollar store.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Paint The Foam Pumpkins

Paint all three pumpkins a warm white. You can use a chalky type paint or multi-surface paint. Whatever you use you want it to bond to plastic or foam. I used a warm white by Dixie Belle Paint Company called Drop Cloth that I had on hand.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

You can see in the photo above that I removed the plastic stems from the smallest pumpkins. I painted those with burnt umber acrylic craft paint so they look a little less plastic. Set them aside to dry and move onto the next step.

Drill Holes For A Wooden Dowel

To prevent your pumpkin topiaries from blowing away and ending up in the neighbor's yard, we'll be inserting wooden dowels. When I took the photos of the topiaries it was very windy outside so I can attest that they work!

For this, you'll need a hole saw drill bit or you can cut them with a retractable utility knife. I'm all for doing things the quickest way so I tend to grab the power tools to get er done.

You'll need to make rather large holes on the bottom of the middle and top pumpkins to accommodate the stem of the pumpkin beneath. If your pumpkins have removable stems then bonus, you just need a small hole to fit the diameter of the wooden dowel.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!


Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

On the bottom pumpkin, you'll only need a small hole the same diameter as the round or square (doesn't matter) wooden dowel.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Time For The Fun Part - The Magical Rust

Now, this is the most fun step of this fall craft, watching the rusty goodness magically happen. For this step, we'll use the Modern Masters Rust Kit. If you've never tried their kits you are in for a treat. It's a three-step process and the hardest part is waiting for it to dry.

Step 1 - Primer Paint

The first step of the rusting process is to prime the pumpkins with two coats of the primer included in the kit. To add to the uniqueness of the rusty pumpkins we'll be giving the paint an abstract wispy painted look. You may want to practice first on a sheet of cardboard or a scrap piece of wood.

Tip 1

The trick to getting the wisps is using a crappy paintbrush. You read that right - grab the most worn-out paintbrush you've got or use an inexpensive chip brush. The more uneven the bristles, the better.

Tip 2

The goal here is for visible brushstrokes that end in an uneven random fashion. 

Another tip is to try not to load too much primer on the brush. We're going for more of a dry brush technique here so less is more.

Tip 3

Don't go over the same area twice. 

With light pressure, you want to apply the primer in one long brushstroke until there is little to no paint left on the brush. Start at the stem and end each brushstroke at different points around the pumpkin, about a third of the way down (see photo below). 

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Allow the first coat of primer to dry 30 minutes and apply a second coat much the same as you did the first. Don't fret if you don't get the paint in exactly the same spot. Wait two hours for the final coat to dry before moving onto the next step.

Step 2 - Iron Paint

The second step is painting the primed surface with two coats of the iron paint that came with the kit. Give the bottle a little shake first before opening. Beware, this stuff smells like...um...iron.

Apply it just like you did with the primer and don't worry if you don't get it exactly the same. As long as you pretty much cover the primer as best you can you're just fine.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Just like the primer, allow 30 minutes between coats and only one hour this time for the final dry.

Step 3 - Rust Activator

Now we're ready to watch the magic happen! You will want to protect your work surface from being damaged from overspray.

Spray on a light coating of the rust activator that came with the kit over the iron paint. Wait five minutes and then spray a second light coat. 

The photo below is after approximately 10-15 minutes.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

This next photo is after 45 minutes. Can you see the more vibrant blue and green colors? 

Let the pumpkins completely dry (I let mine dry overnight) before moving onto the next step, stacking the pumpkins.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Stack The Pumpkins

With the largest pumpkin on the bottom, line up the hole cut on the bottom of the second pumpkin and hot glue them together. Next, do the same with the smallest pumpkin. While you have the hot glue gun fired up, glue the painted stems onto the top pumpkins.

This next part had me reduced to tears. 😭

DO NOT Make This Same Mistake

Here's where I'm keeping it real, friends. DO NOT make the same mistake I did!

Considering the pumpkins would be outdoors I figured they should have a layer of protection. I had Mr. Frugalista take them outside to spray a couple coats of clear coat.

The following morning when I walked into the workshop all those beautiful layers of blue, green, and rust were GONE. 😲 

DISAPPEARED 😩 

Nothing but a dark brown rust color remained and I stood there in shock. 😱

A chemical reaction. 😡 

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

If I had another Rust Finish Kit on hand I would have repeated the process but I used every last drop leftover from the Burlap Pumpkins With Rusty Leaves.

DO This Instead

I just didn't have the right stuff in my kit! Little did I know the kits now include what they call Permacoat Xtreme, a clear coat specifically formulated to not cause this chemical reaction. I urge you to make sure your kit includes it.

Redeeming The Rusty Pumpkins

Feeling totally defeated I abandoned the pumpkins declaring them an epic fail. 

I came back three days later when I could stomach looking at them again with a plan to put them in storage to deal with next year. While the patina isn't nearly as gorgeous, the pumpkins still had a unique abstract look that I liked. So I pushed forward with the final step.

Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!

Decorating The Stacked Pumpkins

Last but not least, time to put the finishing touches on the pumpkin topiaries with a simple natural raffia ribbon. Wrap the raffia around the neck of the middle and bottom pumpkins and dab a little hot glue here and there to hold in place.

Lay some raffia ribbon over the dirt on two pedestal flower pots. Slip the wooden dowel through all three pumpkins and then push it deep into the soil. 

Enjoy!
Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!
If you have any questions about this stacked pumpkin tutorial, please leave them in the comment section below or the Contact Me tab at the top. I love hearing from you!

DIY Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries by Interior Frugalista, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen! #fauxpumpkins #paintedpumpkins

If you enjoyed this Rusty Abstract Pumpkin Topiary idea, I'd be so thankful if you shared it with a friend and pinned it to your Fall Pumpkin Crafts or DIY Fall Decorating board on Pinterest.


DIY Rusty Abstract Painted Pumpkin Topiaries by Interior Frugalista, a unique non-traditional twist for faux stacked outdoor pumpkins and fun to watch the rust magically happen!#abstractpaintedpumpkins #pumpkintopiary
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Comments

  1. Very fun tutorial, Marie! They look great and I love the setting you placed them in. Perfect!

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    1. Thank you Kim! Funny story about the setting. The intention was to have them flank our front door but at the last minute I decided to take the photos in the backyard. I love how they look in front of our arbor so much that we've decided to keep them there!

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  2. Oh no Marie, your heart must have sunk right down into your little toe when that rust disappeared. Thanks so much for keeping it real though and saving me from making the same mistake. The pumpkin topiaries are still very eye catching though.

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    1. Yup, it was definitely down at my toes and my mouth went totally potty! LOL I'm glad you think they still look good, Michelle. I'm slowly embracing the mishap.

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  3. These look fabulous in front of your arbor. Perfect for fall decor!

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    1. Thank you so much, Paula! The plan was to have them flank our front door but I think they look so pretty flanking the arbor instead surrounded by the beautiful fall foliage.

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  4. Beautifully done Marie! So sorry about the chemical reaction, but I think they’re lovely and unique. Pinned!

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    1. Thank you Debbee, I learning to embrace them without the gorgeous rusty patina. Knowing me, I'll redo them next year WITH the right clear coat. LOL

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  5. These look amazing Marie! So 'perfectly' FALL! Happy Thanksgiving my friend. XOXO

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    1. Thank you very much, Denise! Another new Fall look for a few years. LOL Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. xo

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  6. So Cute! I can see myself sitting there and relaxing.

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  7. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

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    1. Wishing you a lovely week too, Marilyn, and thanks a bunch for the pin and share. xo

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  8. Oh, Marie, I share your disappointment! Something similar happened when I was making my stencilled pumpkins and the paint flaked off! I managed to rescue them though so it wasn't so bad. That green finish was gorgeous but honestly, your pumpkins still look fabulous! I love your tip about the crappy paintbrush, that made me a laugh! Hope you have a great weekend!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I remember reading on your blog what happened to your pumpkins and I remember your tip for preventing it from happening. I'm glad you think the pumpkins still look good, I'm slowly embracing the mishap. Wishing you a great weekend too!

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  9. How cool, Marie! I never even knew things such as rust kits existed! Who would have ever thought we would want to purposely put rust on our decor, but this is SUPER cute!!

    Thanks for sharing it with us at our Embracing Home and Family link up party!

    -Cherelle

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    Replies
    1. Right! I remember the days of scrubbing with a wire brush to get rid of rust and now we're painting it on. LOL Glad you like the topiaries, Cherelle!

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  10. Marie these are so original and cool at the same time. I can see them in a home owned by a junker such as ourselves or an industrial type!!

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    1. Hey Mary, nice to see you! xo Right! They are definitely suited for anyone with a modern, rustic, or industrial vibe home. Glad you like them my friend. ♡

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  11. i'm with you, Marie - paint is the best decorating tool ever!

    i hadn't seen this product yet, so thank you for not only sharing the fact that it exists but that it works so WELL! really impressive results, and i just love the elegant look of your rusty pumpkin topiaries.

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    1. Hi Deb, so glad my pumpkins introduced you to the magic of the metal effects kits. They are so much fun! I've used the oxidized copper one as well and the patina is so pretty. Have fun!

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  12. Thanks for sharing with us at the To Grandma's house we go link party - I'll be featuring you!

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  13. This is such a unique and cool idea!! Thanks for the idea and the tutorial! I'm featuring you this week at Charming Homes & Gardens! ~ Kristin | White Arrows Home

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    1. Glad you like the rust effects idea, Kristin, and thanks so much for featuring my stacked pumpkins! xo

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  14. What a fun DIY Marie! Pinned for next year. Thank you for sharing at Charming Homes and Gardens, where you are featured tomorrow.

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  15. These are amazing, Marie! I can not wait to give this rust painting kit a try!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! You will have so much fun with the rust kit. They also have other patinas too like oxidized copper. Have fun!

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