Using Plants as Holiday Centerpieces by June Morgan
This is the time to think about centerpieces for the holiday tables. Catalogs offer glitzy and expensive arrangements, but the savvy gardener can use a lot of what is at home for a do-it-yourself project.
For autumn, pumpkins and gourds are indispensible, coming in many colors and striations. Cut pumpkins to use as candle holders or to hold a pot of blooms or greenery. For different heights and lengths of the overall design, use trailing evergreens (please avoid poison ivy or oak), Indian corn, or foraged grasses, many of which look ordinary from afar but interesting when close up. Mimic a sheaf of wheat by tying together mature grasses and place vertically in your arrangement. Shop at thrift stores such as Goodwill for inexpensive decorative objects such as vases, figurines and bowls. You will be surprised at what you find. Fillers such as sphagnum, small twigs and branches can add a unifying effect. One warning – sphagnum acts as a wick, so don’t let it touch water, or everything surrounding, including the table and cloth will be soaked.
Prepare ahead of time for when nothing in the garden is blooming by rooting cuttings of plants such as coleus in water (this takes only days), and starting bulbs such as amaryllis and paperwhites (narcissus) which require no chilling time. You can grow these bulbs in a pot filled with soil or in a shallow bowl, using pebbles to hold them in place. Add water up to the bottom quarter or third of the bulb. To keep them from growing too tall and floppy, use one part 80 proof vodka to seven parts water. Starting bulbs which require chilling time such as mini daffodils, hyacinth and tulips indoors is possible but needs more time and preparation. Coleus is especially useful because of the ease in growing, propagating, and the many variations in colors and patterns. After serving duty in the table décor, they can be enjoyed in a sunny spot all winter in pots. Cyclamen, readily found in nurseries in rousing reds, pinks and white is especially effective in Christmas displays with artificial snow or angel hair.
Plants can serve as a basis for many other creative ideas. Think feathers, glitter, candles, small LED lights (the battery pack can be easily hidden), artificial or real moss, rocks, ribbons, etc. Look around your house and yard and even the fields with open eyes.
Some online resources for floral design material: “Mearsfloral.com”, Afloral.com or “Gardeners Supply”. Catalogs can give ideas which can be an inspiration for or replicated with your own resources.