It seemed like a good idea at the time, didn’t it? Inviting all those friends and family over for dinner? Now your mind is running full speed ahead as you wonder how you’re ever going to navigate the grocery store while pushing three full shopping carts, prepare enough food for an army while carefully catering to allergies (at least for the guests you really like), take at least one layer of dog hair off the couch, get a tasteful welcome mat, knit matching sweaters for all the children (don’t use the dog hair…) and find an outfit that you can cook in and still rock those family photos.
And now comes the moment when you realize you haven’t even thought about a centrepiece for the table! Visions of pinterest boards dance in your head and you wonder how you can ever recreate those perfect floral arrangements amid matching table-settings and personalized name cards that will adorn your fabulous dinner.
Have no fear, fellow West Coast Gardeners! Not only do you have the answer to your problems right outside your backdoor in the garden, but we are here to make this as easy as possible so you can get back to knitting sweaters (don’t forget one for the hubby!).
Breaking it down ~ Table Centrepieces 101
Number One - Gathering Ideas
What materials do I have in my garden that I can use for this arrangement? We’re putting this as the first question to ask, but don’t run around and start hauling in loads of pinecones and dahlias quite yet.
Make a list of the materials you have (go ahead and wander around the garden while you do this). These may include:
- Flowers you can cut, both blooming or dried such as faded hydrangeas
- Foliage from plants, shrubs or trees
- Grasses of different sizes
- Branches from different trees or shrubs
- Loose findings such as pine-cones or leaves
- Vegetables such as squash, pumpkins, kale, or ornamental cabbage.
- Fruit such as apples or figs (oranges with whole clove designs are another idea)
- Berries on branches
- Herbs like rosemary or thyme
- Also, look at plants in your home that could be used such as succulents or kalanchoe.
Number Two - Making It Fit
Will we need a separate table just for my centrepiece or will it fit among the dishes? No sense in designing an arrangement that nobody can talk around because it’s towering over the potatoes and rolls. Thinking ahead will help in this stage. Questions to ask include:
- How much space will there be on the table once we add all the table settings?
- Will we be eating buffet style or plating the meal beforehand? You may need to factor in room for all the large platters of food in the middle of the table.
- Are their children at the table who may accidentally knock your vase over on top of the chocolate pie during dessert? Better make it a sturdy container!
Number Three - What To Put It In?
Sure you can grab great-grandma's crystal vase from above the fridge, but maybe you’d like to experiment a little? There are so many options for containers and arrangement styles that you can really get creative. The container can even be a huge part of the display itself, cutting down on your work to add bushels of blooms, and instead focus on making a unique display.
Some of our favourite ideas include:
- Upcycling containers such as vintage milk jars or jugs, wooden crates, mason jars or wooden bowls.
- Gourds, pumpkins or squash hollowed out, lined and used as containers.
- Covered-up containers. Got an ugly vase? (Who doesn’t!) Wrap it in burlap, cover the outside with sticks, coat it with faux moss or birch bark sheets.
- Baskets - fantastic for a rustic style.
Here’s a question to blow your mind - Do you even need a container? Could you layout leaves or foliage right on the table and arrange your accents and blooms (cut at the base of the flower) directly on them? Garden finds such as squash, mini pumpkins, pinecones and berries work beautifully with this kind of arrangement. Add in some vines (ivy, grape or Clematis work well) as well.
Number Four - Important Questions
Let’s get a few things straight to avoid disasters. Important things to ask yourself before you plan your arrangement:
- How much in advance am I going to make this arrangement? This will really effect what blooms you use! If you’re making it the day before then see if you can keep it outside away from the heated interior so it will last longer, as long it’s not below freezing of course!
- Do any of your guests have pollen allergies?
- Does it need to be live flowers or could you make an arrangement with things such as pinecones, gourds, branches and stones? (This is especially nice if you need to prepare it a few days ahead of time.)
- Can I purchase a few flowers from the florist to add some colour to my arrangement? Perhaps it’s the dead of winter and your garden just isn’t blooming right now. That’s ok. Grab what you can from the garden and then accent that with a few well placed bright flowers.
Number Five - Light it Up and Make It Unforgettable!
That little extra zing is what will make guests ooh and aah when they enter the dining room for their enchanting evening. No, you don’t have to hire the three piece violin quartet and rent a giant chandelier for that kind of a reaction - think a bit simpler. Lighting your table is the easiest way to get the ‘wow’ factor and fits with almost any centrepiece.
- Candles - Large pillar candles add elegance and a strong presence on the table. Smaller scattered tea lights or votives create a magical glow that softens the atmosphere. You can choose from traditional flames or battery powered candles, depending on how much you trust your guests (have you checked your fire extinguisher lately?) and how close the candles will be to your floral.
- Mini lights - Strings of mini-lights are available year round now, and never fail to make a centrepiece enchanting. Make sure you have batteries for your lights, and maybe even a backup set just in case. Use these directly on the table around your accents, or inside of glass vases (without water) filled with pinecones, leaves or other accents.
- Lanterns - Useful as both a container for your cut floral or as a well lit feature on the table. You can use vintage lanterns or newer styles available.
Making It Happen!
Now that you’ve planned out the perfect centrepiece, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and go to work! Blooms and live foliage should be cut as close to dinner time as possible, then arranged right away so they don’t go without water or start drooping. Indoor temperatures can play quite a number on cut flowers.
If you plan on including fall leaves in your arrangements, try soaking them for 10-20 minutes a few hours before show time in order to keep them hydrated and also give them a quick cleaning.
If you’re arranging flowers in a vase or container, here’s a few tips...
- It’s ok to use a photo as an example and emulate what they’ve done. Sure you don’t have the exact flowers or colours, but you can look at the design and be inspired by the shape, size, height, variety and layout.
- Choose a colour theme. It’s easy to be carried away with the variety of colours in the garden, but choose a colour scheme before you start. Reds, yellow and oranges are great for autumn of course, but you could also do dark purples and reds or more rustic browns. In the winter adding lots of greens or whites can really make an arrangement stand out.
- Cut your stems at an angle so they can absorb more water and last longer.
- If it’s going to be located in the middle of the table, make sure it looks good on all sides. Place taller stems (or branches) in the middle, and short stems around the outside.
We’re curated some beautiful examples and ideas on our pinterest board to inspire you! Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!