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Thanksgiving Centerpiece Ideas: Flowers Not Required

Floral design pros share secrets to creating swoon-worthy centerpieces.

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Floral designer Rebecca A. Henry suggests using dried pods like lotus pods or cattails, dried wheat, dried pomegranates or anything that is reminiscent of harvest season.

While the turkey is often the star of a Thanksgiving dinner table, a nonedible focal point can play a leading role in creating an elegant dinner table aesthetic. From lush floral arrangements to designs without blooms, three local floral design pros offer ideas for spectacular centerpieces that can be replicated easily at home.

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“If you want to do something contemporary, but still stay within that feeling of fall . . . fill a square, glass vase with cranberries and top it with an arrangement,” said Alexandria-based designer Rebecca A. Henry.

“We usually suggest low containers for the Thanksgiving dinner table,” said Jenny Park, a floral designer with Reston Floral Design in Reston. “I use things that represent harvesting like pumpkins or artificial fruit like grapes and apples.”

Floral designer Alison de Wit, of Distinctive Floral Designs in Great Falls, suggests going horizontal: “Create a runner of sorts at the midpoint of a long table with blooms and autumn harvest elements. These can be placed in a lush carpeted type form to create a meandering avenue of décor or grouped along the length of the table. The effect is one of abundance and is particularly aesthetically pleasing when paired with groupings of candles of different heights [such as] pillar candles, votive candles or floating candles.”

“Popular things to incorporate into fall centerpieces are dried pods like lotus pods or cattails, dried wheat, dried pomegranates, dried fruits or anything that reminds you of harvest time.”

—Rebecca A. Henry, Petal's Edge Floral Design

Old Town Alexandria-based designer Rebecca A. Henry often includes elements of nature. “Incorporate leaves — either dried or fresh,” said Henry. Henry owns Petal's Edge Floral Design with her business partner, Arlington resident Gerry Rogers. “Fresh leaves don’t hold up very well, so preserved leaves are actually a better choice with gourds and mini-pumpkins. They add a touch of nonfloral, and Thanksgiving arrangements tend to veer toward nonfloral.”

DESIGNERS SAY GLASS, basket or pumpkin containers are ideal for Thanksgiving. “If you want to do something contemporary, but still stay within that feeling of fall, use a glass container but fill it with something like cranberries or coffee beans to give it the color of fall,” said Henry. “Fill a square glass vase with cranberries and top it with an arrangement that has a lot of oranges and yellows and reds and rust colors and some dried elements. You can fill a vase with just about anything.”

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Great Falls-based floral designer Alison de Wit of Distinctive Floral Designs created this fall centerpiece in a hollowed pumpkin that rests on a bed of woodland moss. Designers suggest incorporating elements of nature into Thanksgiving centerpieces.

De Wit adds that berries are always a welcome addition to fall arrangements, suggesting pepper berries, snowberries and hypericum berries, along with pods such as scabiosa and poppy. “Greens can diverge from the traditional to a mélange of hues from soft mint to deep leaf green. Lambs ear, seeded eucalyptus, variegated ruscus, pittisporum and papyrus all provide a lovely aesthetic within a composition. Likewise, feathers are a beautiful component of mixed medium pieces.”

Make use of the woodsy elements that are in abundance now. “Popular things to incorporate into fall centerpieces are dried pods like lotus pods or cattails, dried wheat, dried pomegranates, dried fruits or anything that reminds you of harvest time,” said Henry. “Most of these dried items can be picked up at a craft store.”

Use sentimental or personal pieces to create an elegant presentation. “Rather than having a singular arrangement … create a tableaux with floral or organic pieces to form a pleasing central theme,” said de Wit. “This would include a grouping of smaller vases — and these can be special pieces from personal collections or all glass, ceramic or antique pieces. This offers an interesting variant on a single arrangement.”

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Berries and flowers in deep colors like orange, yellow and red are popular for Thanksgiving centerpieces.

Marika Meyer, of Meyer Interiors, in Washington, said, “Look for flowers that are in the autumn palette but might be out of season. I recently saw a beautiful arrangement of French tulips in oranges and reds, but used on a tablescape with gourds, it was a fresh take on a flower arrangement.

Inexpensive flowers are in vogue. “This is a great time of year to use less expensive flowers that are not always highly prized like mums,” said Henry. “At this time of year that it what is in the garden, so those make a lot of sense in Thanksgiving arrangement.”

Consider mixing warm and cool tones, as well. “Color for autumn arrangements were traditionally the rich saturated orange, yellow and reds,” said de Wit. “These colors retain their popularity but are often augmented with deep purples and blues to offer a counterpoint to the warm tones. Perennially popular blooms are hydrangea, roses, sunflowers and dahlia.”