November 22, 2009 in Features

Standout centerpieces

Garden harvests, seasonal colors can make wonderfully decorative and natural centerpieces
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

DeAnne Wilfong finishes assembling a Thanksgiving centerpiece she calls “snow on the pumpkin” at her home last week.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Make your own

Supplies

Containers: Baskets, plates, bowls, carved pumpkins

Pruners, scissors

Floral foam

Wooden skewers, floral picks, floral wire

Candles of varying colors and sizes

Colorful ribbon

Spray paint or clear acrylic spray

Materials from the garden

Leaves, seedpods, ornamental grasses

Pinecones, chestnuts, acorns

Berries: Firethorn, snowberries, American cranberry bush, cotoneaster, kinnikinick, hawthorn

Branches: Corkscrew willow, Red or Yellow Twig dogwood, birch

Vegetables: Pumpkins, gourds, chili peppers, winter squash, ornamental kale

Fruits: Apples, oranges, clementines, pears, crabapples

Herbs: Oregano, sage, lavender, rosemary

Thanksgiving is that special time when we gather with family and friends to share a great meal together.

Making decorative centerpieces with natural materials is a wonderful way to celebrate the harvest from the garden and the colors of the season. You can even turn this into a fun family activity by involving the kids on up to the grandparents.

“This is an easy way to decorate for the season and get outdoors with your family,” said self-described “creative grandma” DeAnne Wilfong of Spokane.

“Imagine each kid’s pleasure in showing off the centerpiece, which will look great long after the turkey has been reduced to a pile of bones.”

When Wilfong makes centerpieces, she uses such containers as baskets, ceramic bowls, canning jars, empty wine bottles and glass dishes. If you don’t have suitable containers, thrift stores are an inexpensive source.

She sets out tools for pruning and trimming the materials that will be placed in the containers and has wooden skewers and floral wire on hand. She selects candles to brighten up her centerpieces and often uses spray paint and clear acrylic spray to dress up some of the items.

When it comes to gathering materials for centerpieces, most of them are staring us in the face.

“My grandma taught me to ‘shop’ in our house, yard and garden for all the materials I would need,” Wilfong said.

“You don’t have to spend a fortune on a lovely centerpiece because many common items found in your home, yard, garden or along the roadside will make stunning centerpieces.”

Gather up bright fall leaves, although even brown ones make a nice foundation for a centerpiece.

“To preserve leaves,” Wilfong said, “tuck them between two sheets of wax paper and iron them just long enough to transfer wax from the paper to the front and back of the leaves. They will last for years.”

Look for materials that will add color. The branches of firethorn, American cranberry bush, cotoneaster, kinnikinick and hawthorn are covered with showy red berries right now. Ornamental grasses add earthy tones to arrangements and make gentle swishing sounds when they move.

Branches trimmed from Red or Yellow Twig dogwood and Corkscrew willow will add some interest. Leaves and branches from plants like boxwood, holly, ferns, evergreen trees and shrubs will provide a fresh look. Sprigs of white snowberries can be used as bright accent.

Vegetables like gourds, winter squash, small pumpkins and colorful chili peppers can either come from your garden harvest or be picked up at the grocery store. Small artichokes also make stunning additions to arrangements.

Fresh herbs, such as sage, rosemary and lavender, add earthy scents. For more color, try adding small pots of mums, ivy, kalanchoe, gerbera daisies or cyclamen or use fresh-cut or dried flowers.

Fruits like apples, clementines or pears make attractive additions to centerpieces. Even dehydrated slices of oranges or apples will give your centerpiece a homey touch.

Marbles, dried corn kernels, coffee beans, unshelled nuts, cranberries, chestnuts or pebbles can be used to fill containers.

Once you have an assortment of materials, it’s time to get creative.

“As you look at what you have foraged, remember that you should have a thriller, a filler and a spiller,” Wilfong said.

Thrillers are the focal point of the arrangement. They might be in your accent color or perhaps they have a lot of visual interest. Fillers are the materials that fill in the gaps around the thrillers.

Spillers can be cascading materials like leafy branches or a few berries, greens or rocks that surround the arrangement. A spiller can also be as simple as a table runner placed underneath the container.

Wilfong suggests keeping centerpieces under 12 inches in diameter to avoid overwhelming the table setting.

Using floral foam in the bottom of a container makes it easy to insert branches and other materials with solid stems. Use wooden skewers or floral picks and floral wire to wrap items that don’t have stems or to raise their height within the arrangement.

If you include foliage, mist it daily to keep the foliage fresh.

Wilfong said it won’t take much effort or expense to create a stunning holiday centerpiece, adding that she never grows tired of the creative process for making them.

“I love doing this,” she said. “This is me.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at inthegarden@live.com.


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