While down in my basement trying to prepare for Christmas (but of course getting sidetracked in that rabbit warren of memories), I came across an old article, circa 2002, where I was suggesting table designs incorporating geographical influences. These seem as relevant now, as they were then….so I’ve decided to share with you.
Because we don’t all enjoy a holiday-card-worthy backdrop of glistening snow and evergreens, these four different tables, are based on the real, wonderful regions of this country. Despite our world getting smaller and smaller, we can still delight in our regional differences, and even more so, in borrowing from other’s traditions, and changing things up a little for the holidays!
I’m preparing for a Charleston Christmas, but will be going mainly with a mix of the Eastern and Southern themes (as defined below), interspersed with some CT and the Midwest, because you know I’m faithful to my roots! I will of course share some pictures after the big day.
Wishing you all peace and love in the lead up to the 25th,
Above: a close up of the Eastern fruit and flowers
An Eastern Christmas to me can be a more formal occasion, with cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York having their history of entertaining more closely tied to Europe, rather than the rugged frontier further west. My table for the buffet in Charleston will be red, gold and silver with carnations, roses and red fruits (from Trader Joe’s of course!) I have used fruit forever in my table-scapes, first inspired from 17th c. Dutch flower paintings and an old book from Colonial Williamsburg.
Carnations have also been a Christmas staple for me since I featured them in my first book A Passion for Flowers, published in 1997. As an aside: the beautiful carnation had been much maligned in America as a cheap flower. After living in France I learned to love this beautiful, clove scented bloom. When I returned to the States I decided to campaign on behalf of this flower, starting with my first book. Happy to see that 20 years later it no longer has the stigma it did have.
Elements : red grapes, Red Delicious apples, red plums, floral clay, red roses and mini carnations, string.
How To : Pile fruit, in containers of your choice, and hold together with floral clay – draping the grapes over the sides of the container is a nice touch. Make small nosegays out of red spray roses and mini carnations (I tie the nosegays with string to hold together.)
Above: a photo from my first book 20 years ago celebrating carnations. As I have always said, “There are no bad flowers, only people who make bad arrangements.”
Above: a photo of a detail of the table
Inspired by snow and pine forests, this northern setting is affordable and east to make. I love the scent of pine in the house at Christmas!
Elements : Seckel pears, grapes, apples, crabapples, limes, pinecones, wooden or metal picks for pinecones, evergreen boughs, Oasis, floral clay, floral tape, white spray snow.
How To : Spray the fruit with a heavy coat of white snow. Spray a lighter coating of snow, on the evergreen boughs and pinecones. Put a chunk of Oasis into a compote and affix with floral tape and clay as necessary to secure to bowl. Arrange sprayed greens around perimeter of compote and pile fruits in center, using floral clay to anchor them. Put metal or wooden picks in pinecones and affix them to Oasis core, interspersing them throughout centerpiece.
Above : a close up of the table – the menu cards and place cards carry on the pineapple motif
The pineapple, sourced in the west, (think Hawaii, California and the islands) is a symbolic sign of hospitality all over the States and takes one away from the traditional red and green.
Elements : Boxwood, Oasis, large and miniature pineapples, dried sheet moss, dowels or pencils, decorative baskets, plastic liners for baskets, scissors.
How To : Line baskets with moss and put a plastic liner inside each one. Fill liner with a piece of Oasis that has been soaked in water. Cut sprigs of Boxwood and stick them into Oasis, creating a topiary form. Clip to shape. Insert a wooden dowel or skewer into bottom of each pineapple and then push them into Oasis.
I have made these boxwood topiaries for years and years, and now you can buy the fake ones everywhere. As they are time consuming to make you could buy the fake ones and glue gun a pineapple to the top.
Below: one of my water colors was inspired by both the pineapple and oranges shaped into a bowl combing the Southern and Western table-scapes. Constant themes and reinterpretations are fun see how things repeat them selves over and over in one’s work.
Above: a detail of table with a topiary motif in a Versailles box on the menu card
A warmer, Southern climate is reflected in topiaries of kumquats, lemons and limes. A fresh setting that works equally well in or outdoors.
Elements : Kumquats, lemons and lemon leaves, limes, dried sheet moss, spray adhesive, glue, styrofoam balls, floral wire, straight branches.
How To : Spray styrofoam balls with adhesive and cover with moss (the reason I do this is so you won’t see the white or green styrofoam between the kumquats.) Poke a hole in each ball, push in a branch that resembles the trunk of the topiary and glue gun to stabilize (the branch is about 1 inch in diameter and straight). Insert wire into kumquats to hold them while the glue drys. Affix kumquats to ball and add in lemon leaves for an accent. Anchor topiaries in smaller moss-covered styrofoam ball and place in cachepots. Follow similar procedure for a centerpiece of stacked limes and lemons.