Forget the flowers. Everything you need is in your own backyard.
Dining under a tent of stars is a special treat. But whether you're grilling out with the family or savoring chicken salad with friends, there's always the question of how to set the table. Well, you don't have to create a fancy floral centerpiece or buy all new stuff. Try these ideas using things you probably already have.
Leave the flower garden alone, and simply trim a bunch of leaves and grass from your yard. Gather different shapes and shades,
such as fern fronds, palm branches, and holly and magnolia leaves. For a centerpiece, arrange the tallest green pieces in
a cylindrical glass vase, and then place the vase in a tray of wheatgrass.
Arrange white pillar and votive candles around the table. (Place them in glass jars on windy days.) Tuck leaves underneath the candles, or tie grass stems around their centers.
If you love botanical-print plates, here's a neat trick for creating the look for outdoor dining. Place a large leaf between clear glass or plastic plates; give each guest at your table a different leaf just for fun. Layer various shapes of plates, such as a square salad plate on top of a round charger. Here, we topped plates with a clear ice-cream bowl filled with wheatgrass. You could also fill bowls with a small container of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or parsley. What a great take-home gift for guests!
Often, the cutest thing on a table is the tiniest detail, such as a homemade napkin ring or a clever place card. We plucked a few leaves to make creative name cards and wine labels. To write on the leaves, use a white paint pen, acrylic white paint and a small paintbrush, or even correction fluid. Place the painted leaves in place card holders, or tie them on to stemware and decanters with blades of grass. Now, all you have to do is set out the silverware, pop open a bottle of Chardonnay, and you're all set for a fete.
This greenery is super-easy to grow indoors from seeds, but if you prefer shopping to gardening, wheatgrass is available at
nurseries and is typically sold in flats. Pull apart the grass, and use small bunches to decorate your table. You can also
find wheatgrass at pet stores, health food stores, and specialty grocery stores.
This article is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living.