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Harvest a Fall Arrangement for Thanksgiving Guests
Credit: Jean Allsopp

Yes, you do have time to fuss with flowers, because these are fast and easy. Sure, your mind is focused on cooking the perfect turkey, having clean towels in the bathroom, and not making burned rolls a family tradition. But whoever heard of a feast without flowers? Don't fret. Arranging blooms is easier than you think.

Pick Your Spot
By the time you get all the food on the table, there's often little room for flowers. Instead, select another prominent spot to adorn. A foyer table or sideboard is perfect. Note the style of the furniture. Is it rustic, formal, or ethnic? Keep scale in mind too. Large, open areas call for big arrangements. If there is already a lot going on or space is tight, go small, and choose simple flowers.

Select Your Container
Believe it or not, what you put your flowers in is just as important as which blooms you use. Draw from cherished family pieces first. Grandmother's iced tea pitcher or the ceramic container made by Uncle Bob will work well. Don't discount items that don't hold water, such as sweetgrass baskets, fabric-covered boxes, or even hollowed-out gourds and pumpkins, which can be used to disguise mayonnaise jars or cut-down milk jugs.

Hunt and Gather
A quick step outside will reveal a wealth of materials just waiting to make their debuts. Just open your eyes. "This is your opportunity to capture the feel of the season," says Frances Parker, a garden designer in Beaufort, South Carolina. "Go with your gut feeling of what looks good, and you won't go wrong."

First, look for materials that will create the core of the arrangement. Good choices include fruit tree branches, ornamental grasses, or showy foliage such as coleus that may soon be spoiled by pending frosts. Place these items into the water-filled container.

Next, look for a secondary texture. Mums, grass plumes, or seedpods are perfect. Southern classics such as nandina and chinaberry may be in your own backyard. Simply add these to the container. When arranging branches, such as persimmons, you may not need secondary texture. The attached fruit will do the trick.

Sparkle and Shine
When you are rounding the aisles of your favorite store, pick the accent for your arrangement: a few beautiful blossoms. Nowadays, whether you shop at a discount superstore or the specialty market on the corner, the flower selection is good, and prices are reasonable. When you get home, trim stems, and add the blooms to complete your creation.

Accentuate the Accessory
Good flower arrangements are like great pieces of jewelry for a room: They complement the space and create a mood. Accessorize your arrangement to keep it from looking stiff. You can echo the container you've used with a smaller version, casually place a cluster of berries found in the composition on the table, or even strategically place a framed photo to soften the look.

What the Pros Know

  • Try to stay within a similar color palette.
  • Vary textures and forms to add interest to the arrangement.
  • Place flowers so they each face a different direction for a more natural look.
  • Keep it loose. More material isn't always better.
  • Recut stems at a 45-degree angle prior to arranging. They'll continue to take up water, extending the life of the flowers.

This article is from the November 2005 issue of Southern Living.