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How to deck your tablescapes this holiday season

Don’t even think about reaching for those poinsettias.

We all want that perfect centerpiece to set the scene when we're entertaining during the holidays, but how can you wow guests without dropping major cash at the fancy florist? Floral designer and founder of American Schools of Flower Design, Michael Gaffney, gives us a crash course.

Get inspired

"Page through magazines looking for a style you like. 'Copy, copy, copy' is my motto. Arrangements in magazines are by designers who know the looks; those are the looks that everybody admires. Sometimes if you just pick it apart, you'll figure it out."

The vessel is key

"Avoid wicker baskets -- in other words, choose the right container. Go out on a limb and use something modern, such as concrete or metal."

Think beyond poinsettia

"Use flowers that you normally don't see. It doesn't have to be poinsettias and white mums, it can be hydrangeas, kale or white stock -- which is actually a spring flower, but with pine and cedar it looks beautiful. Use lots of branches -- not only the pines and cedars, but dark woods and curly willows can be incorporated into really modern arrangements."

Easy tricks

"Take lots of one type of flower and collar it with different materials. Take four bunches of white stock and collar with magnolia leaves, then collar it with another material like pine -- very chic, very high-end looking. I also like ornaments where you stick a [branch] in it and you use them as flowers in your design."

Preserving your work

"Designers put bleach in the water. A couple of drops of bleach in an average size vase stops the bacteria from destroying the drinking mechanisms.

Also, submerge your flowers underwater for a half hour to 45 minutes -- they'll hydrate through the surface. Use a product called Crowning Glory, which is a wax sealant that keeps them from dehydrating. If you don't have that, just spray them with water daily. Flowers are all about water."

Source the best blooms

"Start knowing your source, whether it's your grocery store, florist or wholesale market. When you feel flowers, they should feel almost plastic -- which means they're just plump with water."

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