Most of what I know about hosting a family gathering or party I learned from my mom, who learned from my grandmother. Sure, there are tips and tricks from Martha Stewart, Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and more recently the blogs I read thrown in, but the way I learn best (as most of us do) is through experience. In addition to cooking, my mother taught me how to arrange flowers. Now, I'm not nearly as good at is as she is, but I've found I'm pretty good at taking $25 of flowers from the supermarket and making it look like much, much more.
So, on Tuesday I went to Stop and Shop and picked up a bunch of bunches of their "3 for $12" flowers. The selection of flowers in fall colors was largely limited to mums which aren't a favorite of mine, but they do say "fall". I bought 1 bunch of big orange mums, i bunch of little yellow button mums, and some medium-sized red mums. In addition, I picked up a bunch of red hypericum berries, some yellow alstromeria (Peruvian lillies), and a bunch of yellow carnations (one of my absolute least favorite flowers). I also bought 2 blocks of oasis floral foam. The grand total of my purchase: $29.00. The flowers don't look very impressive when popped into a vase for storage (I cut the ends off each one and places them in a vase with floral preservative). But they will look good in the finished arrangements.The key to many flower arrangements is having lots of greens. The greens you find at the supermarket are extremely disappointing, and even at a florist they can be pretty disappointing, but I have a secret place to get greens--my backyard! Even in November there are still lots of green leaves--and not just pines! I took my pruners and went for a walk around the yard where I cut leafy branches off of my rhododendron, azalea, forsythia, and euonymous. I also cut some bare branches off of other bushes, some budding branches from the dogwood tree, a bunch of the spiky leaves from my summer container gardens, and a ton of vinca leaves that grows under my dogwood tree. Armed with the greens, I was ready to start my flower arrangements.
The first step is to soak the floral foam in a big pot of water so it's fully saturated. Then, select containers. I selected a white footed salad bowl from Williams Sonoma that my sister-in-law had given to me. It's pretty low, and it's elliptical shape is great for a centerpiece. I wasn't sure what to use for the 2nd container, but I decided on a basket that my friend Wendy had packaged my shower gift in. I found a bowl that fit into the basket just perfectly so it could hold water. Once the floral foam was saturated, I cut it to fit into the bowl and basket. I kept most of it in 2 big blocks, but cut a little off the ends and wedged it into the empty spots in my bowls.
Now comes the trick, cover the entire block of foam with greens before you place any flowers. I started by putting rhododendron leaves all around the edge.Then I added in some azalea, also near the edges, and filled most of the top with vinca. I added some other leaves here and there for interest and color (the azalea was a pretty reddish color while the forsythia was a chartreuse green).Once the whole block of foam was covered with greens, I added my biggest flowers to anchor the arrangement. I put 3 big mums in an arch across the top of the white bowl, and a big mum on either side of the basket. Next I filled in with all of the other flowers, cutting then to length as I went and re-cutting them if they ended up being too tall. I tried to use half of the flowers in each arrangement.
Once all of the flowers were in, I went back and filled any gaps with remaining leaves. As the final touch, I added some spiky branches and grasses.
Here are the 2 final products:
And here they are on the Thanksgiving tables:I was pretty impressed with my centerpieces. They weren't professional, but I think they look pretty good, especially for the grand total of $29.00 that I spent!