How to set a head-turning table this season? Create one of these stunning (and surprisingly foolproof) arrangements from top floral designers, and guests will never know you made it yourself
“Centrepieces are the place to splurge,” says Bruno Duarte of Fresh Floral Creations in Toronto, who created this fetchingly unconventional take on the traditional holiday tabletopper. In it, floral clusters are arranged in metallic orange ornaments creatively reimagined as vases, providing a dramatic backdrop for bright blooms and greenery.
To replicate this arrangement at home, assemble several monochromatic plastic holiday balls in a variety of sizes and cut a small hole around each ball’s hook.
Glue the balls together in groupings that suit your table setting – think seven to eight balls for a large grouping, four for a medium-sized grouping and three for a small grouping. “There’s no right or wrong way of doing it,” Duarte says and explains that gluing the ornaments together not only creates a sculptural effect but also prevents the balls from rolling around your table.
Using a funnel, fill each of the balls with water almost to the top, since rewatering may prove tricky once the flowers are in place.
Next, add the blooms, making one large ball the focal point of the overall arrangement, adorning it with two or three stems of amaryllis in classic holiday red.
To the smaller balls, add a purple orchid or green trick carnation. Accentuate the smaller groupings with chinaberry or green skimmia, trimming the stems so that the blooms reach just over the edge of the ball.
For a touch of height, add a tight bunch of long, inverted pine needles to the balls containing orchids for a centrepiece as contemporary as it is traditional.
What to buy (for a large 7-bulb cluster): amaryllis, 3 blooms; purple orchids, 5 blooms; green trick carnations, 2 to 4 blooms; chinaberry, 1 sprig; green skimmia, 4 to 5 sprigs; pine needles, 1 to 2 bunches.
Eclectique plate, $137 for a set of four, Riedel Vinum Bordeaux glass, $73 for a set of two and Dante flatware, $101 for a set of five at Williams-Sonoma (www.williamssonoma.com). Marimekko Lumimarja tablecloth, from $115 at EQ3 (www.eq3.com).
Merry and white
When it comes to a holiday centrepiece, the look favoured by Rosemary Little Jeffares of Quince Flowers in Toronto is crisp and elegant. Those preferences are amply at play in her classic, easy-to-assemble arrangement shown here, which puts showstopping white amaryllis at the fore. “There’s so much beauty in a great big bloom,” she explains.
To create this impressive three-piece arrangement, start with three six-by-six-inch tank vases with straight sides. “Most arrangements get delivered in this type of vase,” says Jeffares, “so people tend to have them kicking around.”
Cut six inches off the bottom of the stems of 15 white amaryllis blooms and set the slender, hollow stems aside. Then take the blooms and cut the remaining stems to at least six inches.
Next, fill each vase with the hollow stems standing on end and add water to just below the vase’s edge. Using five amaryllis per vase, insert the blooms between the hollow stems toward the centre of the vase.
Next, cut 12 hydrangea stems to five inches and tuck three or four per vase into the hollow stems surrounding the amaryllis blooms. “The hollow stems function as the armature that you can pop the stems of the flowers into,” Jeffares explains. “They keep everything in place while creating texture.”
Once the hydrangeas are in place, cut the cedar sprays to seven– or eight-inch lengths, remove the foliage from the last four inches and tuck the branches into the hollow stems, using four cedar stems per vase.
Finish off with a few sprigs of berzelia berries, a deft seasonal touch that won’t tip the Christmas scales the way traditional red berries do. “White and green say holiday,”
Jeffares explains, “but can also do double duty if the arrangement lasts until your New Year’s celebrations.” If you water daily, she adds, the odds are good that it will.
What to buy: amaryllis, 15 blooms; hydrangea, 9 to 12 stems; cedar, 12 sprays; berzelia berries, 6 to 8 sprigs.
Swell serving plate, $99 for a set of 16 at EQ3. Kenaf table runner, $64 at Pottery Barn (in-store only. For locations, see www.potterybarn.com). Marimekko Siirtolapuutarha mug, $22, plate, $27, bowl, $52 and Ames flatware, $80 for a set of 20 at EQ3. Napkins, photographer’s own.
If you think you know carnations, Laura Tarbat of Poppies in Toronto’s west end may radically challenge your opinion.
An unusual and highly festive bright green variety called green bulb dianthus, also known as moss ball carnations, are the textural anchor in this long-lasting arrangement that works well in a variety of vase shapes and sizes. (While Tarbat created a compact look here, these flowers will bulk up nicely in a taller vase, too.) Beyond the carnations, four additional elements are all it takes to create a centrepiece that puts a modern spin on the natural look, as Tarbat describes it, assuring that this arrangement can easily be pulled together by even the most inexperienced greenthumb.
To create the centrepiece, wrap the interior of a glass vase with leaf ribbon, a synthetic material that evokes the texture and colour of a large leaf – a tool commonly used by professional florists and a favourite in Tarbat’s arsenal.
Next, cut a piece of floral foam to the size of the vase and set it inside, ensuring the foam sits just below the top of the vase and is totally covered by the leaf ribbon. (Foam is a boon for unpractised flower-arrangers, Tarbat says, because it holds up the blooms while you experiment with placement.) Fill the vase with water to the top of the foam.
The first flowers to place are the grassy, almost feathery-looking green bulb dianthus.
Add a few stems of white ranunculus (“It looks delicate but is actually very long-lasting,” Tarbat says) and sprigs of choisya, a vivid green leaf that will pop against the white blooms.
To finish, insert two or three white bonsai sticks and a moss-covered lotus pod into the grouping – a refreshing update to the holiday fail-safe, the pine cone.
What to buy: green bulb dianthus, 4 to 5 stems; ranunculus, 3 to 4 stems; white bonsai, 2 to 3 sticks; choisya leaf, 3 to 4 clusters; lotus pod, 1 pod; leaf ribbon, 1 package; floral foam, Enough to fill the vase.
Dorset red-wine glass, $85, Pillivuyt Queen Anne plate, $159 for a set of five, Golden Toile tablecloth, $147 and Alton flatware, $175 for a set of 5 at Williams-Sonoma (www.williams-sonoma.com).