Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. With food, family, and friends as its centerpiece, it’s a lower key holiday full of tradition – turkey, football, naps, leftovers, you name it – and while parts of it may change from year to year, there’s always been one thing we can always count on at my family’s Thanksgiving every year – beautiful flowers on the table. My mother, Michelle Peele, is a floral designer that spends most of her days tending to the plants on her property in Alna and designing lovely arrangements for all kinds of occasions, and every year at Thanksgiving, she fills the table with an extra pop of color and cheer.
This year, I asked her to share a few tips on how to create memorable holiday floral arrangements:
1. Use what you have. Michelle is a big fan of using what is available to you during all seasons. Arrangements don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. It’s not uncommon for her to return home – at any point in the year – with a car full of summer wildflowers or a bundle of greenery and branches.
“I love foraging for my leaves, fillers, and unique surprises,” says Michelle. “On the farm in Alna, I find it easy. I choose my installation of plants based on what is useful for the whole year, including late fall. The side of the road is also a great location for the unusual pieces for any arrangement.”
2. Table arrangements should be kept fairly low. According to my mother, 12″ is the maximum guideline for height on a collection of flowers for the table, as you want to be able to see and converse with the people across the table from you.
“We usually serve our big meals as a buffet, so it allows for a focal point to be on the table during the entire meal. I still might place a stick, branch, or a flower that looks untamed,” explains Michelle. “A buffet or mantle is the perfect place for an unquieted piece, loose and full of life!”
3. Use unexpected elements. My mother often lets her creative spirit fly and loves incorporating fruits, veggies, and even the occasional stem of cotton (see above) in her arrangements.
On using these elements of surprise, Michelle says, “I love finding elements that you would never expect to see in an arrangement. From kumquats, plums, and clementines to cotton, kale or artichokes, these freely constructed arrangements always receive the most compliments.”
4. Play with color and texture. This applies, not only to the flowers and greenery used in your arrangements, but also to the containers, votives, or table linens that you use as well.
Michelle explains that “pairing contrasting colors with fun, usual textures will go a long way toward creating something original.”
5. Break the rules. For instance, conventional floral guidelines advise that your tallest branch be one and a half times the height of your vessel, but depending on the environment and your containers, Michelle thinks that this rule can be a fun one to break.
“Rules in design are always great to follow in theory,” advises Michelle, “but in order to keep designing and arranging interesting, you need to be able to exercise artistic license to make changes based on a given situation.”