Every year for Spring Break, my family and I travel to my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. It’s a wonderful opportunity to visit New England though we do have to adjust to much cooler temperatures and even the potential for residual snow. My girls, Anna, Julia and Avery, were pleasantly surprised to find a blooming Massachusetts and temperatures in the 60s. We visited Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord (my girls love Little Women) and hiked in New Hampshire.
As you might guess, I am responsible for the flowers and décor for our holiday tables. It’s really interesting for me to have to prep and design flowers when I am out-of-town. I pack up my favorite containers from inventory at the studio and then begin the search for unique floral varieties in the local grocery stores. We have a beautiful collection of small, medium and large white vases, milk jugs and pitchers by Two's Company for sale in front of our studio. I grabbed the samples that we keep in the production space and took a few of our purple, glass bud vases and a few brass containers.
I knew I wanted to work with Hyacinth, Grape Hyacinth, Pansies, Tulips and Daffodils and I planned a color palette with peach, yellow and purple. However, when we began looking for flowers at the Shrewsbury Trader Joe’s, I found that I was going to be a little more limited. (It reminded me how much I appreciate the luxury of working with a wholesaler.) We found Ranunculus in a selection of dark yellow, orange, burnt orange and burgundy and Tulips in every color. I selected a variety of white, yellow and orange, some purple Hyacinth and Dusty Miller.
Using spring flowers from the garden
Heather’s 1790 Colonial has a massive Forsythia hedge in the back and though we forced a little early in the week, it all bloomed in the warm sun just as I started to design. We stopped at a quaint nursery between Lexington and Concord and picked up flats of Pansies ready for outdoor pots and garden. We loved the white variety with the purple fringe and yellow center and decided to use it as our new inspiration for the table. Heather has a flock of nine chickens. She and the girls blew out the yokes and created little tiny vases from the varieties of colorful eggs. They carefully split the Pansies and then replanted them in the empty shells. We put some of them in the small brass vases with moss from the backyard and the rest nestled on a small silver tray.
Heather chose the Vintage Floral Jacquard table linen from Williams Sonoma in grey. She, and her husband, Evan, had recently repainted their historic dining room in a shade of dove grey with a saddle brown mantle. I really like the idea of having nearly a blank canvas to work with so I was pleased that the linen was muted with a hint of soft blue in the weave. Heather has our grandmother's Mikasa dinnerware (white with blue and green flowers) and her own Remembrance china in bone with tiny pastel flowers. We decided to mix the two styles of dinner plates but used the little accent bowls from grandma’s very complete set for the Jello salad.
Yes, Jello salad. Heather still serves Jello salad at every important holiday. This year, we had Watergate Salad, apparently renamed after Kraft introduced the salad in the early 70s during the Watergate hearings. It is a fluffy, light green and pistachio flavored and she served it in a pedestal trifle dish. We also had baked ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus with garlic, escalloped pineapple and dinner rolls.
My youngest daughter, Avery, made place cards for everyone. We needed to be strategic with the seating so that we could give everyone ample room to eat in a dining room with a working fireplace, small doorways and low ceiling. I moved some of the arrangements from the original center table-scape to the sideboard and mantle during dinner so that we had more room for champagne glasses, rolls and butter. With nine at the table, we opted to do the main courses buffet style, leaving more space for elbows and beverages.
I took some notes while I was prepping and arranging to share in our weekly blog. Here are some things to consider when planning a well-appointed table:
1. Consider ordering a wrap from J. Morris Flowers or your own local florist.
We would be happy to order extra flowers for you each week and keep them in our cooler till you are ready to work with them. Our flowers are often flown in and will only be a few days old when arranged for your table. We will prep them if you like and give you some suggestions about arranging them when you stop by.
2. Use unique, seasonal varieties so that you have yet another reason to anticipate the coming seasons.
Again, if you order cut flowers from your local florist they can help you with your floral education by introducing you to the blooms and greens they can get from places like Israel, Japan and Holland. We are really enjoying Spirea, Plumosa, Hellebore and unique Tulip varieties this Spring.
3. Invest in some unique vases.
“It’s all about the vase.” This has been a theme for me this spring. We have all new things in the studio to work with including new mixed metallics, colored glass and the collection of white vases.
4. Use linens that create a blank or muted canvas for your florals.
Good quality tablecloths last forever and can be an important part of your family traditions. You may be surprised when one of your own children connect a memory with your table tapestry.
5. Go for the “wow” factor.
Why not let the flowers make a statement about your own personal style? Use colors that appeal to you and enhance the foods that you choose to make. If your just getting comfortable with designing then join some of our floral arranging classes. In May, we will be teaching the art of hand-tied bouquets, and in June, we are going to talk about planning a summer party table-scape. Check out our classes page for more information.
Here's the link for the table cloth from Williams Sonoma.