Thanksgiving is a time when we pause to count our blessings and rejoice in the harvest. For gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts, this is a time when even an ordinary walk through a neighborhood can be filled with delight simply because of the array of colors and the profound changes taking place in nature. I am truly inspired by the colors of autumn and the spirit of Thanksgiving, and so I want to share with you some simple items from my latest book, “Living in the Garden Home,” that you can create using the bounty of the harvest to add to your holiday dinner table.
Cinderella’s centerpiece Items needed:
- 1 cake or pie stand
- 1 pumpkin, called a “fairy-tale pumpkin” or a Musque de Provence (This particular variety is preferred, but could be substituted by a similar squatty variety in a pinch)
- 1 floral foam ring, 6 or 8 inches in diameter (depending on the size of the cake or pie stand you are using)
- 1 floral tray (clear plastic trays that you can place the floral foam into)
- Exacto or utility/craft-type knife (to cut the edges of the trays down)
- 12 peach-colored/terra cotta-colored roses (florist)
- Assorted bunch of fall leaves
- 1 bundle of bittersweet* (available at florist)
- 1 bundle of rose hips* (available at florist)
- 1 bundle of St. John’s Wort/Hypericum berry* (available at florist)
*Note that ideally instead of using florist berries, you would gather something seasonal from the garden
Steps: Soak floral foam ring until saturated. Using utility knife, cut the edges of the plastic tray down to ½” or so. Place floral ring inside plastic tray. Center pumpkin over floral foam ring. Cut roses so that stems will not go through floral foam ring to center, rather stay inside foam to draw up water as needed. Decorate floral foam ring with roses, leaves and berries.
Beeswax candles Items needed:
- Sheets of beeswax (available at craft stores)
- Wicks (available at craft stores)
- Baking sheet
- Kitchen towel
- Wax candle
- Matches or lighter
Steps: Warm beeswax until pliable. You can do this by laying a sheet of wax onto a clean kitchen towel on a metal baking sheet in the sun or in a warm oven (such as 250 degrees). Do not allow wax to melt; just soften the wax.
Cut wicks to about 1” above desired height of candle. Begin rolling pliable wax around wick. For thicker candles, continue to add more wax.
After rolling wax to desired thickness, seal the edge of the candle. One way this can be done is to warm the edge of a metal spatula over an open flame and run the warm metal down the seam of the wax.
Pumpkin place cards Items needed:
- Baby pumpkins for each place setting
- Exacto or craft knife
- Card stock cut to 2” tall x 4” long or business card/place card-size
- Nice writing pen
- Fall leaves
Cut a roughly 3” slit across the top/front of a mini-pumpkin. Write name on place card and slide it into the slit. Rest mini-pumpkin on a fall leaf at each place setting.
A few years ago I came up with an idea to take an ordinary serving tray, some hurricane candles and pile on the bounty of the harvest season to create an elegant centerpiece for my Thanksgiving table. When it was time to put away the pumpkins, gourds and bittersweet, I was struck with the notion that this same simple base of a serving tray and candles could transition into a winter arrangement. With the addition of some potted poinsettias, pine cones and greenery, presto! I had an arrangement that was perfect from Christmas to the New Year. Items needed:
- 1 galvanized metal serving tray or other serving tray
- Plastic trash-bag liners
- 3 pillar candles — for this project we used battery-powered LED lights, which are safe around dried and fresh materials
- 3 hurricane glass candle covers
- 20 or so assorted baby pumpkins
- 20 or so assorted baby gourds
- 3 “sweet baby” pie pumpkins (small and usually in grocery store’s produce area for making pumpkin pie)
- 1 bundle of bittersweet (available from florist)
- Bundle of fall leaves
- Several sheets of sheet moss
- Two blocks of floral foam (the dry kind is fine)
- Knife (to cut floral foam)
Situate the plastic trash-bag liner onto the tray. This is especially important if using a wooden tray. Add the candles and hurricanes. To boost the LED candles (because you will have to reach in to be able to pull them out to turn them on/off), cut floral foam to fit under candles and cover with sheet moss; place hurricanes over. Fill in with sweet baby pumpkins, mini gourds and pumpkins. Accent with fall leaves and bittersweet.
P. Allen Smith is the host of two nationally syndicated television shows and the author of a best-selling series of gardening and lifestyle books including his latest, “Living in the Garden Home.” Learn more about Allen at his website, .