Special Floral Arrangements for the Holidays
Dressed up for the holidays, florals are a vibrant element of décor.
Photography by John W. Hession
Even though our gardens have been put to bed, we are not limited in our choices of flowers to decorate the holiday table-fresh flowers are flown in daily from around the world. "We have access to almost any kind of flower at any time of the year," says Rick Talbot of Cobblestone Design Company in Concord.
Whatever the season, flowers have the power to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, making your home a welcome sanctuary from the cold.
Kathie Colella of Jardinière Flowers in Portsmouth calls Thanksgiving her favorite American holiday. "After 9/11, as we mourned with the rest of the country, most retail business just stopped. It was such a sad time for us all; I wondered if we would ever get our souls back," she says. "Then at Thanksgiving, our phones rang off the hook. It was encouraging to see that people wanted to celebrate being together with the people who matter most to them."
For her, Jardinière isn't just a business but a family affair: husband Vinny does all the flower purchasing. Her two daughters, Sara and Caroline, have grown up in the store, which has been voted the Seacoast-area's number-one florist by Best of the Best sixteen years in a row.
Even the simplest table setting can be brought to life with flowers. "Along with the flowers, we like to put something a little surprising in there, like some deep-green anthuriums, seasonal berries or an unusually colored orchid," Colella says. "For this feast of plenty, I like to use special accents in my arrangements, things like succulents, baby eggplants, asparagus, miniature artichokes or figs. We also have wired silk ribbon that looks just like pheasant feathers."
Reds and burgundies add a dramatic richness, and different herb varieties offer interesting green textures, contrasting nicely with the darker tones. "Since this is a daytime holiday, I can use deeper colors," Colella says.
If your centerpiece is going to remain on the table during the meal, you may want to keep it low so guests can converse over it and easily pass the gravy. "Your arrangements should be a part of this feast for the eyes. On a large table, you can have fruit, flowers and candles that run the length of the table, or make smaller repetitive arrangements. If there isn't any room on the table for flowers, they can be placed on the serving table or on a mantelpiece," Colella says.
Express your own taste with a centerpiece that picks up a color from your dishes, glassware, tablecloth, napkins or even your wallpaper. "We like to tie the arrangement to the character of the room," she says. "For an historic South End home, we would design something less ornate, perhaps using the customer's antique container or one of our silver- plate tureens, and use more vegetables and herbs. For a large room with high ceilings, we would try to reflect that feeling of opulence and abundance by using an antique Havilland or cranberry glass bowl with some really tall candles."
Color can create a mood and set the tone, while candles and flowers create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
For Christmas why not break out of the traditional red and green, and go for some designer looks? Cobblestone Design's Talbot likes to use silver and platinum, which has a gold undertone and is less reflective than silver, or silver and aqua. "Silver is more poplar than gold right now," Talbot says, "but I can gear the arrangements to match anyone's décor. They can bring in paint samples, fabric swatches or wallpaper samples. We'll pick up on colors in sofas, carpeting and tableware, and create arrangements that complement the room perfectly."
He considers holiday florals to be an important element of home décor. Talbot and his staff create more than thirty vignettes at Christmastime to display different color schemes and showcase non-traditional decorating ideas, along with some tried and true themes. Customers can even hire Cobblestone Design to do all their holiday decorating.
"For decorations that need to last from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, we'll use a lot of permanent botanicals-life-like artificials and dried products," Talbot says. "Fresh flowers are best for parties or that special dinner."
Talbot recommends keeping fresh flowers in a cool location and changing the water daily to make the flowers last longer. "For the greatest wow factor, place a large arrangement in an entryway where it is the first thing guests see. It will set the tone for the rest of the décor," Talbot says.
Cobblestone has been voted the best florist in the Concord area by the Concord Monitor three years in a row for the store's wide range of floral products and superb customer service; Cobblestone also ranks in Teleflora's Top 1,000 Florists nationwide.