A memorable centerpiece

The key to creating a grand arrangement is to keep it simple

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November 17, 2007|By Joan Morris | Joan Morris,McClatchy-Tribune

When it comes to creating Thanksgiving centerpieces, there seem to be two schools of thought: One, they are too hard to make; and two, they are impossible to make.

People get too caught up in making the perfect centerpiece, says Ria Sim, owner of Twigs Studio in Danville, Calif. Instead, Sim says, they should relax and see what develops.

Sim speaks from experience. The mother of two was running a successful event-planning company when one day she needed a floral arrangement and couldn't find what she wanted. She'd never done flower arranging and says she was familiar with only two types of flowers, roses and carnations. But she was desperate enough to give it a try.

Sim pulled together the look she wanted and discovered she enjoyed the creativity. She started making arrangements for most of the events and was surprised when people came to her wanting to know what florist she was using.

With support from her husband, Sim opened Twigs, which she operates from a home office and studio. And she shares her story with others as an example that you don't have to have formal training to create something pleasing for your table.

Here are her suggestions for making a memorable centerpiece with little fuss or stress.

Sim starts with the container, which dictates what type of flowers, plants and decorations she uses. For table centerpieces, you want something that's not too tall (dinner guests should be able to see each other across the table) and not too large (it will be competing for table space with plates, glasses and food).

Sim recommends investing in a nice vase that will add to the appeal of the centerpiece, not simply hold the flowers. But you also can think outside the vase and do what Sim calls "recycling with style."

"Anything that can hold something can become a vase," Sim says, "just by making it waterproof."

She lines boxes with plastic or encases the supporting base in plastic bags - anything that keeps the water where it belongs. Knowing that you can use almost anything expands the possibilities.

Once you've chosen your centerpiece container, gather all the tools you'll need. The most important, Sim says, is a pair of flower shears that are sharp and clean.

You also may need wire, floral tape, a frog (a device that holds stems in place), picks and flower foam. If you're going to be attaching decorations, you may need a hot glue gun.

Like everything to do with your centerpiece, Sim says, keep it simple. You don't need fancy equipment, just things that you can work with. You can purchase your tools at most craft stores and garden centers.

Color: Thanksgiving's tradition colors are red, yellow and orange, but Sim says you can add other colors to create a pleasing surprise. Add purple or lime green to the traditional color palette for vibrancy, or go in another direction and use shades that aren't Thanksgiving standards.

A Thanksgiving centerpiece doesn't have to scream turkeys and pilgrims.

Texture: The different textures in an arrangement are as important as the colors, Sim says. Many flowers have smooth, soft petals, and an entire arrangement can be beautiful, but by adding different textures with glossy leaves, berries, frilled edges, bark and dried seed pods, you provide visual interest.

Flowers: Sim recommends choosing flowers based on their color and texture, rather than on familiarity or because you have a fondness for a particular flower. Think about how flowers, plants and fruits will look together, or about what you need to complete your vision.

Autumn flowers generally aren't as fragrant as those that thrive in the spring, but Sim says to be cognizant of scent. Some flowers with strong fragrances may be displeasing to your guests or may clash with food aromas.

Decorations: Sim thinks foliage used as a filler shortchanges the arrangement. She'd rather use autumn leaves, small fruits, branches, berries or small dried corn cobs to fill out the display. Don't use decorations to fill in empty spots - use them to enhance the display.

One of the mistakes most people make, Sim says, is thinking they can't find exotic or interesting flowers without a trip to the flower market. But Sim urges would-be flower designers to check out their neighborhood grocery stores and specialty stores.

And don't forget to look in your own yard. The garden provides not only inspiration but a bounty of choices. Just make sure the plants are pest-free.

You can gather the ingredients for your centerpiece a day or two ahead. Instead of putting them in the no doubt already-crowded refrigerator, Sim says they should be kept at room temperature, which will allow buds to open and acclimate to the environment.

Beware of keeping them too close to a heat source, however. And if buds are opening too rapidly, put them in a cooler spot.

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