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Seventh Stem floral designer Brooke Snodgrass shares her approach to creating stunning tablescapes using materials from her own garden.

We sat down with Brooke as she talked through her process of designing memorable moments out of living materials, what she looks for when adding new plants to her garden, and how to make the most out of the textures and colors in the Fall and Winter landscape.

Follow Brooke’s approach to create your own unique and beautiful tabletop centerpieces when hosting this holiday season.

1. What is your approach to bringing the outside in when decorating?

This is my favorite way to decorate—something about a fresh-cut flower or green brings so much visual interest to an indoor space. A floral or greenery arrangement is a bit unexpected against the traditional tones and textures typically found indoors and really draws the eye.

“The best plants are those that work for multiple seasons.”

2. What do you look for when purchasing a new plant to use for decorating?

As a floral designer, I have a pretty one-track mind when it comes to choosing plants to go in our garden. It has to be something I can use in an arrangement, a boutonniere, a floral installation… some sort of cut floral design! This could be interesting or hardy foliage, a textural element, a filler or focal point flower—having a variety always comes in handy when designing cut arrangements.

The best plants are those that work for multiple seasons. For instance, Panicle Hydrangeas are long-lasting, multi-use plants that look great from July to November, and the blooms can even be dried to use beyond the growing season.

3. How do you utilize texture and color in your tabletop designs?

I like to design with an airy, natural look, and texture plays a huge part in this. I love incorporating different tones and textures into my designs through variation in color saturation, shape, and size of blooms and texture of foliage.

I love to take an interesting focal point flower and pull the various colors from it to form a palette. For example, a Pansy with hits of warm sepia tones and plums would naturally pair well with lavender and golds, either a more or less saturated variation of the same colors. It’s crazy how many colors can be pulled from one single bloom—Mother Nature is amazing!

“I love to take an interesting focal point flower and pull the various colors from it to form a palette.”

4. What are your top tips and recommendations for a successful (long-lasting, interesting, and beautiful) centerpiece arrangement?

I have learned so much from growing my own flowers to design with! When you cut blooms really matters—where in the bloom cycle a flower is and what time of day it’s cut truly makes a difference in the longevity of a cut bloom. Experimenting with the vase life of cut flowers and greens has been such a fun part of gardening for me. I try to mix in long lasting elements with those that may be shorter lived so that I can stretch out an arrangement for a longer period of time.

When you cut certain blooms really matters—where in the bloom cycle a flower is and what time of day it’s cut truly makes a difference in the longevity of a cut bloom.”

This time of year, incorporating things like grasses and Hydrangeas that look great even after they dry out is a perfect way to extend the use of a centerpiece. Another favorite trick of mine is to incorporate other natural elements like fruit, nuts, pumpkins/squash, or mushrooms into your centerpiece design to add even more interest.

5. How do you work with the seasons when decorating?

I always try to design with the seasons. Even when designing for a wedding or event, if you plan your design around what is blooming locally, you will almost always have a better overall effect using local, lush, in-season flowers and foliage.

There’s nothing quite like the natural movement you can get from a fresh-cut, local bunch. Whether that’s blooming tree branches, Spirea or Tulips in the Spring, Mock Orange, Dogwood, Peonies, or that first flush of Roses in early Summer, or Dahlias, Hydrangeas, and Ornamental Grasses in the late Summer and Fall.

6. What are your favorite plants to use for decoration in November and December?

Grasses, Mums, Rudbeckia, the last of the antique-colored Panicle Hydrangea blooms, Ninebark, Dahlias (if our first frost holds out), and even Snowberry can stay looking nice into November. Grasses are especially fun because you can change their look completely by looping and tying as I’ve done here, or you could use grasses with plumes in a more traditional, upright fashion for your holiday centerpiece.

In December, evergreens like Cedar or Cypress are some of my favorites. I also love using Camellia foliage along with dried grasses and even fully dried Hydrangea.

Plants pictured:

Products pictured:

Come visit one of our local nurseries and garden centers to find the seasonal and year-round plants you need to craft your own elegant plant-based centerpieces.

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