It’s In The Basket
By Taylor Byrne Dodge
Photos by Taylor Byrne Dodge
Our family celebrates together several times in the spring – Easter, Mother’s Day, birthdays and the occasional graduation – but my tablescapes sometimes become a little stale. In an effort to improve my table decorating skills, I recently took at class at Thompson + Hanson to learn how to make a seasonal living green centerpiece. They are fun and easy to make and have a major wow factor.
Here’s how to do it:
You can use any wicker basket of your liking (take a look in your garage), but cut some plastic (like from a trash bag) to act as a liner. If you have a darling moss-covered basket with a liner, that’s even better – Thompson + Hanson teacher Sharon chose these types of baskets for us in three different sizes.
In each basket, we included:
• a small arrangement using cuttings of herbs, fern and flowers
• a small live fern (3- or 4-inch pot)
• a large live African violet (4-inch pot)
• two small live African violets, potted (1-inch pots)
• a sheet of moss for covering up any plastic edges (available at craft stores) or a bag of sphagnum moss (the kind used on orchids), found in the floral department of most grocery stores
• a small manmade bird’s nest (available at craft stores)
• a few small manmade eggs (available at craft stores)
To make the arrangement of cuttings, trim some florist’s foam with a plastic knife to fit inside a small plastic nursery pot with holes in the bottom, ensuring that it fills the pot and slides in easily. This pot can be between 1 inch and 4 inches in diameter. After cutting and fitting the foam, soak the foam in water so that it retains moisture and can support the cuttings in the arrangement.
For the cuttings, select from your own garden an assortment of grasses, flowers and herbs and cut them at different lengths to add varying height to the arrangement. You’ll want to make sure you have crisp, clean cut on the stems so that they slide easily into the moist foam. For some delicate stems, you may have to use a chopstick or ice pick to create a hole in the foam for your cuttings.
When your arrangement of cuttings is densely arranged, place it in your basket where you think it’ll look best. You may need to trim some of your arrangement or rearrange it if your basket has a handle and the arrangement interferes with it.
Next, take the 4-inch potted fern and place it in the basket. Following the fern, add the largest African violet to the basket. Not a fan of African violets? You could also try a pot of Gerber daisies, tulips, hyacinths or daffodils, an orchid or even potted herbs – whatever is blooming and reminiscent of spring. (We’ve seen ideal basket-fillers at HEB and Trader Joe’s.)
Once you have your largest live flower in place, add the two smaller African violets (or substitutes) to the basket, which now should be filling up. Things might feel a little loose, and that’s okay. This is where your sheet of moss comes in.
Unfold the sheet of moss and tear off handfuls. Pack the moss gently around the potted plants and flower arrangement in the basket. Grab more moss than you think you’ll need both to stabilize the plants and to cover up every inch of plastic from the liner and pots. You may have to pull out the two small potted plants, pack moss around their “holes” and then re-insert them. Ideally your basket ends up looking very lush and nearly overflowing with spring growth.
Finally, if you’d like, find a good spot for the bird’s nest and, using crafting pins, tack it down. (You may also have enough room to simply nestle it in between plants.) For a final Easter touch, hide a few of the artificial eggs within the arrangement and in the nest. A drop or two of glue may be necessary if you’ll be delivering this flower arrangement to a friend.
If you’re not one for ferns and flowers, look for small potted grasses or ivy at your local nursery or perhaps a selection of succulents. Variegated mint and Thai basil would both look beautiful in the basket either as part of the potted flower arrangement or as the filler potted plants.
You can also check out Target, which has cute and inexpensive seasonal décor at the entry of each store. I’ve often seen floral picks and small items like tiny Mason jars, mossy eggs, jute garlands, faux butterflies and tiny birds made of feathers that you could insert into the arrangement if desired.
That’s it. With care, your arrangement will last a few weeks. Make sure that every few days you gently move aside the moss and remove the potted plants, lightly watering them before inserting them back into the basket. The small arrangement of cut flowers and herbs in florist foam will begin to look depressed after a few days. Just replace these with fresh cuttings.
Place the basket in a sunny place so that the plants can continue to thrive until they are ready to be recycled and put in another flower arrangement or potted in a permanent container.
Thompson & Hanson hosts various hands-on classes at both their West U and River Oaks locations, typically $100 per person.