Eye-catching table centre flower arrangements

A bowl of fruit can hardly ever look dull, but with a little imagination it can be made into a really eye-catching decoration for a table, sideboard or buffet, particularly if there is no flower arrangement in the room. Alternatively, flowers and fruit may be combined in one arrangement, perhaps with walnuts and almonds sprayed gold or bronze. Some vegetables are so decorative that they, too, can join in the fun: Globe Artichokes, Broccoli and Corn Cobs for their interesting shapes; Tomatoes, Aubergines, Pimentos and Parsley for their brilliant colours. Particularly decorative fruits, usually confined to serving dishes are worth displaying, include Lemons (wired if necessary), home-grown Strawberries, still on their long stems, and clusters of Redcurrants.

Bunches of Grapes, black or green, and trailing Cherries are now almost a cliche” added to large flower arrangements but they are undeniably handsome. For really outsize groups in the style of the Dutch masters, halved Water Melons and Red Cabbages or whole Pineapples can add a crowning splendour.

Particularly appropriate to add to a bunch of autumn flowers would be a branch or two from a Plum tree with fruit on; or some Lemons among white Narcissi and green leaves in spring. Conversely, foliage plants can be used to transform a bowl of fruit- – small-leaved Ivy trailing down or crowns of Chlorophytum springing out among the fruit, for example. A soaked piece of plastic foam, foil-wrapped, will supply them with water, or any tiny container such as a pill tube.

For a really extravagant effect on a special occasion, a high cone of flowers, nuts and fruit in contrasting shapes (Apples, Bananas, Grapes – even a Garlic), together with evergreens or dried leaves, could be entirely sprayed in gold – spectacular if stood on a shocking-pink cloth. Start with a tall cone of crumpled chicken wire or plastic foam as a base, wedged firmly into a sturdy container which should also be sprayed gold. A more subtle effect could be achieved with a silver spray, and a delicate pink cloth, mauve candles and gauzy ribbons. A silvery sparkle which does not spoil fruit for eating can be achieved by dipping Grapes (or berries) in beaten egg white and then into caster sugar, and leaving to dry.

A Pineapple is in itself a resplendent object, but it can also be the basis of a colourful buffet table decoration. First slice it ready to serve, then reassemble it as if uncut, making sure each slice goes back into its original position. Then, with the help of cocktail sticks and florist’s wires, make a dazzling array of silver and red flowers among the leaves at the top (which might first be sprayed silver), using kitchen foil petals with glace cherry centres. For simpler or more natural effects, build a small still life on a flat wooden platter (such as a cheeseboard), a bamboo mat or a very shallow basket. A few Apples and Oranges, some Nuts, Parsley or Celery tops for foliage and a single Chrysanthemum head – these everyday things can combine into a pretty centrepiece for a table. Alternatively, make a low group of Tomatoes and Lemons, some baby Carrots (well scrubbed), Lady’s Fingers or Courgettes and Radishes with a few yellow Chrysanthemums (concealing their water pot). These fruit and vegetable arrangements are handy in winter when flowers are scarce and expensive. The same materials could also be used in a tall arrangement. Three plates (large, medium and small) can be raised in tiers on which to arrange the vegetables with the help of two food cans in between. Foliage that will trail over the edges and downward is a desirable addition. ‘Cabbage leaf dishes are another natural choice for fruit and vegetable arrangements. Cocktail sticks or skewers are often helpful in mooring fruit or vegetables in place, and cooking oil can be used for polishing Ivy leaves, Walnuts and Courgettes, for example.

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