Holiday Centerpieces


Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with food, fun and family, and decorating your home can be as simple or as complex as your imagination. 

The holidays fill dining room tables with extraordinary and memorable food so why not match spread with an exciting, creative and incredible centerpiece? Designers from Green Oak Florist, The Prickly Hippie and Gina Diamond’s Flower Shop offered a few tips, ideas and out-of-the-box thinking to make your centerpiece the most creative this holiday season.

“First, we ask if they want fresh (flowers) or silk,” said Billy Ray Sign, lead designer and manager at Green Oak Florist. “If it’s a sit-down dinner, it will be long and low. But if it’s a buffet, we make it tall so it’s over the food. With seasonal flowers and a seasonal direction.”

It helps if you have your own container to create the centerpiece in, Sign said.

“That helps because they have what they like on their table or buffet,” he said.

He also suggests creating a “tablescape” by adding candles or adding “fresh greenery to silk greenery to make it look more real. You also see a lot of people whose homes are more neutral with whites or grays want to bring more color in with their tablescapes.”

Jenni Sivils, owner and cake and floral designer at the Prickly Hippie in Ridgeland, enjoys incorporating edible elements into centerpiece creations. 

“We do both floral and edible centerpieces. We specialize in the focal point of a party which is cakes,” Sivils said. “But we make them ‘pretty out there so they can be a centerpiece and add floral pieces. We also make just floral centerpieces for weddings or parties or just for people who like to look at flowers at their house.”

When focusing on Thanksgiving, Sivils asks customers for a bit of information.

“We need a date and what the style is — for Thanksgiving,” she said. “We work with a lot of dried flowers because they can be kept and used throughout the holidays. How big is the table and how many people will be seated? I appreciate customers who say they trust my style and I go for it.”

Sivils said a flower shortage can sometimes limit the availability of what a customer wants but offers creative challenges for designers to fill the gap. 

“It’s nice when customers trust their florist to create something that fits what they want,” she said.

In working with edible elements, Sivils said, “That’s my jam and I can go out pretty creatively. I love to make a cake that’s a focal point and then match the colors of the cake or the flavor of the cake with the theme of the flowers as well.”

The Prickly Hippie creates special flavored creations to add to the centerpiece such as Pop Tart-inspired “Peace Tarts” handmade by Sivils’ mother each day. They have a caramel apple pecan and a pumpkin spiced apple.

“It’s very Thanksgiving-ish when your mother is in the kitchen slaving over the cooking,” she said, with a laugh.

Christmas centerpieces tend to be more colorful and Sivils enjoys adding a lot of pine and different types of berries.

“I’ve always been someone who is drawn to classic Christmas but a little bit interesting,” Sivils said. “I like to use the dark reds instead of the bright reds. And I like to go dark with some emeralds instead of a bright, bright red rose. It’s also interesting to do a pastel Christmas where you do really soft colors and focus on snowflakes. There’s a lot of different directions to take.”

Gina Diamond has been creating centerpieces for decades at Gina Diamond’s Flower Company in Madison. She even teaches workshops on the subject and she is overloaded with students, she said.

“We get ideas like is it formal or casual occasion?” Diamond said of the process. “What kind of table? How many people will be sitting at it? And that determines lengthwise what works well with it. Then we talk about colors and maybe the person brings their plates in and we coordinate.”

Diamond free workshops cover a wide variety of decorations including handmade arrangements of seasonal flowers, table settings and other décor ideas.

“A lot of people bring their containers in or ask us to find something here in the store for it,” Diamond said.

Diamond also works within budget constraints to get the most creative centerpiece personalized for the occasion. 

“In December, we use a lot of evergreens,” she said. “And we’ll incorporate a lot of sparkly pieces. You can get painted curly willow. We also have a large supply of plants that are specific to Christmas like poinsettias, Narcissus, Ivy tree forms and Christmas cactus that we can make as a centerpiece. A poinsettia can be a centerpiece because it’s a plant and flower. The Narcissus can be a centerpiece as well. Mostly it’s the Christmas greenery and your colors and you might work in some pine cones.”

For Thanksgiving, Diamond uses a cornucopia. 

“We might work in feathers — pheasant feathers — and work in some bittersweet that you only get in the fall,” Diamond said. 

Up for any challenge, Diamond has seen plenty of them.

“One time at Christmas we had a candy theme, and we were to design a centerpiece working in these large pieces of candy worked in. Like a sugarplum. That was quite a challenge,” she said.

The designers advise that if you are doing it yourself to get creative with your holiday centerpiece. Use plants, flowers and don’t forget edible pieces to create a lasting holiday memory and tradition.