In many parts of the country, there are traditional ways to bring seasonal cuttings from the yard to the table, for a festive and local décor. There is no reason to be limited to just flowers. Long after the flowers die, there still are colorful and textural cuttings that can create a far more interesting look than flowers purchased at the store. Autumn leaves, for example, make a great centerpiece in colder climates, as do pine boughs and pine cones.
On Anna Maria Island, we have even more options, year round. We were reminded of this at Christmas dinner, by the way our hostess had added great beauty to the table and other parts of the house with greenery, berries and flowers entirely grown in the yard. Many of the plants she used were familiar, but not things most people would think of for house decoration. Most striking were the gold berries of the variegated schefflera, which formed the centerpiece for our table, along with areca palm leaves laid directly on the table cloth for a beautiful tropical look that still said “Christmas.”
Blooming firecracker plant cuttings in a glass vase of water also added an enchanting and delicate red and green focal point in the living room. Tiny Christmas lights strung on a potted palm were just as appealing as they would have been on a more traditional tree.
Although they are cursed as being exotic, invasive plants, Brazilian peppers are covered with red berries at Christmas time on Anna Maria Island, and if you happen to have any in the neighborhood, they make beautiful, large arrangements that have the same look as holly. Until I learned this plant was on the list of those that should be eradicated, I used to feel guilty about clipping branches from plants along the road. Now I tell myself I’m performing a public service by cutting away part of a plant that can overtake native species such as mangroves.
Magnolia leaves have long been used in the South during the holidays as a very elegant decoration. Some people like to spray them with gold or silver metallic paint for a very elegant look. There are plenty of magnolia trees on Anna Maria Island, and in nearby Bradenton , as well.
While all these examples are of bringing something from the garden to the table, there are times we can go in the opposite direction. For example, islanders can enjoy new, perfect poinsettias as table decorations at Christmas, and then, after the holiday, move the plants outside, planting them in the garden, where they will survive with very little attention. Of course they tend to become leggy, but they can be pruned. And sometimes they look interesting when allowed to grow more naturally, and larger.
Florida living means there is little distinction between indoors and out, and this can apply to what’s decorating our tables, too.