Christine Hoffman is trimming some branches in her Grand Avenue shop, Foxglove Market. “Most of this I found right out back of the building,” she laughs, twisting a gnarly vine into, then around, a small vase. She then adds a burst of fall foliage—reds and oranges, tucked between the browns and greys of some grainy husks. In mere minutes, a deft and eye-catching centerpiece has come to life, made from the dead, discarded things most of us are more likely to send to the city dump.
For the last two-and-a-half years, Hoffman has specialized in sourcing chemical-free flowers, both fresh and dried, from local producers. She sells them by the stem, in ready-made bouquets, or special-ordered arrangements. “Local flowers have a lower social and environmental impact,” she explains. “I believe that working within the season helps us appreciate what’s going on in the natural world.”
Her advice for sprucing up your winter gatherings: a foraged centerpiece. Grab some foliage before the snow falls, dry out whatever is left over from your backyard harvests, and create a unique design for your holiday table.
“Any sort of fall leaves are great,” says Hoffman (below). “Anything viney—grapevines are nice. Hops or bittersweet. The great thing about this time of year for foraged centerpieces is that anyone with a garden will have all sorts of seed pods. It’s usually just a matter of what’s left in the garden.”
You can call up any local grower and ask them what they have left over, but it’s much easier to start closer to home. “Always forage mindfully,” Hoffman advises. “Your own yard is a great place to start, otherwise stick to public places, always leave enough so that the plant can keep growing, and, in lieu of foraging, source from local farmers.”
Suggestions for creating a foraged centerpiece:
- Start with some kind of vine at the base of the arrangement. It will help frame the rest of the branches.
- Try to vary the texture and density of the items. Seed pods and grain husks are perfect to create some visual distinction between the branches and leaves you’re most likely to find.
- Be aware of the negative space in a centerpiece. Don’t make it too dense. Leave some air.
- Trim your evergreens—pine boughs have a strong visual distinction against dried foliage.
- Don’t worry about symmetry.
- Look beyond branches and leaves. Birch bark, pinecones, and moss are all terrific for unexpected elements on your holiday table.
- And voila: