Centerpieces for Thanksgiving, DIY style

Money-saving tricks for your table.

While a perfectly roasted turkey is the undisputed star of the Thanksgiving Day show, getting the right atmosphere is also a must.

It can be tough to create an elegant setting, especially if you’ve blown your budget on food and wine. We asked local experts for tips on how you can create beautiful centerpieces for the Thanksgiving table for less.

1. Choose your container. Just about anything can function as a container for a floral arrangement. It all depends on the atmosphere you’re going for. For traditionalists, “the most popular container style for Thanksgiving is a cornucopia, and the second most popular is the traditional wicker basket,” said Barb Williams, a floral designer with Franklin Florist and Gifts. Low-cost wicker baskets and cornucopias are widely available in craft and hobby stores.

If you’re looking for the latest trend, metallic colors like bronze, pewter and burnished gold are popular this year. Another hot trend is heirloom containers — a very affordable option. “It gives people something to talk about around the table,” said Beth Mills, a floral designer at the Flowerman in Centerville. Heirloom containers can include any type of antique or family item from milk pitchers to porcelain vases.

2. Find your flowers. Seasonal flowers are generally the most affordable choice for arrangements. Most of flower selection is personal taste, but Mills recommended trying to match the table settings. She also said, “A brighter, vivid color like hot pink will enhance the other colors … it’s a little pop of color, a little surprise.” For example, if you’re using autumn tones, don’t be afraid to add a splash of a brighter hue.

Pay attention to the size of the flowers you use. Williams said, “Use a flower with line like snapdragon or larkspur, a focal flower that typically has more size to it, like sunflower or gerbera daisy, and some fill flowers like chrysanthemums and carnations. Finish with accent flower, which is similar to a fill flower.” She recommended seasonal accent flowers like golden asters. Be sure to accent your arrangement with greenery — try lemon leaf, myrtle or huckleberry to finish things off.

3. Prepare your supplies. If you’re putting your flowers directly into a vase, Mills advised, “You need to have lukewarm water. Cut the stems at an angle, don’t put greenery under the water line — this keeps it from getting funky.” You should also be sure to add flower food that’s formulated specifically for your flowers.

If you want a lower, longer arrangement instead of a traditional tall vase, you’ll need to use an oasis, a heavy sponge that gives food and water to the flowers. “You definitely want to soak the oasis in a floral vitamin and mineral solution,” Williams said. Be sure to allow adequate soaking time and cut your flowers to at least an inch and a half before inserting them into the oasis.

4. Create the arrangement. If you’re using an oasis, start with your chosen greens to create a framework for your design, then add the largest flowers second. Next, add your accent flowers and fill in any gaps. If you need a template, try searching for photos of similar arrangements online.

To finish it off, oasis arrangements lend themselves to candles well or you could go seasonal. “People are using small pumpkins … you can get little bags of pumpkins and gourds,” Mills said.

5. Keep it fresh. Unless you’re capable of magic (or you aren’t cooking), you’re probably not going to put together your centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. You’ll need it to stay fresh for a couple of days, so be sure to think ahead. “You can take the flowers out and wash the vase,” if the water starts to look murky, Mills said.

Mills also suggested choosing certain flowers for their longevity and durability in hot, crowded rooms. “We usually always have roses, daisies, cushion mums, spider mums — things that will last the longest,” she said. “You can get at least a week out of roses.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in

The Kid Whisperer: When you disagree with your kids’ parenting style

Dear Kid Whisperer, I am a grandparent to three granddaughters who have parents that try, but don’t like to say “no” to their children. They want my husband and me to be on board with that philosophy as well. As former educators, we cannot with a clear conscience agree. We are finding it harder to spend time with our grandkids. Any...
Air Force museum celebrates National Aviation Day with activities
Air Force museum celebrates National Aviation Day with activities

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is hosting educational activities until 3 p.m. today, Aug. 19, as part of its celebration of National Aviation Day. All activities are free and open to the public. During “Family Day,” visitors can learn about major events and breakthroughs in aviation history, from the Wright brothers&rsquo...
Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls continues to impress 25 years later
Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls continues to impress 25 years later

I was lucky enough to work and learn alongside former Dayton Daily News food critic Ann Heller over the course of many years together at the paper. She helped inform my writing, my editing, my eye, my thought process, my palate and so much more and I am fortunate to still be able to call her my friend. So when her name came up in conversation during...
Coupon deals of the week
Coupon deals of the week

Coupon availability and coupon values may vary within different regions or neighborhoods. Always Discreet Pads This week at Rite-Aid, Always Discreet pads are on sale two for $10. Visit and print out two copies of the $3 off one Always Discreet pads coupon. When you buy two, you will also earn 200 PlentiPoints, which is equivalent to...
Parenting with Dr. Ramey: Raising genuine, not entitled, kids

In a zealous effort to help kids feel good about themselves, parents may be raising a generation of entitled kids who are particularly vulnerable to chronic distress and unhappiness. It’s great to recognize kids when their behavior is appropriate. However, many parents have taken this to an extreme, heaping unconditional praise upon their children...
More Stories