Try fruits and vegetables for table decorations -- with or without flowers. Fruits and vegetables make beautiful additions to your decor at other times of year as well.
Imagine shopping for paint. Notice how many colours are described in fruit and vegetable terms: apple green -- and apple red -- cranberry, aubergine, lettuce green, peach, apricot, blueberry, melon. Fruits and vegetables blend naturally into table decoration because they are often the source of colour in other decorative elements, like the walls and fabrics in the room.
Examine fruits and vegetables just in terms of shape. Include the ovals of aubergines and squashes, and the sharp straight lines of asparagus and pole beans. Pineapples and artichokes add both colour and structure. Traditionally, the pineapple has been used in mouldings and carvings -- even door knockers - -to express welcome and hospitality. Grapes trail, and fiddlehead ferns curl. Kale positively froths. Shapes abound in the vegetable kingdom.
Study the textures you can use. Rough, smooth, shiny and matt finishes are all available in fruits and vegetables. While your supermarket may trim all excess leaves from cabbage, probably a market stall or farm shop does not. In its full leafy glory, a cabbage provides all four textures at once, plus colour subtleties not always found in flowers.
Notice how the look of vegetables relates to your menu. Especially from season to season, colours seem to go together visually -- and coordinate with the menu as well. Your Asian-flavoured meal welcomes a low basket of long purple Asian aubergines, mixed with a variety of colourful peppers. A wooden tray of tropical fruits enhances your curry-party or Caribbean-inspired barbecue. There's mint sauce with your spring leg of lamb. Enhance your table with an extravagant bouquet of fresh mint, tied with a colourful ribbon, in a clear, columnar glass vase.
Shop the fruit and veg section of your market as though you were in a flower shop -- with only a penny in your pocket. This is a no-buy trip. Begin identifying the elements of fruits and vegetables that appeal more to your eye than your stomach. When you get home, take a look at your vases and other serving pieces you use for entertaining. Again, you're just looking. It means, though, the next time you're preparing table decorations, you'll be carrying a mental inventory of what can go with what.
Think of spring in terms of new beginnings. Group or make a line of clear votive holders, some containing candles, and others holding the bounty of the new season -- baby carrots, preferably with bits of green top, shelled peas, fiddlehead ferns, asparagus tips. Take a more casual, earthy approach for a hearty meal: a low glass bowl or basket filled with the rainbow colours of new potatoes, shallots and garlic cloves.
Celebrate the huge variety of fruits and vegetables available for summer decorating. Assemble a basket of rainbow peppers, even the little ones you don't know how to use. Herb bouquets are a natural -- basil, dill and trailing thyme. A pottery bowl of berries makes a perfect centrepiece, until you pass it around to join the pound cake and cream. Fill a stemmed glass or silver serving dish with the subtle colours of peaches and plums. Make a formal statement in strawberries: Invert half a melon on a silver tray; use toothpicks to secure strawberries, with points out to make a fabulous jewel. Surround this with lemon leaves and/or herbs. Your guests may admire or pounce. Either way, your centrepiece worked.
Plan ways to create a harvest festival celebration all the way through autumn. This is a season of baskets, wood and stoneware. Grace your table with the beauty of apples, simply in a bowl or half-cored to hold candles. Pile a footed cake plate with all of the colours of grapes and let the bunches trail over the edge. Cluster pumpkins of different sizes and colours, or use small ones in a candle parade the length of your buffet.
Capitalise on the spare, subtle palette of winter; here a cabbage centrepiece comes into play. Layer nuts of different kinds in a straight-sided glass bowl to show shapes, colours and textures. Try the same with layers of dried beans, peas and lentils. It's soup weather, after all. Flower shop decorative kales are edible, and greengrocer kales are beautiful. Mix and match.