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Centers of Attention: Outdoor Centerpieces

Martha Stewart Living, July 2007

Terrific centerpieces are a lot like great party guests. They add an extra jolt of energy to the room, attract the eye, and spark interesting conversations. Best of all, they don't make a great deal of demands on the hostess. With summer's abundance of ravishing flowers and fruits, anyone can easily assemble an arrangement that's lively, provocative, and unexpected -- sure to be the guest of honor at any party.

One of the best ways to get inspiration for centerpieces is to look to your table -- the napkins, the glasses, the food you plan to serve. All can spark ideas. You might reiterate the rich blue of a tablecloth with bunches of hydrangeas, emulate the design of a plate's edge, or spotlight the same fruits you're preparing for dessert.

On Second Glance

The more you look at this centerpiece, the more clever it seems. [See image 2 above.] Actually an assemblage of several smaller and more manageable arrangements, the setup offers an easy way to tame a fresh-from-the-garden mix of roses, hydrangeas, delphiniums, lady's mantle, scented geraniums, and potato vine. A pitcher in the center gives height, while kitchen crocks (sugar bowls, eggcups) allow the inclusion of short-stemmed beauties. Using a monochromatic scheme of cool blues and contrasting the floral abundance with geometric place settings balances the romance with a little modernism.

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Turn It Loose

Centerpieces don't have to be perfectly balanced and precisely composed. There's beauty in letting flowers and vines be their riotous, sprawling selves. [See image 3 above.] For these groupings of trailing sweet autumn clematis, passion-flower vines, and figs, a row of cake stands and pedestal candleholders shielded by hurricane glasses lets the greenery -- and heady perfume of summer -- flow.

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Free Floating

There's no need for the elaborate and the excessive. What could be easier than floating a few fresh garden roses, nasturtiums, and phlox in small bowls of water? [See image 4 above.] But that's more than enough when they're placed upon a platform of pretty vintage tiles that serves as both a table runner and a trivet. The patterns and shape of the tiles are echoed by block-print napkins, and additional tiles are used as bread plates.

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Cue the Sunset

With the right candlelight, a few natural references, and a little human intervention, an outdoor table can compete with even the most majestic scenery. [See image 5 above.] The components of this centerpiece include candleholders wrapped in punched paper to evoke white coral and driftwood done up with spray paint to emulate branches of red coral. 

Get the Beach Centerpiece How-To

See More Summer Centerpieces

Comments (4)

  • 10 Jul, 2008

    Definitely need an enlarged view of these arrangements as you can't see any detail.
    Flower Lover

  • 10 Jul, 2008

    Could a close up of the actual flower arrangements be put on the web site, so we could see better the arrangements themselves. Thank you so much.
    Sandra Foster

  • 10 Jul, 2008

    I agree with CarolinaSV. We need close-ups to really appreciate the detail. I haven't a clue from these photos.

  • 10 Jul, 2008

    Your photos are too small for details. Can the pictures be enlarged?