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Showcase the season's first blooms in an informal arrangement that highlights their varying silhouettes. Snip just a few stems, and place them in vintage milk and cream containers. Alternate tall bottles and squat jars with long and short stems. Set the vessels on a windowsill, where they'll catch the shimmering sunlight that grows longer every day.
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It's not that a big bouquet isn't sublime, but a single type of flower often conveys a true message of love: the rose, preferably in lush tones of red and pink. Although long stems crowd every florist's cooler, any romantic knows that beautiful blossoms are the heart of the matter -- especially when their stems are cut short and they're gathered into tiny vases arranged in the unmistakable shape of affection.
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A mixed bouquet is artfully rearranged among a dozen slender vases, freeing each bloom to flaunt its beauty. Much is made of long stems, but trimming them to staggered heights lets individual roses stand out.
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Here's a math problem that's remarkably easy to solve: You have 10 vases but no flowers. What to do? Line up the vessels, trim some tropical houseplants such as papyrus and elephant ear, and stand the stems in four of the vessels. Intersperse some rocks among the vases and the end result will be a single, serene display that you can enjoy for up to a month.
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The simplicity of small ceramic vases emphasizes the beauty of each flower. Making up this colorful tableau are a giant yellow dahlia, white clematis, a sunny peony, lady's mantle, wild grasses, peach astilbe, orange dahlias, and sweet peas in shades of coral and pink. The runner is rice paper, as is the trim on each favor, wrapped in white tissue paper.
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All sorts of containers can be used for clustered centerpieces: White ceramic vases would look great with tropical leaves.
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Bright graphic flowers would suit these vessels.
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Tall ceramic vases can be staggered down a long table.
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Glazed pots are charming when filled with miniature roses.
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Flea-market china -- sugar bowls, pitchers, and a footed bowl -- evokes an English tea.
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Floating and upright flowers can be set in these pieces.
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For winter, fill wooden bowls with evergreens.
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Mint Julep Cups
Mint julep cups make a sophisticated statement.
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Grouped together, these pieces create an artful vignette. The amethyst glass can be picked out by its purple hue, while the cranberry glass encompasses the pink-to-red palette -- seen here in an 1880s English example (third from left) and a 1950s American one (fifth from left).
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These cranberry-glass pieces, designed as finger bowls, are easier to find than many other vintage items because they were less likely to be used and broken. Their shape and size make them handy for a variety of uses, such as serving nuts or holding flowers. The opaline amethyst-glass box, from the 1920s, once held cigarettes.
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The surface treatments and motifs commonly found on colored glass vary greatly and include stripes, coin dots, and a type of hobnail.
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Lily of the Valley Centerpiece
For a modern look, a whimsical row of lily of the valley in a variety of glass bud vases makes a charming -- and cost-effective -- centerpiece for a long reception table. The clear glass tumblers and dinnerware and crisp white linens complete the spare setting.