How to Arrange Foliage Branches to Make a Statement Centerpiece for Fall

Forage for local branches to create a piece of eye-catching home décor.

transitional foliage branches in vases
Photo: Courtesy of JS Rhos

If you're planning to decorate your house with a few fall touches, look no further than the transitional foliage branches in your very own backyard or neighborhood. Throughout the season, we witness trees transition from a bounty of leaves with deep orange-and-brown hues to naked, whimsical statues of bare branches. The most effective way to mimic that beauty in your own home is to go straight to the source. Sofia Bloss, owner of Cézanne Floral, says, "Many people traditionally will decorate their house with magnolia leaves, pinecones, eucalyptus, and sunflowers. However, this season has more to give." According to Bloss, the best way to start is by foraging what is local to your area.

Of course, there's more to this than simply picking up a few branches from the ground and calling it a day. What type of foliage should you look for? Is there a specific type of vessel that works for this project? Ahead, everything you need to know about using transitional foliage branches to make a beautiful arrangement.

Consider uniquely shaped branches and transitional colors.

Although transitional foliage is technically dead, Bloss finds a lot of beauty in this sentiment, explaining that the reason the leaves die is to preserve the life of the tree during the winter months. By using the branches as a statement piece in your home, you're replicating what is occurring in nature at that very moment. For this reason, you can ultimately use any uniquely shaped branch you see in your neighborhood that has a few changing leaves on it. Bloss says this will create a shape, height, and dimension beyond what you can buy from your local grocery store.

However, there are few specific varieties that will yield beautiful results every time. Bloss likes to use bittersweet, a climbing vine that wraps around its support. "It curls, it twists, it bends, and it has rust-colored berries throughout," she explains. If you don't live in an area with bittersweet, look for dried penny grass, which can be found in both cold and hot climates. "It features a translucent, ethereal texture that highlights the transition to fall while resembling the look of what's to come—snow." Bloss also highlights the importance of looking for foliage mid-color change, which she says adds a lot of depth to your piece.

Use a tall vessel.

The most important thing to note when considering a vase or pot is height. "A high vessel will structurally hold your branches in the place that you want them, whereas a low vessel will just fall over," Bloss says. You could also choose a piece with a narrow opening; this will prevent the branches from awkwardly settling at opposite sides. Beyond those two parameters, Bloss notes that you can take plenty of creative liberties with the type of holder you choose.

While you'll often see these types of arrangements featured in beautiful ceramic vases, consider sourcing a few antique pieces—a vintage water or olive oil jug would work well for this project, shares Bloss. If antiquing isn't for you, she says to consider a holder that looks like it was made by hand and features a matte, rough look, rather than one with a glossy finish; she also recommends using solid stoneware or something that resembles the earth or base of a tree. Looking for iterations with gray, brown, or clay hues will also help drive home the idea that your arrangement is made from foraged goods.

Create depth when you arrange the branches.

Once you've picked out your foliage branches and found the perfect vessel, it's time to assemble your centerpiece. Start by trimming the bottoms off your branches, being sure to cut in at an upwards angle. This splits the bottom of the branches open and allows for better water absorption. "It's really hard for a branch, by itself without a root system, to collect water. So, you have to split them at the bottom," Bloss explains.

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn't combine more than one or two varieties of foliage branches in one arrangement. So, if you foraged a few twines of bittersweet, a few pieces of dried penny grass, and some golden fern, you should create a separate bouquet for each. Bloss notes that two varieties work if that's how the foliage appears in the wild. "I always think, how are things done in nature? Because that is what appeals to our eye naturally," she says. "When someone makes an arrangement in their house and they put six different things in there, what you're trying to convey gets very lost." When adding the branches to your vessel, it's important to create depth—no two pieces should be the same height. Use about two to four uniquely shaped stems of the same variety and create a high, low, and midpoint. This means you'll situate the tallest branch on one end of the vessel and position the lowest branch directly adjacent, with a mid-sized branch directly in between. If you're having trouble keeping the branches in place, consider purchasing a flower frog, which will keep your foliage pieces exactly where you want them.

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