A Novice’s Guide to a Foolproof Centerpiece

 
Foodies, party throwers, DIY lovers – rejoice. Annie Dean is back. And this time, she’s wearing her hostess hat. Quick, easy, and made for all things elegant, here are her secrets to a failsafe centerpiece.

Some of the summer’s most celebrated buds are peonies and hydrangeas. Both varietals are long-stemmed, but the expert hostess will want a centerpiece that is lush and low so as not to stifle across-the-table conversations. Here’s an easy fix for a gorgeous, table-friendly arrangement that is simple and summery.

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Photos by Annie Dean

How-To: Summer Centerpiece

  1. Find a low decorative bowl or vase, like this vintage footed crystal favorite (passed down to me by my late grandmother). A medium-sized colored ceramic baking dish or bowl would do just as well.
  2. Adhere a grid of cellophane or masking tape to your bowl to provide support for your stems, making sure that the tape reaches just to the edge of your vase or bowl so it will stay hidden from view.
  3. Cut the stems of your buds short and on an angle, stripping off any leftover leaves, and arrange on top of your taped grid. Use extra clusters of leaves to poke between flowers for additional texture and color contrast.
  4. If you are using peonies (as shown), you’ll need to wait a few hours – or as long as a day – for your buds to open up. Closed peonies are the freshest and are the best choice at the flower shop. They will open beautifully when they’re ready. Hydrangeas can be arranged immediately after purchase, although its best to leave all flowers in ice cold water for 1 – 2 hours as soon as you get home from the market.

 
Expert tip: Make your centerpiece do double-duty. Decorate a serving tray with your linens, silverware, and glasses for guests to grab at a buffet-style dinner. Your centerpiece will be eye-catching as a decoration on the tray, and then can be relocated to the center of your outdoor dining table.

Shown above with Kim Seybert seersucker napkins.

Our Brights vs. Whites: What’s Your Tabletop Personality? Boutique opens Friday, August 9, at 3PM ET.

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August 9, 2013