April is Homegrown Month at Tasting Table.
Sure, you can put all those herbs and vegetables sprouting up in your garden to good use on your dinner plate, but you can also put them to work in a gorgeous, fragrant floral centerpiece for your next party (or a certain upcoming holiday honoring Mom).
When I wanted a little guidance, I knew exactly who to call: Suzanna Cameron of Stems in Brooklyn. Last fall, I took one of her floral design workshops and was inspired by her organic, free-flowing style. We gathered some herbs and vegetables at our nearby market and ventured out to her shop (conveniently located in the front of a bar called Sycamore), then she got to work cutting and styling our haul.
Cameron uses small artichokes for texture and ramp leaves for a base layer.
Here, Cameron's tips on creating a floral centerpiece from items you may have in your garden or fridge:
Gather your greens. These are going to be the base for your centerpiece. Cameron recommends heartier herbs like rosemary, sage, lavender and Thai basil (but just make sure you scrape any woody stems like those on rosemary sprigs, as they can dirty the water). "A lot of greens will add movement and texture; use about 30 percent greens vs. flowers," Cameron advises. For our arrangement, she created a grid-like base with ramp leaves, crisscrossing them to fill up the vessel, then layered in rosemary and fresh peppermint.
Use some small vegetables, like mini artichokes, for texture. To make them the same height as your flowers, simply use sticks to create a base: Cut them to your desired length, and then sharpen the end and spear the artichokes. Cameron interspersed them throughout the arrangement.
Suzanna Cameron adds deep red tulips and finishes with ranunculus.
Look for focal flowers that are in season. These will be the stars of your arrangement. If you're lucky enough to have a flower garden, you'll notice that bulbs are bursting through right now. Cameron made colorful tulips and irises the focal point in ours, varying the heights to add dimension.
Secondary flowers add shape and movement, and use little pieces to fill in holes. Cameron placed a few ranunculus throughout the arrangement to give it more depth and added some more greens in spots that needed fullness.
Don't be afraid to work in big vegetables! We'd brought some large purple artichokes with us, which at first seemed like they would overwhelm the rest of the flowers. But Cameron placed one right in the center of the arrangement, anchoring it and giving it a vibrant, edible statement piece.
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