The Foraged Festive Table

This Christmas we might not have the usual numbers around the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean it need look any less festive. After all, a table adorned with seasonal foliage has an extraordinary ability to make any meal feel extra special. Louise Gorrod, food-stylist, crafter and contributor for slow-living magazine, the Simple Things, tells us of how she decorates her table with gathered seasonal foliage.

Laying a celebratory table is one of my favorite things to do. From venturing out to gather branches of greenery, berries and pine cones to creating the tablescape itself, my annual table arrangement sets the scene for those magical twelve days. There are no hard and fast rules, but should you wish to adorn your table with what nature has to offer and would like a little guidance, the following is for you…

Where and how to forage

Country lanes are an obvious place to head to, though if you’re lucky, you may have to go no further than your back garden. You can however, find an abundance of suitable materials in the most unlikely of places such as roadside verges or a local park. I usually head to my allotment. It’s on a big site, with rich pickings to be had along its communal paths and ornamental teasels and dried seed heads on the overgrown, neglected plots. Wherever you decide to go, do ensure that you forage responsibly. Only collect from ample populations and be sure to leave plenty behind. The Woodland Trust has a helpful online guide that’s worth looking at before setting out.

What to forage.

Half the fun of foraging is not knowing what you’ll find. I tend to limit myself to just one or two types of greenery. Holly, ivy, hawthorn and eucalyptus are all good options as they last well and have good structure. Don’t by-pass any interesting looking branches or lichen-covered twigs as these can turn out to be particular gems. A few red berries are a fairly non-negotiable requirement with holly, hawthorn and rosehips being plentiful. Herbs, such as rosemary and bay, are great additions that will make your arrangement smell divine. Look for a few decorative smaller finds too such as the aforementioned dried seed heads, pinecones or a favourite of mine, whimsical tangles of old man’s beard.

The table.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need to leave enough room for food and tableware. On my rectangular table, I lay down a linen runner first, onto which I craft my greenery base. I like to include a few tiny vases (such as our hanging bud vases) or glass bottles, to which I add a stem of two of foliage, and always find it easiest to place these first and build up the greenery around them. The same goes for candlesticks and any other tableware that will form part of your arrangement. 

Crafting your arrangement.

Before you start, give each stem the once over to ensure that it’s dry and clean from dirt and insects; you may want to trim the stem a little or remove any dead leaves. Without being too precise, start placing your greenery on the table until you’re happy with the coverage. Next add your stems of berries and decorative touches such as seed heads and pinecones. I like to add each piece individually, for a more organic style, but you can use florist wire to create ‘mini posies’ of berries and embellishments and tuck these into your green base. Finally, if using, add an interesting stem or two to your vases or bottles.

Finishes touches.

For me the finishing touch is light. Those battery operated tiny twinkly fairy lights, which can easily be woven in to the arrangement, will work a treat. However, I prefer candlelight. Delicately honey-scented beeswax dinner (such as our beeswax dinner candles) or pillar candles really look (and smell) the part, but tealights in glass jars are a purse-friendly option that look just as magical. 

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