“Flowers on the table are delightful, but I think they are far more beautiful when naturally arranged (for which read ‘plonked’). Flower arrangers have a great deal to answer for”
– Nigel Slater in Real Fast Food
The most important thing to keep in mind when planning flowers for a table is that the flowers are not the most important thing on that table. You could go further and avoid arrangements entirely and, as food writer Nigel Slater says, ‘plonk’ a few roses in a few small, low vases. Single stems in tiny vases work very well, as do herbs.
If you are going to ignore this advice and place something more substantial in the middle of the table, make sure it is low enough for the people sitting at the table to talk over. A good rule of thumb is to place your elbow on the table, make a fist, straighten your forearm perpendicular to the table, and then make sure the flowers and foliage don’t go any higher than your fist.
In terms of table real estate, flowers take second place to food. If there are to be shared plates in the middle of the table, make sure there is room for them. Don’t let your flower-arranging ego lead you into making ridiculous decisions. The purpose of a lunch or dinner is for people to eat and socialise. Not to be isolated from the food or company by flowers, no matter how lovely they are.
Avoid putting sneezy things on the table if you are eating inside. And don’t underestimate the delightful surprise a bunch of fragrant flowers by the kitchen sink, or on a table near the front door, can bring. There may not be much room on the table, but there are plenty of opportunities for occasions of joy elsewhere.
What matters more than fancy arrangements are the conversations shared and, of course, the food. Flowers can certainly enhance the atmosphere; they can convey a sense of care and love on behalf of the arranger, and of course they are beautiful, but they should in no way prevent people from seeing each other.
Edited extract from A Tree in the House by Annabelle Hickson. Photography © Annabelle Hickson. Published by Hardie Grant Books, $55. Available at all good book stores.