October 31, 2013 by Shelly Rosenberg
Buzz words, sustainability and slow-food, are fairly new in our cultural vernacular, but the concepts of providing for your own family or community, and then taking care to enjoy the bounty, are not. As this wave of new thinking catches on, we are introduced to innovative leaders in the quest to befriend the land and its gifts once again. James Farmer is a dynamic, southern gentleman who is leading the way back to basics. His gorgeous books, and delicious website (chock full of recipes!), inspire thousands to join the movement. I recently participated in a philanthropic event where 60 designers were asked to create a table top display for patrons to enjoy. Knowing Farmer was to be key-note speaker at the event, I based my presentation on the interior and landscape designer’s work.
Researching to generate ideas is half the fun. Locating photographs of lovely arrangements, incorporating vegetables, was not as easy as I’d hoped, but I did find a favorite, above, on the popular blog, Design Sponge (by The Ladies of Foret). The lovely still-life is a beautiful juxtaposition of the peaceful, yet vigorous, energy of a garden. Any of us can replicate the simplicity of a layered grouping like this one…
Another fun idea found is to use vegetables themselves as vessels to hold flowers. The clean, organic shape of an acorn squash makes a modern statement, accompanied by traditionally sophisticated blooms gathered in a casual style. Sustainability is showcased here…once the life of your arrangement comes to an end, the entire thing can go into your compost pile to regenerate the next batch of beauty!
After online surfing and study, I decided to tackle a more formal centerpiece based on the art of topiary (pruning plants into shapes). I began with a cone-shape cage, made of chicken wire and stuffed it with florist’s foam. From there, I carefully wired succulent vegetables to the form in a balanced way. The spaces left between were stuffed with ruffly kale. It took a couple of hours (gulp), but soon my amateur farm-to-table floral was complete. It is a refreshing pleasure to see the likes of a radish, eggplant, artichoke, asparagus and onion take center stage.
Many of the tablescapes featured garden jewels, yet every single one of them was inviting in a unique way. I fell in love with the fresh, bright greens and deep purples I found at the farmers’ market. So, my focus was on a softer color scheme in a French Provencial style. To my surprise, the happy instigator, James Farmer, was gracious enough to decorate a table top as well. He went for those deep fall hues we all treasure, making for a decadent combination of scarlet, rusts and golds. Hand fulls of apples joined bunches of grapes, resting under branches, berries and leaves. Nothing was too staged; the result was warm and gracious, much like the soon-to-be household name.