Celebrity Florist Shares Tips for Fabulous Fall Flowers on a Budget

Just in time for Thanksgiving Day-decorating, WalletPop asked celebrity florist, Mark Held, to share ideas for how to achieve the most impact using fall flowers and foliage on a budget. Turns out, the answer might be as close as your own backyard.

The go-to guy for A-list celebs such as Oprah, Hillary Duff, Ellen DeGeneres, Katherine Heigl, and Heidi Klum (to name drop a few), Held graciously opened the doors to his eponymous shop, Mark's Garden in Sherman Oaks, Calif. and demonstrated how to transform simple materials into something special. Don't blame us if guests forget to mention the turkey.Proving that creativity will trump cash (almost) every time, Held gathered a few basic, fall favorites -- think: vividly-colored leaves, raffia, small pumpkins, votive candles, a mixed bouquet from the grocery store, a rustic swath of burlap -- and went to work.

The small pumpkins (reduced in price since their Halloween heyday) were hollowed out and filled with a moistened piece of floral foam. To the first pumpkin, Held added a bouquet of colorful harvest leaves. Although he purchased the branches of fall foliage, Held admitted it would be just as easy to collect specimens from your own back yard. Or better yet, let the kids do it!

The remaining pumpkins were filled with a mixture of fallen leaves and store-bought flowers. The trick here, Held explained, is making sure the flowers are fresh (check the stems for a fresh cut), possess a harmonious blend of natural-looking autumn color, and are similar in height.

Held also demonstrated the simple, chic effect of tying twine or raffia (in place of a napkin holder) around a cloth napkin and securing a perfect, single leaf. So pretty, and literally price-less.

Leaves were also fastened (try double-sided tape, or spray adhesive) to cylindrical glass votive candle holders. A bit of raffia tied around the candle holders was equally charming.

Held draped the table with a rustic piece of inexpensive burlap which provided a creative contrast between the fine, finished look of the flowers, candles and cloth napkins while celebrating the earthiness of the season. The best part, gravy spills won't matter in the least.

Scattered artistically down the center of the table, more leaves surrounding the candles and the decorative pumpkins. How many leaves a host chooses to scatter is a personal decision, just remember it's supposed to conjure images of the season, not an urge to rake the yard.

To demonstrate how far grocery store bouquets have come, Held chose a festive example featuring a variety of floral textures and even berries. He suggested dividing the arrangement into smaller, nosegay-style bunches and tucking them into mint julep cups, small vases or interesting containers (mason jars, a silver pitcher, pretty glasses). Larger arrangements might benefit with the addition of real champagne grapes (the itty-bitty bunches), a few spears of asparagus (really!) or an artfully-included artichoke. As Held points out in his latest book,Fabulous Parties, the addition of which, "is totally unexpected and delightful."

Held gives hosts the green light to make up the arrangements a day in advance, but warns the flowers should be kept in a cool place away from direct sun. Frugal florists should also be sure to use the little packets of preservative that accompany the bouquets, or consider adding a drop or two of bleach into the water.

"To help flowers last longer," Held suggests in the book he co-authored with business partner Richard David and restaurateur, Peggy Dark, "clean your vase with bleach to remove all bacteria and fill it with cold or room temperature water ... cut stems at an angle. Woody stems ... are best if hammered and broken at the end to facilitate absorbing water ... change the water each day."

According to Held, if we do this, the flowers should last at least as long as the left-overs.

A gorgeous table at a price that leaves money to spend on Black Friday doorbusters? Now that's something to be thankful for.
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