The pot roast is in the oven, the floors are immaculate and the store-bought cherry pie has been transferred to a decorative plate so it looks like you made it. Yep, you’re definitely ready to host a dinner party. So why does it feel like something’s missing? The answer may be fresh flowers. “To set the table with flowers honors your guests and says, ‘I decorated for you. I made something pretty for you,’ ” says florist Baylor Chapman, founder of Lila B Design in San Francisco and author of the new “The Plant Recipe Book” ($25, Artisan). Rather than plopping a dozen carnations into a Mason jar (just because you saw it on Pinterest does not make it cool), consider one of these off-center centerpieces.
Just because all the guests have left doesn’t mean the bloom times have to end. Setting your table with perennials (plants that can live for more than two years) means your centerpiece gets a second life when transferred to your garden. “You can create this really cool living arrangement, and then take it apart and mix it up,” Chapman says. We positioned a primrose belarina ($13), stocks ($11) and lamb’s ear ($5.50) — all in their original plastic containers from the garden shop — in a repurposed wine box. Strategically arrange leaves so you can’t see into the container. We padded our vino box with old newspapers to achieve the right height and to prevent any jostling.
Edible flowers like jasmine, chrysanthemum and nasturtium not only add a subtle bitterness to dishes, they also bring a welcome pop of color to your plate, especially now that it’s springtime. “Coming out of a long, dreary winter, people are expecting to see little blossoms everywhere,” Chapman says. Select a few safe-to-chomp ones in bright hues (we dropped orange pansies, $2.50 each, in vintage milk glass compotes) and position them alongside bunches of herbs like mint, thyme, basil and sage ($4-$10). Serve a tossed wild greens salad for the first course and encourage guests to sprinkle just-plucked buds on top. Anything left over can later be blended with olive oil and garlic to make a fresh garden pesto. Just be sure to wash plants thoroughly before they hit the table to remove any dirt or pesticides.
The world is your florist when you’re willing to do a little foraging. Take a look around your yard — and maybe your neighbor’s yard if they’re out of town — and see if you can snip any unruly buds. (You’re just helping them prune while they’re on vacation!) And while it’s technically illegal to pick flowers from city lands, we doubt you’ll serve hard time for pilfering a daffodil or two on your walk through the park. We snagged some forsythia (ubiquitous this time of year in D.C.) and a few white flowers and placed them in a cylindrical vase with some found rocks. Total cost? Zilch (assuming you don’t need to post bail).
All flowers sourced from Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-244-6100, johnsonsdcflorist.com. Special thanks to Aaron Silverman and Brooke Horne.