A traditional cornucopia, overflowing with the fruits and flowers of a bountiful harvest, is a classic centerpiece to grace your Thanksgiving table or sideboard.
And the best thing about creating one is that you might already have a supply of greenery and goodies to fill this horn of plenty. Look in your garden for herbs, colorful leaves and branches; in your refrigerator for fruits and vegetables; and in your attic for ribbons and saved treasures to personalize your arrangement.
Cornucopias come from ancient mythology. The story is that the Greek deity Zeus created the first one from a goat horn broken from the head of his nurse, Amalthea. To honor her, he made the horn magically fill with whatever the bearer desired. This symbol of plenty came to the new world with the colonists, and it has represented a plentiful harvest throughout our history representing prosperity at Thanksgiving and in other contexts.
As a container for floral arrangements, horn-shaped baskets woven from grape vine, wicker or other natural materials are generally used. They can be found seasonally at many local craft and hobby shops.
To give you some ideas and directions for creating your centerpiece, we asked four floral designers to create one for us.
Blooms in the Bluegrass
Blooms in the Bluegrass owner Kathy Bork has created floral arrangements for eight years, and floral designer Ibett Gonzales, who began by putting bouquets together for fun as a child in her native Panama, kept a shop for 20 years in Miami Lakes, Fla., before moving to the Bluegrass.
Gonzales finds that Kentucky's four seasons offer opportunities for using deeper hues and rich, jeweled colors, as well as for adding some of her favorite Victorian style touches to her work.
"Don't be afraid to mix lots of materials together in your cornucopia," she says. It adds to the richness of the arrangement to mix fruits, flowers and even grasses. Gonzales combined pumpkins and apples with the golds and deep oranges of new sun roses, a sunflower and mini-carnations from the shop. The cost of materials to fit the form was about $40.
Supplemented with greenery that Bork brought from her yard, including Asian grass, maple leaves, beauty berry and pine cones, this arrangement is both stately and bursting with the wealth of fall harvest.
Blooms in the Bluegrass is in Brannon Crossing, 217 East Brannon Road, Nicholasville. Call (859) 271-1222 or go to www.bloomsinthebluegrass.com. Ibett Gonzales can be reached at (859) 797-0579.
You can find Travis Preve under the "Floral Designer" sign at the Michaels crafts store on Nicholasville Road. Along with creating the silk flower arrangements that line the store's front wall, he answers questions from shoppers. Preve has been a floral designer for about 10 years.
"I like the challenge of using realistic-looking, high-quality silks in arrangements, to give them a fresh-picked look," he says
His cornucopia design centers around pumpkins nestled into the form, then covered with sunflower, hydrangea and witch hazel silks, along with apples, grapes and even some artichokes. Preve's ideas are as plentiful as his cornucopia fillings.
"These aren't your grandmother's faux flowers." he says. "Use the best, and consider it an investment. They'll last for years."
With judicious use of discount coupons, the cost of the materials in his piece was about $60. Preve suggests storing silk arrangements in a see-through plastic bag or box that will let you remember it from year to year and will remind you not to squash it in storage.
More ideas to use: To keep the rounded basket bottom from rolling, Preve attached a terra cotta plant saucer to stabilize it. The orange blends in beautifully with the arrangement. And in a "waste not, want-not" frame of mind, he keeps the trimmed-off flower stems to recycle and use as picks in other arrangements.
Preve's Michaels is in Regency Road Center at 2309 Nicholasville Road. Call (859) 277-1022 or go to www.michaels.com.
Each Kroger store has a floral center, which not only brings in cut flowers and pre-packaged bouquets but has designers who create on-site arrangements. Hurried shoppers can rely on finding seasonal arrangements as they get their groceries.
Daniela Gaskie is one of those designers. After spending six months helping a friend's mother start a flower shop in Mexico City earlier this year, Gaskie returned home to Kentucky to begin studies in the University of Kentucky's architecture program.
"I love anything that has to do with design," she says. Her inspiration for designing a cornucopia was influenced by Kroger's nearby produce section, and the transitional fall colors in autumn leaves and berries.
"To save on expenses," she says, "use what you have, like greens, mums, ornamental grasses, gourds and apples, then add purchased items like fresh cut mums and roses to finish the arrangement." The materials for this design cost about $30.
There are Kroger stores throughout Kentucky. Gaskie works at the store at Regency Road Center, 2335 Nicholasville Road. Call (859) 278-6228 or go to www.kroger.com.e_SClBMichler's Gardens & Greenhouses
For more than a century, the Michler family has grown and supplied flowers and plants to local customers. Rachel Sebastian has worked there since the 1970s, when she was straight out of school and delivering flowers. Now she's taking the lead in floral designing. Michler's has a history of growing in its own greenhouses what it puts into its bouquets, including the herbs that Sebastian used in her cornucopia.
She considered that Thanksgiving is a food-oriented holiday, so she used that idea. The aroma of rosemary, parsley, Mexican sage, thyme and society garlic work well in the centerpiece and the turkey dressing; fragrant geranium leaves, hedge apples from the Osage orange tree and little ornamental cabbages complete the "shades of green" look and light, airy texture. Because most of the items in the arrangement were in the greenhouse, the cost to fill this cornucopia was about $15.
Sebastian has a tip for using freshly cut greens: "Cut fresh herbs and soak them overnight, so that they don't droop." This technique, called conditioning, fully hydrates cuttings and makes them last longer. For woody stems, smash the cut end to create more water-absorbing surface area, then soak the stems in warm water. To keep your flowers fresh longer this time of year, keep them in a cool area, away from hot-air vents and direct sunlight, and replenish water frequently.
Michler's is at 417 East Maxwell Street. Call (859) 254-0383 or go to www.michlers.com.