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Easy Thanksgiving Table Arrangements


Let’s face it. By the time you put a turkey, ham or standing rib roast and all the trimmings on the table at Thanksgiving, you don’t have much room for an elaborate flower or fruit arrangement in the center of the table. Those tall taper candles can quickly turn into a fire hazard as Uncle John tries to pass the sweet potatoes to Aunt Nellie across the table.

What’s the poor hostess to do?

Use your imagination and you’ll come up with the perfect solution. Why have a large arrangement in the center of the table when you could put it on a sideboard or auxiliary table? Your old stand-by cornucopia can be filled with red, green and yellow peppers alongside an eggplant, some red, yellow and green apples and a nice bunch of grapes. That can take only a few minutes. If you want to fancy it up, you can cut branches of berries from your yard or a spray or two of ivy or even holly to tuck in the arrangement. If all else fails, you can fill it with colorful fall leaves or some silk flowers. There’s a simple reason the cornucopia is so popular at Thanksgiving—it’s extremely versatile.

Now back to the table! You don’t have to have anything in the center of the table, but if you insist, think in terms of small and low. Nothing is more frustrating at a special meal than to have a forest between the person across the table and you. A bowl of fruit interlaced with seasonal mums, berries, leaves, gourds, miniature pumpkins and/or vegetables is quite sufficient.

If you want to try something completely different, float some orchids in a crystal dish or arrange three tiny pots of African violets in the center of your table. Votive candles surrounded by colorful bell peppers would work nicely; on the other hand, you could place these lovely individual peppers at each place setting.

Always available at this time of year, ornamental cabbage and kale plants make a stunning arrangement. You can surround even one plant with a few persimmons or kumquats or lemons or limes, or a combination of these colorful items. The center of the cabbage or kale and be removed; a clear bowl with a low flower arrangement can be placed inside for another unusual centerpiece.

The number of beautiful vegetables available this time of year can create other easy and surprising arrangements. Eggplant, ears of Indian corn, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, and other vegetables can be combined to appear not only colorful but appetizing.

If you check your cabinets, you may find an array of glasses that can serve as small vases. Choose colors like amber or purple or gold to begin a theme. These can be place at even distances along the center of the table and filled with pansies or one lily, a rose or some berries.

Napkin rings can be made from raffia and one flower or colorful leaf or spray of berries. Other decorations for napkins can be tiny turkeys or Pilgrim dolls you can find at craft stores—or even the dollar markets.

Place card holders can be cut from greeting cards with fancy scissors. Or small animal miniature stickers like deer or raccoons or foxes can be attached to folded card stock.

If you are using stemmed glasses, you can encircle the base of the glass with ribbons or pipe cleaners with a small toy animal or bird attached.

Even individual salt and pepper shakers can add to the visual appeal of your table. Dollar stores usually sell small sets that feature turkeys or fruits or vegetables. These can coordinate with other colors on your table to set a festive mood.

The main thing to remember is that as the hostess, you have an obligation not only to your guests but to yourself as well. You need to make the day one that you can enjoy too. Simple and easy decorations for your table can take only a few minutes with a little bit of planning ahead.

Just be thankful as the day is set aside—and don’t let the preparations become so overwhelming that you forget the true meaning of the day.

About Sue Freeman Culverhouse

    Sue Freeman Culverhouse

    Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing.

    She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter,  Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University.

    Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students.

    Sue writes “Uncommon Sense,” a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of “Seven keys to a sucessful life”, which is  available on and; this is a self-help book for all ages.

    Web Site:


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