Photo by Thomas J. Story
Attach a metal plant tag to stem fruit. The tags, available from garden stores, turn fruits with stems into instant place-setters. Cut the tag to size, then write the name on it with a black permanent marker.
Print a name on a pomegranate in gold. The rich red color and hard texture of the pomegranate make it the perfect fruit to write on. Use permanent or liquid ink in gold, silver, or black.
Write a name on the back of a magnolia leaf. Use a pen with white or silver ink. The leathery texture of the leaf complements table linens. Coordinate the napkin color.
Cut a slit in a chestnut for a placecard. Use a craft knife to make the cut. Silver ink reads well on dark brown paper, and scalloped scissors give the card a decorative edge.
Table-decor secrets from the experts
Earth-friendly alternative. "Using red coral on the table is hot right now, but coral is rare and takes a long time to grow," says Scott Donnellan. "I mimic the look by painting manzanita branches a coral color." Donnellan notes that many manzanita branches grow in a fan pattern ― just like coral. He suggests standing them upright in trays of white sand.
Simple forms. Diana Fayt uses a bowl of oranges or pots of forced narcissus as a centerpiece. "My parents immigrated to California from Hungary. We had an orange tree. The oranges seemed so beautiful and exotic, my parents would put them on the table at Christmas. That's why I do it," says Fayt. "As for the narcissus, I love the vertical lines they bring to a table."
Color and scent. For her centerpiece, Katie Carson uses pomegranates, candles, and evergreen branches. "I weave the branches down the center of the table and intersperse pomegranates and candles. It looks ― and smells ― beautiful," says Carson. "Then, I use the same colors in the place settings."