You might think the humble herb doesn’t have a lot of star power. Let Caitlin Atkinson convince you otherwise. The photographer and stylist literally wrote the book on crafting with plants (Plant Craft, out from Timber Press in fall 2016), so when her family gathers for dinner in her grandmother’s garden in Nevada City, California, Atkinson is almost always on decorating duty. Lately, thyme, rosemary, and other culinary standbys are finding their way onto her table as easy flourishes and softly scented centerpieces. “Herbs are a fresh alternative to flowers, and they’re all around us in the summer,” Atkinson says.
“This is a garden party; it’s supposed to be relaxed,” says Atkinson. She suggests letting the greenery provide most of the decoration and keeping the look loose. She pulled indoor chairs around her patio table for a mismatched look. terrapatio.com for Renais beam table. anthropologie.com for Redsmith and Brasserie dining chairs. Wooden chairs, vintage.
Etch each guest's name on a metal plant tag with a pen tip, then wind the tag’s wire around a cluster of rosemary, purple sage, and scented geranium leaves. cb2.com for Belay celery green salad plates.
Atkinson created a centerpiece with an eye toward planting the herbs after dinner. To make it, she chose three types of thyme, scented geranium, and allium plants for height; removed them from their 4-inch containers; and placed them directly onto a relatively flat piece of cured driftwood. A little soil and ‘Elfin’ thyme tucked around the edges hide the roots.
A stem of lemon verbena refreshes a carafe of sparkling water.