Early one fall morning, as I sleepily peered out my back window, I saw manna from heaven. Sometime in the dark of night, one of the towering shade trees in my courtyard let go of a beautiful dead branch.
I know most people don't consider huge tree limbs in their yard something to jump for joy about. But for me, fallen branches are the most perfect, picturesque bases conceivable for floral arrangements. These natural sculptures, full of twists and bends, texture and tone, look fabulous whether clustered alone in a tall glass cylinder vase or woven into a floral masterpiece.
Since this bough had obviously thrown itself to the ground so it could be a showpiece in my fall and winter decorating, I could do nothing but oblige. We secured it to my dining room ceiling, and then I decorated it by stringing prisms and votive cups from its twiggy arms.
This year, when you transform your home for fall, try branching out by using dried limbs and lifelike faux flowers, vines and grasses in a few killer arrangements. Armed with the right branches, it's easy to achieve the organic, plucked-from-nature look I adore.
Cecelia, a talented designer at Nell Hill's, has a gift for creating amazing seasonal foliage arrangements, so I asked her to share a few tricks of the trade you can use to craft fall displays in two key spots in your home.
One of Cecelia's favorite spots to spiff up for fall is a dining room chandelier. I agree that if you have time to decorate only one or two places for fall, zero in on your dining room chandelier, then watch your dinner guests gape.
When Cecelia creates works of art around chandeliers, she starts by securing a few fallen twigs to the central core and chain of the light fixture. When arranging this woody under-girding, try to emulate nature. Position most of the sticks so they are "growing" upward. For added visual interest, toss in a few more twigs willy-nilly.
Next, pick one or two colors you would like to pull out in the room. It could be the tones of your area rug, upholstered chairs or dishes. Then find lifelike foliage that includes an array of fall neutrals and your chosen accent colors.
A word to the wise here: Don't use poorly made fakes that look like plastic. Thankfully, many of today's artificial greens and flowers are so well made you no longer have to compromise on quality. I invest in foliage that looks so real you'd swear it could trigger your fall allergies.
Some of Cecelia's favorite faux fall sprays include apple branches, dried pine twigs, rosehip branches, squash and pumpkin vines, hops, sorghum balls and seeded button stems.
Take advantage of your ceiling space by adding a fall floral arrangement to the top of an armoire or bookcase. Cecelia starts by finding the perfect container to hold her work of genius, like a birch basket, a big wooden box or an urn.
Next, she fills the container with crisscrossed dead branches to create an airy arch of twigs. If you have tall ceilings, take advantage of the space by using long limbs. Remember, when you display things up high, they always look much smaller from the ground.
Then, create a focal point for your display. In one arrangement I love, Cecelia used a cluster of red apple stems on one side of the arrangement and a grouping of squash stems on the other. Finally, she pulled the piece together by weaving foliage like red hops and rosehip vines throughout.