Today, garden lifestyle expert Carmen Johnston shows us how to create a long-lasting holiday centerpiece.


Holiday season is in full swing, and no time flies by quite like December! If you’re anything like me, you start decorating long before the radio starts playing your favorite seasonal songs. However, it only takes a few weeks for your foliage to go from being drop dead gorgeous to simply dropping dead. The holidays are busy enough as it is, and there is no reason why you should have to create a whole new centerpiece halfway through the season.

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We’re creating this beautiful centerpiece in a way that it will thrive through New Year’s!

Here are a few suggestions to help you create a tablescape that will last well after Christmas and likely to New Year’s Eve. Plus, it’s a great excuse to utilize the greenery in your own backyard. If your neighbors have something you like, don’t be shy! Ask them if you can clip a few things from their garden, too. On to the tablescape …

Tip 1: Let your greenery drink. After you’ve gathered all of your greenery, let your clippings soak in water for at least 24 hours. This initial hydration will give your plants the boost they need to keep them strong all season long.

Tip 2: Choose a container that will hold water, allowing your greenery to continue to drink. My go-to container is an antique chicken feeder that was given to me. Its long and narrow shape allows me to “stuff and shove” it with as many plants as I like. To prevent any water from leaking out, I always line mine with a trash bag. Be sure to use a heavy-duty trash bag and not the cheap kind — this is a lesson you do not want to learn the hard way.

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Antique chicken feeder

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Line your container with a heavy-duty trash bag.

Tip 3: Fill your container with all of your favorite Christmas plants. I used poinsettias, variegated ivy, lemon button ferns — anything to add a little texture and color. It can be very refreshing to use something other than traditional red and greens for Christmas. This particular poinsettia is called marble, and it is absolutely stunning! You can find all of these and more at your local garden center or grocery store. Also, there is no need to remove the plants from their pots. Just be sure to space them out evenly within the container. Then give your plants a quick drink of water before neatly rolling up the trash bag and tucking it into the edges.

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Marble poinsettias still in their containers are placed in the chicken feeder.

Add some greens

Add some greens, which can be found at local floral marts or grocery stores.

Water your plants

Water your plants!

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Neatly fold the plastic trash bag back into your container.

Tip 4: Use hardy Christmas clippings. Two of my favorites include holly and cast iron leaves. Cut the stems so they are long enough to reach the bottom of the container. This is extremely important if you want your plants to see the year 2015. For a fun ribbon effect, place stems of the cast iron through the tops of the leaves. Nestle these little beauties into your centerpiece, and watch them work their magic on your garlands.

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A fun trick with cast iron leaves: the ribbon effect

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Pretty fun, huh?

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Place the cast iron leaves into the centerpiece and add some hardy ivy.

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We’re almost done …

Tip 5: Gold spray paint preserves all-things-green. That is not entirely true, but a little gold here and there will definitely give your tablescape that special holiday sparkle. You can use spray paint on almost anything except for poinsettias, ferns and ivy. Evergreens and berries are fair game! My favorite is the nandina bush, which is just bursting with beautiful berries at this time of year. While they look gorgeous in their natural shade of red, a little gold will go a long way in making these berries shine. After spraying the berries, allow plenty of time for them to dry. Then stagger the clusters of berries throughout the arrangement.

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Add gold spray-painted nandina berries to the centerpiece for some extra WOW!

Another look at the gold nandina.

Another look at the gold nandina bush berries

Gold ornaments add some most festive flair.

Gold ornaments add some festive flair.

Tip 6: Remember to add water! All living things need water to stay alive, and your plants are no different. The weather is especially chilly this time of year, and while a warm home feels nice and toasty to you, it can really take its toll on your plants. Keep them hydrated! The key to keeping your centerpiece alive and well is to water it once a week. Feel free to add Christmas ornaments for a more finished look.

Now that your tablescape is ready for the holiday season, you can sit back, relax and start working on making those precious memories.

Your table is complete!

Your table is complete!

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Your arrangement will last all month long … just remember to water it!

Want a fun holiday excursion? Meet me in person for a fun Deck The Halls workshop. I’ll be at the Nashville-area Parade of Homes on Friday, December 12, beginning at 10 a.m. at Kings’ Chapel neighborhood in Arrington, TN.

Click here for more information. You get a ticket to tour the parade as well, and there will be lots of great information and door prizes with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee.


A garden lifestyle expert, Carmen Johnston has pioneered an approachable method of gardening and entertaining. Using flowers and plants, she empowers beginners to veterans to create instant beauty through her smart container gardening. Owner of Nectar and Company, a nationally renowned commercial, residential and wedding flower and garden design business, Carmen’s work and effortless entertaining style gained national attention from Southern Living magazine’s garden editors. She serves as a garden lifestyle expert for the magazine and the popular Southern Living® Plant Collection.