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Last month, I had the pleasure of being a student at one of USN’s Evening Classes with local floral expert, Terry White, of the English Garden. The course title was “Tablescaping 101.” Note: If you are having a vision of Sandra Lee from the Food Network show Semi-Homemade, erase it from your brain immediately.

English Garden
(615) 354-0094
6513 Highway 100
Nashville, TN 37205

Our fearless leader: Terry White

After spending a little time in Terry’s world of wonder (aka his home), I came away with new possibilities for re-imagining every corner of my home, as well as an understanding that making it personal is always the right way to go.

Create a tablescape for chess using wine glasses.

Our class, which was really more like an informal conversation among friends, began around a table that Terry had painstakingly made from copper. As he started to build the centerpiece, he mused on flowers. “The best flowers are the ones near death. I try my hardest to get them to the point where the bloom is the fullest so I can fill up the empty space in an arrangement without resorting to fillers like Baby’s Breath.”  (More later on the only time in his career Terry has used baby’s breath.)
He continued building the centerpiece, all while offering lots of tips about pitfalls to avoid. “The biggest mistake people make when building a tablescape is quitting too soon. I like to think of tablescapes like golf courses, with sand traps, puddles and little patches of land. Every table needs a sense of balance and visual interest so the eyes will wander. Using those often forgotten personal collections is a great way to make this happen,” he says. “If you have your fine china, your nicest sterling and your wonderful collection of whatever locked in a closet, shame of you!”

Copper, concrete and rocks!

A hydrangea from Home Depot, sake glass and stone.


His philosophy? If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And, having taken his own advice to heart, he showed us a collection of silver plated tea pots he re-purposed as a tablescape in his living room. “We’ve all got tea pots like these, but no one knows what to do with them.” Now we do. Thanks, Terry.

Silver and orchids, an alluring combination


Terry mixes all manner of make of materials into his designs, and what I found fascinating was that the flowers were the least important part of the equation. For our class, he used only two orchids from Home Depot and a couple of pink hydrangeas. Although I winced watching him snip the gorgeous blooms from a Phalaenopsis orchid, I would learn by the end of the evening that his unorthodox approach is what makes his tablescapes so appealing.

Balance your tablescape with height and interesting materials.


A copper napkin ring is made by wrapping wire around a broomstick.

As he snipped and arranged, the tablescape unfolded before our eyes and we learned even more about his tablescape philosophy. Always the eternal collector, Terry has enough silver plate in storage to serve a very large wedding, but true to his word not to overuse special collections, he will only use it twice a year. Virtually anything and everything you can find is fair game for your tablescape, except silk flowers. Someone asked, “But what if you use them up high where you can’t touch them? You know, sort of out of touch, out of mind?” An emphatic “nope, nope, not ever” was the answer from our instructor. “I am not going to do a wedding for someone, pack it up and reuse those silk flowers for the next event.” We got it!


Here are some quick bites and interesting tidbits from Terry’s class. And par for the course, they are in no specific order:

  • If you want to keep your flowers fresh, change the water daily and don’t use the additive you get from the florist.
  • Cutting off the leaves on flowers will help bring the water to the blossom and not to the leaves. Use the leaves randomly to fill in space.
  • Filler (i.e. baby’s breath, dianthus, carnations) takes away from good flowers, and is used to enhance bad flowers.
  • The number one month to get married in Nashville is May, followed by October.
  • Both Home Depot and Walmart have great tablescape materials, from green moss to copper to rocks.
  • If you think your bridesmaids will wear their dresses again, pick up a copy of You Will Wear It Again: A Celebration of Bridesmaids’ Dresses. Don’t begin wedding planning by picking your colors. Matching anything is forbidden.
  • 30% of the population is allergic to lilies. You may want to consider other choices for your wedding.


Finally, the only time Terry White has used Baby’s breath was to fill copper containers lining an old wooden fence on a long, long country road. I am sure it was simply gorgeous!


And, P.S., I couldn’t resist showing you this lovely photo montage of a wedding reception at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens designed by Terry White for Ashley Carol’s wedding reception. (The photography is by Gray Photography.) Gorgeous in its simple, yet sophisticated approach. Don’t you just love weddings? I know I do.


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