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DIY: Foraged Thanksgiving Tabletop with Berries and Branches


DIY: Foraged Thanksgiving Tabletop with Berries and Branches

November 23, 2023

At my house, we always have a foraged floral arrangement for Thanksgiving. Some years, we decorate with persimmons and bay boughs, and others with herbs and berry sprigs in juice glasses. Whatever’s outdoors is on the table too.

Here are a few easy tips for making your own zero-cost holiday centerpiece, which by the way looks prettier than anything you can buy:

Photography by Michelle Slatalla.

Above: With a free-form arrangement of branches and berries, you can make a dramatic garland that runs the length of the table, or you can confine foraged florals to centerpiece territory (and use the space at the end of the table for serving dishes).

The Basics

Above: Some things never change. Every year I set the table with silverware that once belonged to my husband’s grandmother; low wine goblets (because they’re less tippy than tall stemware), and white plates.

I love fancy china and crystal. But I’ve learned over the years that white dishes and unobtrusive glassware will make a beautiful backdrop to foraged florals. I want greenery and autumn colors to take center stage at the center of the table.

Foraged Finds

Above: I headed into the late-season garden to see what still looked good enough to come indoors. From a smoke bush near my front door, I clipped some branches with moody, mottled purple leaves. In the backyard, past-their-prime hydrangeas had flowers at that bruised-pink stage that looks good with everything.

Above: In autumn, shrubs sport all color of berries. Branches with green leaves and colorful berries make pretty garlands. In my Northern California neighborhood, there are lots of orange bittersweet berries, black privet berries, and purple privet berries. Other berries to look for: purple beautyberry and orange winterberry. (See What’s that Berry? Test Your Knowledge of Fall’s Red Fruits.)


Above: Before arranging foraged finds, rinse them–extremely well–in the kitchen sink. Bugs are not welcome at the dinner table.

The Look

Above: I used garden twine to tie a sprig to each napkin. You can also get fancier and make a tiny bundled bouquet for each guest’s napkin. See how at Botanical Napkin Rings for Thanksgiving.

Above: I like a big napkin, preferably made of soft linen because the fabric drapes beautifully and absorbs spilled wine better than cotton.

Available in nearly two dozen colors, 22-inch-square linen napkins from Hudson Grace are washable and can be tumbled dry (and if you pull them out of the dryer while they’re still warm, you won’t need to iron them–they fold beautifully). Hand-dyed in San Francisco, the napkins are $18 apiece.

Above: To assemble the floral arrangement, I laid a linen runner down the center of the table. The fabric defines the boundaries of the floral arrangement (a helpful visual cue for when you don’t use a vase or other vessel).

Next, I laid a line of smoke bush branches down the middle of the table runner. Into them I tucked shorter lengths of privet, allowing the smoke bush leaves to cup clusters of privet berries. For extra drama, I tucked one hydrangea bloom into each end of the free-form garland.

Above: I placed the napkins on top of the plates to add some height to edge of the table and offset the bulk of the foraged floral arrangement. This prevents the table from looking like it has a big, impenetrable hedge in the middle of it.

Above: I wanted the table to contradict itself, to look glamorous and casual at the same time. So I skipped the tablecloth this year and instead relied on the runner to create a painterly frame around the florals.

The Day After

Above: After you disassemble the tabletop arrangement, turn the water pitcher into a vase with a sprig of long-lasting berries.

We’re feeling thankful. See:

N.B.: This post was first published November 2017.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the article about?

The article provides a guide for creating a DIY Thanksgiving tabletop using foraged backyard berries and branches.

What is the purpose of the DIY project?

The DIY project aims to create a unique and natural Thanksgiving tabletop decor using materials found in your own backyard.

What materials are required for this DIY project?

The materials required include foraged branches, berries, leaves, twine, a vase, candle holders, candles, and a tablecloth.

Can I use other materials instead of backyard berries and branches?

Yes, you can use other festive and natural materials such as pinecones, acorns, dried flowers, or seasonal fruits for decoration.

Are there any specific types of branches or berries to use?

There are no specific types mentioned in the article, but it suggests using branches and berries that are readily available in your backyard for a personalized touch.

Is this DIY project suitable for beginners?

Yes, this DIY project is beginner-friendly and requires minimal crafting skills. The instructions provided in the article are easy to follow.

Can I personalize the tabletop decor to my own taste?

Absolutely! The article encourages personalization and creativity. You can add additional elements or modify the design to suit your preferences.

How long will the DIY project take to complete?

The duration may vary depending on your crafting skills and the complexity of your chosen design. However, it is estimated to take a couple of hours to complete.

Are there any maintenance tips for the finished tabletop decor?

To ensure the longevity of your tabletop decor, keep it away from direct sunlight, water any living elements sparingly, and store it in a cool and dry place when not in use.

Can I reuse the materials for future occasions?

Yes, most of the materials used in this DIY project are reusable. You can disassemble and store them for future use in other decorations or recreate the Thanksgiving tabletop next year.

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