If a plant delights you in the garden, it might dazzle your dinner guests when properly attired for the table. So says Wayne Woods, a floral designer whose studio, The Woods, in the Four Seasons Hotel produces towers of flowers for as little as $45 or as much as $2,000. Woods advocates bringing in bits of the outdoors for festive occasions and, when your guests depart, planting a centerpiece rather than tossing it. "My profession's based on the beauty of nature. It doesn't make sense to be destroying it," he says.
To Woods, an ivy topiary on a patio is a prime candidate for the buffet table, provided the greens are dressed up with cut roses, dahlias, gardenias or whatever's blooming in the flower bed. Nursery-bought annuals are among Woods' other favorites. A flat of Iceland poppies or pink-edged dianthus, their earthbound roots swathed in sheet moss, make colorful contributions to a groaning board--and later, to a garden border. Forced-bulb plants such as amaryllis or narcissus are equally versatile, as are the bulbs themselves, which, when stripped and cleaned, can be pressed into the mossy base of an arrangement.
According to Woods, the only guideline for the growing centerpiece is a good mix of color and texture. Bright shades are popular now, and, for containers, taste runs to the crusty and timeworn: rusted iron and paint-chipped pots. Woods suggests visiting thrift shops to find these. He's also fond of draping inexpensive vessels with mosses, fruit, ivy or pepper berries plucked from a tree outside. "Go through your garage, walk into your garden," he urges. "When the party's over, you'll have something to keep."