Thanksgiving centerpieces that say Southern California

A hand-painted picture frame filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts and dried Indian corn offers a fun twist on the traditional cornucopia.
(Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

I’m a procrastinator, but I’m also very particular. So, even though the big dinner’s near at hand, I refuse to settle for a supermarket florist boo-kay to grace the table that displays my holiday feast. I figure I can surely come up with something more interesting. I just need a formula to get my mind working.

Like most holidays, Thanksgiving has its own images, symbols and color schemes associated with it. The whole pilgrim-Indian idea involves way too many buckles and feathers, so I instead settle on the old horn of plenty idea -- the basket-like cornucopia spilling over with a warmly colorful harvest bounty.

Since I haven’t seen an actual cornucopia in, like, ever, I’ll make do with interesting vessels and fillings in the right color palette.


I know centerpieces should complement the meal I’m presenting and to that end should be similar in color to both the food and my overall tablescape. I also want the centerpieces to be rather low, so guests don’t have to peer around them to speak to each other. And I want them to be rustic, organic and natural-looking.

Instead of the traditional horn-shaped basket for my, er, ersatz cornucopia, I find suitable vessels in the form of a rustic large glazed pot saucer from my garden, something scoop-y that blew off a palm tree on a windy day and a discarded hand-painted picture frame from the garage. (Who says a vessel needs a bottom?)

To represent the horn’s bounty, seasonal fruits and vegetables are naturals; plus, they’re easily accessible, as well as gorgeous.

But I love succulents and river rocks too, so I put together a look using miniature versions of both. It’s a little unconventional, but it would look great on the table.

The supermarket and big-box hardware store yield the fillings. From the grocers come in-season winter squashes, dried corn, tropical and other fruits, unshelled nuts and autumn-hued candles. At the hardware store, I find small polished pebbles and tiny succulents. To round out the tableaux, I use household incidentals such as vintage egg cups and bowls, a cake stand, a long, flat cutting board and garden rocks.

Having all the bits and bobs in one place, it takes only minutes to assemble them artfully. Each centerpiece could easily take its place on my holiday table and provide a dash of SoCal in a variety of styles.

For a traditional feast, an autumn still life would sit pretty as a picture in the formerly forgotten frame. A more contemporary table would be warmed up by the rustic mini succulent garden’s colors and candles. Finally, for a really modern tablescape, my tropi-cornucopia brings spicy color and a multi-culti vibe.

You might not have the same items I used, but I’ll bet if you looked around your house you could find similar things that would work just as well.

Pick up any extras while running those last-minute errands, and you’re set -- a cornucopia for your table without becoming a basket case.

Muñoz is a designer at The Times and writes the Rancho Reubidoux blog,