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Thanksgiving Tray

Thanksgiving TrayI recall helping my grandmother gather squash and pumpkins from the vegetable patch as well as clipping branches of berries and bittersweet vines that she used to adorn her fall arrangements. Those experiences helped me develop an appreciation for the non-floral garden elements that linger long after the flowers have faded.

This seasonal display is based on my “make it simple” rule of holiday decorating. It is meant to be a springboard for your own creative imagination. Depending on where you live, you may find similar materials to those I used. The theme is adaptable and can be expressed with the items that you find in your area. The fun is to let the plan evolve depending on what you find.



  1. Pillar Candles and Hurrican LampsArrange 3 pillar candles on the tray and slip clear glass hurricane lamps over them. Rather than lining them up, bring the middle candle slightly forward.
  2. Since I already had some colorful gourds and miniature pumpkins left over from Halloween, I decided to use them in this arrangement. If you don’t have any on hand, you can find them at a grocery or craft store. They are available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.
  3. Pile the pumpkins around the bases of the lamps and fit the gourds around the edges to fill in. Then add a second layer of gourds to build interest and dimension.
  4. Floral Vase for Cut StemsThe leaves on my neighbor’s Bradford pear had just turned a gorgeous shade of ruby red, and she was willing to share, so I gathered a handful to add to the display. Since leaves are often short-lived once they are picked, I slipped them into small water filled floral vials to extend their freshness. The vials are easily camouflaged by tucking them among the pumpkins and gourds. If vials aren’t available you can simply replace any faded leaves with new ones as needed. The leaves offer a layer of texture and brilliance to the arrangement, providing a soft and ephemeral contrast to the smooth, hard surfaces of the pumpkins and gourds.
  5. ImageAs a finishing touch, add stems of dried bittersweet or other berried branches you may find. The vines add another layer of interest to the arrangement, flowing in elegant lines above the static objects in the tray.
  6. Make final adjustments and then place the tray on a side table or use it as the centerpiece at your next gathering. I find it soothing to see the warm glow of candlelight play off the colorful collection of objects in this autumnal display.