/ by Lynn Greenlaw  / photo by Eli Warren

Late summer and early fall always seem to provide us with a bounty of materials to help create a display for the seasonal table. All you need to do is to go searching for them. We turned to Frank Ogletree, of The Embassy Flowers & Nature’s Gifts, who is an expert at foraging just the right pieces to make a spectacular arrangement. As usual, he didn’t disappoint.

Not only did Frank utilize plants that can be found in our gardens or along the roadside, but he added two unique pieces, a turtle shell which he found several years ago and an antler, that add an unexpected visual to the display. When asked why he picked these particular items he said, “I appreciate the beauty in nature and enjoy working it into my designs.”

Our goal was to use something out of the ordinary as a container. Something that may have been overlooked as a possibility when it seemed easier to use a vase. Our choice is a vintage Italian Tole lidded metal ice bucket with a built-in plastic liner that is a perfect autumnal color.

When picking a vessel, be sure to waterproof test it before using. Fill it with water and let it sit overnight before creating your arrangement. If you’re still not certain about its durability, place something waterproof underneath it to protect the surface on which it will be placed.

This fall season, think outside the vase and dazzle your family and friends with your creativity. Explore nature first and maybe you’ll be lucky to find some treasures like Frank’s. Or take your chosen container to your favorite floral designer and let everyone think you did it all by yourself. It will be our little secret.


Build this arrangement

Front top-to-bottom seasonal
elements are key for a designer look.

Dried elements:

Broom Straw and Natraj Willow
create vertical and horizontal dimension to draw the eye.


Gold Dust Acuba, fern, moss and Crocosmia (a perennial from the iris family) fill in the mid-range and can come straight from the garden.


Sunflowers and Amaranth are both flowering seeds, perfect for harvest time with their rich, saturated color and are available for purchase locally.

Natural Elements:

Objects of the natural world help ground this display. Add moss around them (even inside the turtle shell) and use floral picks to secure.


Ice Bucket Challenge

This 1950s Italian Tole ice bucket with its Chinoiserie styling makes an ideal container to bring to the florist. Its exterior is lacquered finished and it’s lined inside the bucket as well as inside the lid. We like vintage pieces that can perform multiple tasks and think this arrangement can go from dinner party to sideboard stunner and back to the bar without missing a beat.