Potato Flowers

I like a big foofy floral centerpiece as much as anyone else, but there are occasions when the food needs to be the center of attention. Like Thanksgiving. Let’s face it: however beautiful, flowers look downright prissy when stacked next to a turkey carcass and Aunt JoAnna’s chess pie.

Just the same, I like a little bit of floral on the table. A little flowers, a little candles, a little bit of cloth napkins….suddenly everyone forgets who is winning the football game and is wondering what scrumptious bounty they are about to consume. Let’s give thanks!

These are called potato flowers but the potato is not required. You could use apples, pears, eggplants, tomato, pumpkins, gourds….any sort of fruit or vegetable that is independently hefty and leaks a bit when you cut it.  Use a knife to make small, deep incisions and stick the flower stems in the potato as though it were a flower frog. The flowers will stay alive for hours (sometimes days) by drawing on the moisture in the potato.

Hearty flowers like mums, carnations, roses, dahlias and status, do particularity well. One time I did this with nothing but clementines and baby’s breath. It was a weird combo, but in mass quantity scattered around the table, it worked great.  You just need to remember that the more acidic the fruit and the more delicate the flower, the faster they will fall. Lucky for us, the hearty sort of flowers always seem to come bundled together at the grocery store for cheap. Or if you are like me, there are some mums sitting out on your front steps just waiting for a haircut. While I’m out there, I also grab some fresh rosemary — it adds a fragrance and evergreen-ish texture that is just perfect for Thanksgiving.   

I learned this trick from my Mother’s friend Ramona, who learned it from her mother, who as legend has it, would make these arrangements for her bridge club using tiny red potatoes and flower cuttings from her garden. After the flowers were inserted she would wrap the bottom of the potato in a piece of ruffled bib lettuce and set it in an old-fashioned wide-mouth champagne glass. The arrangements would be clustered together on the buffet table at the start of the evening, then later when the ladies broke into groups to play bridge, the flowers would break apart and one small arrangement would be set at each table. Because they have such a small footprint, arrangements like this are especially nice for Thanksgiving (or bridge club) when you want to maximize every inch of real estate on the table.

Off topic: Why doesn’t  anyone play bridge anymore? I don’t even know how to play but I’d take it up in a heart beat if it came with finger sandwiches and miniature floral arrangements.

  You like my plaid table cloth? It’s a blanket. Got it on sale at Target (don’t buy on line if you can help it — it’s cheaper at the store).  It’s super soft and washes beautifully.

For the base, I used apples and old-fashioned sundae cups. I find sundae cups at thrift stores and garage sales for 20cents, sometimes less. I have no idea why anyone would get rid of them. I like them because they give a little bit of height, but they come in handy for all sorts of stuff around the kitchen, especially when it comes to entertaining. I should write a post on the many ways to use sundae cups. They are a seriously under appreciated!
I like it when flowers are scattered around the table instead of one clump in the middle. If it’s a small group, you can set them so that everyone at the table has their own little posy. Or if that’s too much fuss, make one for every other table setting, or just one to place on either side of the main platter in the center of the table.

 Variations on this idea: Apple Orchard Centerpiece, Gourd Decor, Camilla’s Apple Bombs. 


  1. says

    What a wonderful idea. Love a little bouquet of posys at each place setting. This is gracious living at it’s finest. I read that phrase ys ago in better homes and gardens magazine and it fits here.

  2. says

    Thanks. Great idea. And I’d love to read a post on the uses of sundae glasses.

  3. says

    Love the images! I thought you were talking about flowers grown from a potato, my mistake!
    Thanks for the information!

  4. nutbirds says

    Love your color sense, (or lack of sense!) I think you could get a run on sundae cups going at the thrift stores all over the country. I think we used to put fruit cocktail in them in the olden days. I went to a Garden Club demonstration when I moved to the suburbs. This florist showed us how to pick green things from the backyard, or municipal parking lots, or by the street to stick them into floral arrangements. That changed my life. Baby’s breath, which we all used to throw away has become the popular flower for weddings. Just plain baby’s breath. Go figure.

  5. michelle l says

    Love your cozy blanket tablecloth! The flower idea sounds so cool – and your arrangements so pretty and original. i must try! Placing the apples in the sundae cups is too cute. I play mah jong, kinda the same social style as Bridge, maybe? Do you play by any chance? You would love it.

  6. PeachesFreund says

    The baby’s breath trend is quite a thing these days! Very 70’s. I love baby’s breath on the Christmas tree. Just get big tufts of it and stick it in…looks all snowy. Why is it that municipal buildings always have the nicest greenery for trimming? I have been looking for somewhere I could trim some evergreen snippets…maybe some juniper. Used to have one in my back yard but there is hardly anything here in Evanston.

  7. PeachesFreund says

    Michelle, you don’t even know….I swear to cats, before I hit “publish” on this post I deleted a whole paragraph on wanting to start up a Mah jong club. I thought nobody would know what it is…boy was I wrong! My grandmother played but I barely remember how it goes. Nobody around here knows. Hurumph. This is reason #132 we should be neighbors.

  8. ImSoVintage Laura Walker says

    I love this idea, and adore your blog. My mom still plays bridge once or twice a week. I quit years ago. Probably because no one offered finger sandwiches and pretty flower arrangements. 🙂

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