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Build a Floral Compote

Dust off your grandmother’s compote and arrange flowers inside to make it bloom with flowers and foliage.

| Fall 2017

  • The wide bowl of a compote lends itself to table decorations because the footed base lifts the flowers without blocking a guest's view.
    Photo by Erin Kunkel
  • Author Ariella Chezar has created designs for many events, including Christmas at the White House.
    Photo by Ten Speed Press
  • Begin building the floral arrangement by arching branches outward over the edges of the compote. Secure the ends of the branches with a pin frog.
    Photo by Mother Earth News/Allison Sarkesian
  • To build a compote floral arrangement, use branching elements as your base layer.
    Photo by Stocksy/Susan Findlay
  • Castor bean flowers (Ricinus communis) are a striking addition to a compote floral arrangement.
    Photo by IStock/Fotolinchen
  • Options for your compote arrangement include love in a puff vines, with their distinctive yellow-green lanterns.
    Photo by pho2515
  • "The Flower Workshop" by Ariella Chezar with Jule Michaels is a publication of Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
    Photo by Ten Speed Press

Is there anything that can transform a moment as instantly as a fresh flower arrangement? Their color and aliveness, their fragrance, their movement, their ability to attract the eye, and the pleasure they give make them nearly miraculous.

I return to some arrangements again and again, but use seasonal flowers and inspired accents to create something unique each time. One of those is a compote flower arrangement. A compote is a raised bowl that lends itself well to lush table decorations because the footed base lifts the flowers toward eye level without blocking a guest’s view. The wide bowl allows for fullness, letting the flowers relax into their natural postures, sometimes spilling onto the table. The wide opening also means you can build a complex arrangement that appears to float horizontally. Vines wrapped around the pedestal can add a touch of whimsy.

Our grandmothers used these footed bowls for fruit and nuts, but they’re actually the perfect vessels for holding flowers. On dining tables, branches can reach out horizontally, so even small compotes can make a large impact. Because the bowls are wide, compotes welcome bodacious flowers on short stems that drape over the edge of the bowl. In fact, the best compote arrangements let flowers and vines swoop down to — and even touch — the tabletop.

Ceramic, silver-plated, glass, pottery, and pewter footed bowls can be found in department and housewares stores as well as at flea markets and floral supply houses. Choose the material based on the style of your arrangement and where you plan to put it. Terra cotta fits a rustic outdoor setting, burnished silver glows at a formal occasion, and porcelain is so versatile it can work well in either.

How to Build a Basic Compote Floral Arrangement

Use these steps as guidelines to build your own compote floral arrangements.

1. Attach a pin frog to the center of the compote with floral putty. Fill the bowl 3/4 full with water. You can place your compote on a Lazy Susan so you can turn the arrangement and view it from every angle.

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