Magazine article Sunset

Garden to Tabletop: Common Herbs Are Surprisingly Gorgeous as the Theme of This Backyard Party

Magazine article Sunset

Garden to Tabletop: Common Herbs Are Surprisingly Gorgeous as the Theme of This Backyard Party

Article excerpt

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You might think the humble herb doesn't have a lot of star power. Let Caitlin Atkinson convince you otherwise. The photographer and stylist literally wrote the book on crafting with plants (Plant Crap, out from Timber Press this fall), so when her family gathers for dinner in her grandmother's garden in Nevada City, California, Atkinson is almost always on decorating duty. Lately, thyme, rosemary, and other culinary standbys are finding their way onto her table as easy flourishes and softly scented centerpieces. "Herbs are a fresh alternative to flowers, and they're all around us in the summer," Atkinson says.

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VINTAGE VIBES

"This is a garden party; it's supposed to be relaxed," says Atkinson (above left). She suggests letting the greenery provide most of the decoration and keeping the look loose. She pulled indoor chairs around her patio table for a mismatched look (opposite). Renais beam table, terra patio.com. Redsmith and Brasserie dining chairs, anthropologie.com. Wooden chairs, vintage.

FRESHEN UP

Etch each guest's name on a metal plant tag with a pen tip, then wind the tag's wire around a cluster of rosemary, purple sage, and scented geranium leaves (above). Belay celery green salad plates, cb2.com.

TWICE AS NICE

Dress up camembert with a dusting of chives, toma with thyme, and blue cheese with a sprig of dill (left). The herbs complement the cheese and add color.

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LIVING ART

Atkinson created a centerpiece (left) with an eye toward planting the herbs after dinner. To make it, she chose three types of thyme, scented geranium, and allium plants for height; removed them from their 4-inch containers; and placed them directly onto a relatively flat piece of cured driftwood. A little soil and 'Elfin' thyme tucked around the edges hide the roots. …

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