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Holiday table calls for flowers, fruit

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2000
Page: P2F
Byline: Peggy Spear Knight Ridder Newspapers

CONCORD, Calif. - The holidays are upon us, and florists Brian and Kathy Utting are out to make sure your table overfloweth. When they are done, there might even be room left for some food.

As owners of the Full Bloom flower shop in Concord, Calif., the Uttings are one of the best-kept secrets in the San Francisco Bay area. The outside of their shop - tucked in a warehouse alley - looks unassuming enough. Go inside, however, and it's like stepping into a fairy tale, as the sheer array of faux and fresh flowers, twinkling lights, fine china and other accessories create a feast for all of the senses.

And it is feasts that Brian Utting has on his mind this holiday season, as he serves up some delicious ideas for holiday table decorating.

"The holidays are about being together and eating good things," he says. "You should make sure the tables are as festive as the party." Wife Kathy goes one step further, suggesting that "the more festive a table top, the more people will want to linger and talk after dinner, rather than run over and turn on the game on TV." The Uttings were as busy as elves recently, gathering ideas for the holiday season. Besides their usual flower business, they are contracted by homeowners and corporations to deck halls.

However, Brian is the first to admit that table top decorating doesn't have to be a major expense. "We use what's in season, and then we use our imagination," he says. "In decorating, there really are no rules.

For instance, you may be throwing a party for people of several different faiths. You can create festive decorations that don't scream Christmas or Hanukkah. A mixture of the two is really appealing." With ears and eyes toward trends as well as their own unique sense of style, here's a peek at the menu of ideas the Uttings are planning this holiday season.

- There are colors other than red and green. "Many of the large flower companies, like FTD, purchased all the red flowers, so many of the small florists don't have a lot to choose from," says Brian. "However, that has turned into an advantage for us, because there are other beautiful flowers available." Utting enjoys using an ivory-colored Vendela rose and a Pink Lipstick rose to accent his flower designs. "They are really versatile colors - both mean celebration," Kathy says. Other fun accent colors are purple, blue and even black.

- Use what is in season. The Uttings shop at the flower mart, where they find an array of exquisite berries to use in their designs. Some of their favorites are hypericum berries, white snow berries, seeded eucalyptus and small red chinaberries. Another fun accent is fruit, such as crab apples and dried persimmons.

- Wreath rage. These versatile design elements are usually associated with Christmas, but they are rapidly becoming more popular not only year-round but in use off the wall as well. The Uttings suggest putting either a faux evergreen or fresh evergreen wreath as a centerpiece, decorate it with fresh flowers and berries, and then put whatever you want inside. Some ideas are vases with other flowers, large round candles, an ice bucket with champagne or even a soup tureen.

- Never underestimate the power of candlelight. Tall candles light faces better around a table, while small votive candles highlight the food. The Uttings suggest using a combination of candle heights and widths and using different color combinations. "It doesn't have to be just all red or all white candles," Kathy says.

- Use small bud vases at each plate. "That way, some of the elements of the table decorations are spread out, and there's not only one focal point," says Kathy. This is especially good if you are seating many people at a long table, she says.

- Not all ornaments have to go on the tree. "One really easy design element is to just place ornaments on tables. They are bright and sparkly and add a fun flavor to the table," Brian says. Another feature that adds pizazz is ribbon, especially wide lengths of richly colored mesh, he says. "Drape it across a table or tie it in bows around candles." - Combine holidays. The candles of Passover and fruit of Kwanzaa - two symbols of non-Christian celebrations - are wonderful elements in any home during the holidays. For instance, the Uttings put together a small Christmas-tree-shaped topiary made of fruit and sprayed with a glitter glue to hold it together.

- Use faux flowers - they look better than ever. Brian says both he and Kathy are in awe of some of the fake flowers available these days.

His favorite: a plastic holly plant complete with the sharp edges.

"I'm not a fan of obviously fake plants," he says. "But there are so many new, good-looking faux greens and flowers, it makes sense to use them." - Shimmer, sparkle and shine. The flickering of candles, the sparkle of glitter and the shimmer of ribbons all add to the festive nature of the season. The Uttings suggest using as much of this as possible to add elegance and excitement to the table. Brian even strings small white lights around his table at home. When everyone is seated, he flips a switch, and the table is illuminated with scores of twinkling lights. "It's such a simple concept, but no one would think of putting lights at their [holiday] table," he says. "Why not?" - Get out the good stuff. "Holidays are the time of year to use your fine china, and the gorgeous decorations your aunt left you in her will," Brian says. "It is a great opportunity to dress it up and show it off."

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