Dressed For The Holidays

Although old standards like paperwhites and red amaryllis show no sign of losing their charm, this year take a new approach with a simple ikebana arrangement in holiday colors, bringing fresh elegance to the table.

"Ikebana—the Japanese art of flower arranging—takes years of training, but there are many simple techniques that one can easily master," says Keiko Kubo. Her March 2006 book Keiko's Ikebana (Tuttle Publishing, $24.95) offers an introduction to this international art that is both practical and contemporary.

Keiko's biggest tip: Keep it simple.While western floral design tends to draw on an ebullient range of flowers and colors, Japanese ikebana relies on limited color and materials; hence, the use here of just three red dahlias (any blousy red flower will work, even three red roses), combined with the leaves of cast-iron plant (aspidistra) and steel grass (Xanthorrhoea quandrangulata).

Actually, arranging this design is easy. Start by shaping 16-inch gauge wire into two balls and then place one each into the bottom of two cylindrical containers—al-most anything, even recycled olive jars, will do. Then wrap each jar with aspidistra leaves and bind them together at the sides with very thin green florists' wire. The trick, and the fun, is in shaping the steel grass (inserted into the wire balls to hold it in place) to balance and interact with the vase. Keiko's dramatic rendition is like a young girl outfitted for a fancy dress ball, ribbons and all.—donna dorian gift ideas

Veggie Bowls

Made from slices of fresh produce hand-pressed and then shaped into durable and colorful undulating flowers, these Veggie Parchment Bowls by natural sculptor Margaret Dorfman are the perfect size for a votive candle in a cup. An invisible coating keeps the translucent colors vibrant. Below, clockwise from top left are bowls made from papaya and beets, zucchini, and Mexican papaya. Not food safe. From Vivaterra: $38 each; $98 for a set of three. Call 800-2336011 or see www.vivaterra.com.—JA

Potting Shed Mexican Colors

Gourd Goods

From Italian furniture label Gervasoni BLU comes this quirky collection of bowls made from half gourds, perfect for holiday treats. Coated in seven layers of natural black lacquer, they cost from $231 for a set of 12. Call 877-455-6350 for retail sources. —JF

Gourd Goods

From Italian furniture label Gervasoni BLU comes this quirky collection of bowls made from half gourds, perfect for holiday treats. Coated in seven layers of natural black lacquer, they cost from $231 for a set of 12. Call 877-455-6350 for retail sources. —JF

november / december 200 5

If you plant a good turnip seed properly a turnip is what you will get every single time — ruth stout

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