Entertaining, Gardening How-Tos, In the Garden

Creating Your Own “Iris Apfel-Inspired” Dahlia Arrangment

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Table centerpieces are probably my favorite part of the entertaining process, made all the more satisfying when the flowers are fresh from the garden. At this time of the year that would be dahlias, which come in every color imaginable…just a month before the hedge of Limelight hydrangeas (shown below).


Having decided on Japanese obi panels for Iris’ birthday dinner table in the Orangerie, I was thrilled to realize that there were actually dahlias (or dahlia-like) flowers in the obi pattern. Of course the colors happened to be in sunset shades (yellows, apricots, oranges, rusts) which are a ready palate in my cutting garden.


I chose a French ormolu, glass-topped stand as a nod to our guest-of-honor’s affinity for French decor as well as for its somewhat zen-like presence — nothing interrupted the flow of the obi panels.


Keeping the arrangement low is a cardinal rule insuring good conversation and eye contact, especially to be considered when the evening is an intimate birthday party of less than eight guests.

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

This centerpiece was created in ten minutes after the rest of the tabletop was in place. It is testimony to my belief that effective and appropriate arrangements need not be time consuming, expensive or overwrought. I hope these easy how-tos will have you agreeing:

1. Dahlias are perfect for floating; another way to keep an arrangement low.


2. Snip the stems short as you place each flower.


3. Go for the bold, then nestle in the “supporting actors” (as I like to call them).


4. Start building a cluster of the small orange dahlias that will repeat the deeper highlights in the yellow dahlias.


5. Finish by using one or two longer-stemmed, small dahlias that add an asymmetric quality to the arrangement.


TIP: Perfect colors for the obi, their petal form also repeats the graphic and geometric details of the Japanese panels.

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

A great introduction to fall!

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

Featured Image Credit, Maaike Bernstrom

If you enjoy this article, please share it!
Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

5 thoughts on “Creating Your Own “Iris Apfel-Inspired” Dahlia Arrangment

  1. Dahlias! Be still my heart! They are my favorite flower. They make any arrangement sing, and your stunning centerpiece deserves a Grammy!

  2. The details of the party were absolutely beautiful, especially the French ormolu, but what really got my heart is what you wrote…” As a nod to our guest of honors…”
    The thoughtfulness of your giving makes me happy.

  3. Bettie your arrangement and thoughtful planning are brilliant !
    You are a marvelous hostess
    xxooo Joanie
    ….. still have your little books f rom Childrens Chain 🙂

Comments are closed.