Stage an Outdoors-Inspired Thanksgiving Dinner

Lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith creates a gorgeous Thanksgiving dinner where pumpkins, gourds, boxwoods and delights from the edible garden take center stage.

Tablescape Overview

Tablescape Overview

A symmetrical balance of form and color makes this table setting pop.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

Your meals taste their best when you use fresh, local in-season ingredients. Why not bring this inspiring idea to your Thanksgiving table by hosting a farmers’ potluck-style gathering with family and friends?

table decor

Evergreen Clippings for Thanksgiving Tablescape

Clippings from your favorite evergreen plant will add a fresh spin to your arrangements.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

There are tons of hearty, flavorful vegetables and herbs that you can harvest straight from your garden this month, or at your local farmers' market. Some of my favorite fall seasonal fare includes: 

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Winter Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Turnip Greens
  • Parsnips
  • Apples
  • Artichoke 
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mustard Greens

The options are endless with these delicious, savory choices but two of my favorite recipes for serving a large crowd comes from Chef Matthew Bell, owner of South on Main restaurant, one of the top upscale southern fare bistros in Little Rock, Arkansas. Start your meal off with this healthy, refreshing salad using kale, one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables around. This Kale Waldorf Salad can be doubled or tripled to suit your needs. It’s crisp, light, slightly sweet and very filling.

For dessert, chef Bell has a surefire crowd pleaser and a delicious spin on the traditional pumpkin pie, Pumpkin S'more Jars.

An Elegant Metallic Pumpkin and Gourd Tablescape

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Cooking is only half the fun when planning your farmers’ potluck gathering. Aim to create a tablescape that accents and enhances your farm-to-table theme.

thanksgiving table

Pumpkin-Centric Thanksgiving Tablescape

Pumpkins and gourds are bountiful this time of year, and you can never have too many in your Thanksgiving tablescape.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

Pumpkins and gourds are bountiful this time of year, and you can never have too many in your Thanksgiving tablescape.

Look for seasonal snippets from your garden to help transform your dinner table to a bountiful banquet. Go crazy with pumpkins and gourds, and think outside the box with metallic and chalkboard paint to create interesting color themes and textures. 

holiday tablescape

Neutral Table Runner

Choose a neutral table runner as the foundation for your centerpiece.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

Choose a neutral table runner as the foundation for your centerpiece.

I used my robin’s egg-hued farmhouse table as the inspiration for this tablescape. To achieve this elegant harvest look, collect an assortment of interesting green, white and gray pumpkin varieties and pepper in a few shiny painted metallic pumpkins.

thistle

Thistle for Holiday Decor

Thistle has great texture and color. Group it in a vase, or place stems sporadically through your arrangement.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

Thistle has great texture and color. Group it in a vase, or place stems sporadically through your arrangement.

To attain this enchanted silvery effect, alternate solid metallic spray paint with dabs of sponge-painted shiny silver, gold or bronze over the pumpkin’s natural skin. Let each layer completely dry before adding the next. Anchor the overall tablescape with a scattering of miniature pumpkins brushed with chalk paint for subtle texture in shades of pale blue, green and taupe. These elegant mini pumpkins can also double as place card holders.

Thanksgiving Place Settings

Thanksgiving Place Settings

Tuck in a sprig of something green, like a boxwood cutting, for sweet placeholders to delight your guests.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

Tuck in a sprig of something green, like a boxwood cutting, for sweet placeholders to delight your guests.

To give my rustic, farm table a more formal look I opted to create a boxwood topiary within pumpkins as centerpieces. I used artificial pumpkins on my tablescape, but feel free to explore transforming your garden pumpkins into live containers.

Create a Decorative Pumpkin and Boxwood Topiary

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Follow these easy steps to create an utterly memorable Thanksgiving tablescape.

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Pumpkins can be transformed into so many decorative accents.

table centerpiece

Add Candles to Your Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Don’t forget to set the mood with lighting. Place a few unscented candles in votives for a soft, warm glow.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

If you plan on serving champagne or white wine at your gathering, consider creating a pumpkin ice bucket to keep your bubbly chilled. To create this harvest-chic cooler, hollow out a creamy white Lumina pumpkin. Remove the top of the pumpkin, just as you would when making a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard, and fill with ice and a bottle of your favorite beverage. Pop the top and let the bountiful spirit flow!

pumpkin cooler

Pumpkin Cooler

Hollowed out pumpkins are great to chill champagne.

Photo by: Hortus Ltd.

Hortus Ltd.

Hollowed out pumpkins are great to chill champagne.

Next Up

Create Your Own Party-Perfect Charcuterie + Cheese Board

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How to Make Dipped Candy Apple Party Favors

Rustic yet refined embellishments like a sprig of gilded greenery and a leaf-shaped kraft paper tag make these candy-coated apples a casually elegant, yet affordable DIY favor. Give them out as take-home treats at your next gathering or package them up as pretty, edible holiday gifts.

Light Up the Night: DIY Industrial Chic Garden Lanterns

Add some sparkle to your outdoor dining with these simple lanterns made with hardware store supplies.

Holiday Cheese Ball Recipe

Try this make-ahead spread at your next seasonal soiree.

Homemade Eggnog Recipe

Raise a glass and toast the seasonal by serving this truly traditional holiday eggnog. Serve the non-alcoholic base with your favorite spirit on the side, if desired.

18 Darling Ways to Top Off Holiday Sips + Snacks

Make holiday cocktails and appetizers way more fun with garnishes that add the perfect finishing touch.

Lemon-Scented Cupcakes With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Use this dressed-up vanilla cupcake recipe as the base for special-occasion decorated treats. Just add food coloring and embellishments for endless possibilities.

Heirloom Easter Egg Topiary

Craft this garden and backyard chicken inspired topiary for your spring table.
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