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Symbols Of Thanksgiving

With a few simple things that you may already have around the house, garden designer P. Allen Smith shows The Saturday Early Show how to make some festive Thanksgiving decorations.

With Smith's instruction, you can use a cornucopia, seasonal pumpkins, gourds and fall leaves for practical but beautiful designs.


Every holiday or season seems to have it's own symbol - Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and hearts for Valentines Day. A good symbol for the harvest season is the cornucopia, or "horn of plenty." A decorative motif, the original cornucopia was a curved goat's horn filled to overflowing with fruit and grain.

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Smith has an easy technique for putting together a cornucopia that will look great hanging on a door, welcoming your holiday guests. It starts with some unlikely materials, such as chicken wire, some grape vine and moss. Start by cutting a 2-by-2-foot piece of 1-inch mesh chicken wire. Then roll it diagonally from one corner to the other creating a cone. To hold it together, bend the ends of the wire into the body and curve the closed end into the classic cornucopia shape. For the open end, just roll back the edges to form a lip. Make the opening large enough to hold an 8-inch container.

Now, since this is going to be a door hanging, make sure that the container is lightweight and waterproof. Smith says he likes to make a paper mache liner. Once the frame is made, cover it using sheet moss - attaching the moss to the frame with a hot glue gun. Smith suggests using smaller pieces of moss because they are easier to handle. As a final touch, wrap the entire horn in grape vine. This gives it a nice accent and helps secure the moss. Use some hairspray to keep the moss from shattering.

Now that the cornucopia is done, you are ready to really get creative and fill it with things that symbolize the harvest season, such as dried fruits and vegetables, as well as kale, mums and ivy. Smith starts by placing floral foam in the container and pushing it toward the back to leave room in the front for other things. Then he secures the container with floral tape.

Smith likes to build the arrangement from the back toward the front using tall spiky things like Russian sage. For the larger living things, moisten the roots and slip them in a plastic bag. This will help them last longer and they'll fit easier in the arrangement. Now fill in the empty spaces with gourds, corn, dried flowers. Use ivy across the front so it cascade down. Now, the cornucopia is ready to hang on the front door. It'll be fresh and beautiful until you're ready to hang a Christmas wreath.

Table Centerpieces

Smith loves using fall colors at Thanksgiving, especially fall leaves. A few days before Thanksgiving, Smith cuts several branches of the most colorful leaves from his red maples, a variety called "Red Sunset." Before bringing branches inside and arranging them, use a pocketknife to make a few slits across the bottom and slits about an inch to 2 nches up the side of the branch. This will help the branch draw water up and will keep the leaves moist in the dry air of the house. Smith likes to place the branches of leaves in two old vases in his dining room. You can also use the leaves in vases down the center of your Thanksgiving table - placing pumpkins and gourds around the vases.

If you want to preserve the leaves for an indefinite period,there are several approaches that you might take. Smith likes to use a technique he learned in a grade-school craft project that involved wax paper and leaves. Simply place leaves between two layers of wax paper, and then, covering the wax paper with an old towel, press the fabric with a warm iron, sealing the wax paper around the leaf. Then all you have to do is cut the leaves out - leaving a narrow margin of wax paper around the leaf edge.

You also can preserve fall leaves using the modern convenience of the microwave oven. Simply choose fresh, colorful individual leaves or a small twig with leaves attached. Place them in the microwave on top of two pieces of paper towel and then cover them with one sheet of paper towel. Microwave for 30-seconds to 3-minutes. The drier the leaves, the less time they will need. Use caution because you could start a fire in your microwave if you let the leaves cook for too long. Leaves that curl after they're removed from the microwave have not been dried enough. Leaves that are scorched were left in too long. Allen suggests a test run on a few leaves. After the leaves have dried for several days spray them with an acrylic craft spray.

Another way to preserve the leaves is to submerge them in a solution of one part glycerin to two parts water. Place the mixture in a flat pan and totally submerge the leaves in the liquid. You'll have to weight them down to keep them submerged. In two to six days the leaves should have absorbed the liquid and be soft and pliable. At this point, remove the leaves from the solution and wipe off all the liquid with a soft cloth. If done correctly, the leaves will remain soft and pliable indefinitely.

Mini Pumpkins Place Cards

Take a mini pumpkin and score a line across it with a knife. Slide a place card into the line and presto, pumpkin place card holders.

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