Food & Drinks

How To Set a Sustainable Table with Alice Sheppard from She’s a Wildflower

’Tis the season for warmer days, longer nights and summer soirées with your nearest and dearest. To make sure we’re brunching consciously, we’ve brought in good friend Alice Sheppard, founder of She’s A Wildflower, to share with us her sustainable savvy swaps for the ultimate tablescape.

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1. Hi Alice! You have an amazing eye for curating beautiful bouquets and styling the perfect table! How important are florals in curating the ultimate tablescape? 

I know I’m biased but florals help bring a little life to a table! When thoughtfully selected to compliment the tableware including the tablecloth, cutlery, glassware and crockery, they really elevate the tablescape as a whole. 

Having a mix of colour, texture, shape and form are key to creating an interesting floral display. I enjoy creating arrangements that form part of the table and have finer flowers dancing above the other flowers so it feels like guests are interacting through them. They key is not too many and not large so that it obstructs their eyeline, think soft floating flowers. Ideally you want them spaced so they don’t need to be moved once guests are seated so you can admire them while eating.

2. Seasonal florals are fresh, beautiful and abundant. What are the benefits of selecting locally grown seasonal florals, and what positive impact does this have on the environment?

Buying locally has so many benefits! There is the obvious one in reducing your carbon footprint knowing they have been grown locally rather than flown thousands of kilometres to get here from overseas. The quality and longevity is also much better, if they have been flown from overseas you generally have no idea when they were cut and how long it has taken them to be transported. Some flowers are even transported out of water so they are extra thirsty on arrival and rarely last long. 

Australian flower growers must comply with strict regulations, which includes chemical usage like pesticides. These are not monitored as tightly in other countries which is not only damaging to the environment but puts florists at risk when handling the flowers, so it’s good to know that working with locally grown flowers is safer. But what gives the warm and fuzzies is getting to know the grower and building on that relationship, supporting local farmers who put so much love and effort into growing these beautiful flowers. Many battle the elements when farming in fields/paddocks - one hot day, one hail storm, one day of torrential rain or one super windy day can wipe out an entire crop leaving them with nothing, so supporting them when you can is really important.

3. Do you have any other creative ways to decorate the table that avoids using single-use items?

I generally build the table from the bottom up, so I’ll start with the tablecloth and that usually sets the scene to what I add next. If it’s a block colour tablecloth, I’ll add a patterned napkin, depending on what is being served I’ll tie in the crockery, glassware and cutlery to compliment the tablecloth and if it’s a dinner I’ll add coloured taper candles into some funky candle holders

If I don’t have flowers on hand to add to the table I love to include ingredients that guests will use in their meal. I’ll include vases of herbs that they can pick at, citrus fruit to squeeze into drinks or onto food. If it’s Mexican I’ll pop coriander in a couple of vases, lime wedges in shallow dishes and then all the condiments in a variety of different shaped and sized dishes. This is a good way to introduce colour that will also be used as part of the meal. If it's Italian I’ll add basil, dishes of parmesan, chilli infused olive oil and breads… I’m definitely no chef but I do like to cook and entertain. I think it’s great to work with the menu and make it an interactive experience for guests, then sitting back and listening to the constant chatter and hands reaching across the table, it’s so lovely sharing a meal with friends and family. 

4. The life of our beautiful florals doesn’t end when the last guest leaves! Do you have any tips on how to keep our florals fresher for longer, and what are some of the different ways we can reuse them post event? 

Biggest tip for keeping flowers longer is keeping them cool and out of direct sunlight. After the guests leave pop them in a spot at home that ticks those boxes. Trimming the stems and changing the water every couple of days will also help so they keep drinking fresh water. 

A cute idea would be to divide the flowers up into mini posies and gift them to the guests (maybe with some left over food - like a little party bag for adults!), or if you want to hang on to them yourself you could split them between a few smaller vases and pop them around the home. 

You can propagate some varieties of flowers, like hydrangeas! If you have a green thumb and are up for the challenge, I would encourage you to do some research and see if it's possible with the varieties you have - then they become the gift that keeps on giving for future seasons!

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