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Make a Truly Southern Holiday Centerpiece with Magnolias

A how-to with the Atlanta floral designer Shean Strong


Shean Strong's magnolia arrangement.

“Magnolia branches at this time of year are a nod to tradition,” says the Atlanta floral designer Shean Strong. “And the holidays are all about nostalgia, memories, and sharing those experiences. But I often like to update timeless classics with a personal point of view.” For this stunning and overscale display, for example, Strong folded in both flowers and color in lieu of the more conventional monochromatic arrangement of evergreen branches often seen this time of year.

Strong used Edith Bogue magnolia branches to complete the effect. “I wanted to build off the color of the leaves,” he says. “On this variety, you will notice a slight chartreuse edge and center. To make that pop, I played with a citron Portea, and juniper berries. I also brought in some red rosehips and variegated amaryllis to complement the linear veining of the magnolia leaves.” The final festive touch? A bit of cedar.


Since many Southern gardens feature magnolia trees, foraging a few lovely boughs might even make for a new annual tradition of sorts. “I look for branches that have a bit of character to them,” Strong says. “A twist in the branch or a unique grouping of leaves.”

You might position a special piece like this on a holiday buffet, or on an entry table to greet friends and family—an ultimate gesture of welcome. 

Below, watch Strong create this arrangement and share more tips.

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