From the breathtaking mise-en-scène when guests arrive, to the final special moments when they depart, to all the thoughtful floral touchpoints in between, here is Fleurs de Villes Co-founder Tina Barkley’s ultimate guide to hosting a garden party.
CHOOSING YOUR FLOWERS
A summer table isn’t complete without flowers and I love LOTS of flowers. You never want a high arrangement that will block people’s site lines. Rather, I opt for smaller flowers everywhere. I love to use little personal vessels to give everyone their own floral treat and I adore glass cloches for drama. Don’t hesitate to use big-bloom flowers with smaller blooms and even opt to put a single big bloom on its own on the bar and in the bathroom to keep your floral theme going.
CREATING YOUR GARDEN PARTY TABLESCAPE
If I were choosing to use a floral china pattern at a garden party I would use all-white linens and either all-white florals or a colour from the china itself. Some people like the busy, bohemian look but I like a more clean and polished vibe. I love to keep garden parties whimsical by letting guests serve themselves at a separate table before we sit down.
DRINKS FOR A GARDEN PARTY
Especially in spring and summer, it’s lovely to try cocktails with orange blossom. My personal favourite is the Four O’Clock, but rose and hibiscus are very common in cocktails. Hendricks Flora Adora gin is a new favourite. And don’t be afraid to put ice in your rosé! The French even have a name for it: “À la piscine,” meaning “at the pool.”
TUTORIAL: HOW TO MAKE FLORAL ICE CUBES
Floral ice cubes can add a lovely summery touch to your garden party. Best of all they are very simple to make with this step-by-step tutorial.
- First, select flowers that are both colourful and edible. The most popular flowers used for decorative purposes that are also safe include viola, geranium, nasturtium, rose and dandelion.
- Always rinse your flowers to remove any dirt or residue.
- Choose the shape of ice you’ll make. Food-grade silicon ice cube trays or dessert moulds all work really well but a mason jar lid will make a gorgeous puck- shaped ice cube as well.
- Leave the flowers somewhat intact or remove the petals for a more confetti-like effect.
- It’s said that using distilled water prevents the ice cubes from being cloudy in the centre but I found that freezing the water in layers was more effective. Also, that way your petals don’t all float to the top and you have just floral “topped’ ice cubes.
- Start with a very small amount of water and your first petals and freeze.For the second layer, fill the ice cube space up by almost half and put in more petals and freeze again. Depending on the size of ice cube you’re making, do this one more time.
- Pop into your drinks and enjoy!
A GARDEN PARTY MENU
Since it is a garden party, consider making the menu plant based and full of flavour and freshness. Appies look gorgeous served on edible shiso leaves, such as squares of pomme dauphine with rosemary sprigs. Using edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, rose petals and chive flowers, in a summer salad is so pretty, too. Just make sure they are organic, or better yet, from your own garden. Rosewater is a common ingredient in Persian, Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine which lends itself to sharing. Look to your potager or farmer’s market for heirloom tomatoes, beets and carrots that can be made into grated or chopped into salads with a dash of orange blossom water and sprigs of mint. For dessert, consider mini lavender scones or biscotti (lavender anything!) with rosewater-lemon sorbet or coconut-lavender popsicles.
CREATING A WHIMSICAL ATMOSPHERE
I once was in a yard that had a lovely rustic wooden swing with greenery and florals on the ropes, it was like a story book. I also once did a party for my kids with large, four-foot round balloons in pastels with fresh-flower vines around the yard and it was magical. String lights are de rigueur these days and create a fun, summer-campy feel. Look for solar powered string lights so you can put them anywhere (try your local garden centre or these ones from Canadian Tire.) A big basket of inexpensive fresh fleece blankets (think Ikea) can help keep the chill off when you’re not quite ready to go home.
A FINAL WORD OF ADVICE
The biggest mistake I think people make at a garden party is making a meal that needs to be all made in the kitchen and à la minute. Garden parties are relaxed and even the host/chef should enjoy themselves. Pre-prep your salads, your toasted nuts, your dessert, your dressings, make it so there is very little that has to happen to put dinner or lunch on the table and you can say yes to that second glass of rosé!
Photography by Tracey Ayton