After the hard work of maintaining a garden for the growing season, I am eager to enjoy the fruits of my labor and share my garden with friends. My favorite way? A party! With a bit of forethought and a few simple preparations, I can throw a garden party with minimal stress.
Choose a Date and Time:
Choose a time that suits your objective and target audience for the party. A leisurely weekend brunch? Perhaps the evening when the sun is less intenseand guests are finished with the work day? Or a relaxed afternoon picnic?
Of course, weekends are a natural fit for parties,
but don't discount the joy of a mid-week gathering!
Seating and shade:
Terraces, decks, and enclosed garden spaces make great entertaining spots. You may live in the country with plenty of privacy, but intimate spaces can also be created in busy neighborhoods or urban settings. Arrange garden furniture and chairs to create a main gathering space and then add containers or ornaments to complete the enclosure. Include poufs, quilts and benches as additonal seating options. Consider inclement weather and have a back-up plan for a porch, covered deck, tent, or indoor location. If your garden receives full sun, create some shade for guests with
umbrellas or canvas awnings.
Food and drinks:
Enjoying a meal in the garden is a highlight of warm weather. However, this is where most of us pile on too much time consuming prep. Take advantage of the season and keep things simple.
Go with easy finger foods that can be prepared in advance and allow folks to mingle throughout the garden as they eat and drink. Look for inspiration at the farmers market or in your own garden. Perhaps sliced seasonal vegetables with Roots hummus (made right here in Asheville, NC!), a plate of local cheeses, or a bowl of colorful berries embellished with fresh herb garnishes. If food prep is overwhelming, don't hesitate to pick up prepared foods from a local grocery or caterer the day of your party. Choosing a lovely spread from a case of prepared options is a sign of wisdom, not laziness.
Make a signature drink that can be mixed in larger batches (see the delicious sangria recipe below). Add beer, wine and sparkling water on ice in an open tub and you are ready to receive guests!
A Splash Of Seasonal Color:
For a larger gathering, set up a simple buffet table with a centerpiece of flowers from the garden or market. Create some interest by serving on cake plates or wooden boxes. For an intimate group, arrange an oversized tray with a small clutch of blooms amidst the nibbles. Simplicity is the key to beauty and host sanity!
Ambiance Lighting, Bugs &Music:
A little evening lighting goes a long way in the garden. Install LED string lights along a fence or in tree branches to enclose your party area. Add some glimmer with lanterns, tea lights, or an outdoor fire.
Keep mosquitoes at bay by getting rid of standing water prior to your party and setting up outdoor fans. Gather some natural bug wipes or sprays and handheld paper fans and place them in a wicker basket for guests to use.
Tunes at a low volume add a nice dimension to a party, just consider who your crowd is when choosing the playlist.
Classic Summer Sangria (pictured above): From Epicurious.com
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 unpeeled lemon, sliced
1/2 unpeeled large navel orange, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
Place wine, juice, and fruit slices in a heatproof pitcher. Bring sugar, water, brandy, and Cointreau just to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then pour into pitcher. Chill, covered, at least 1 hour and up to 24. Serve over ice.