“Be Inspired” Seasonally by Rita Calvert

The term, garden party automatically creates a mood and brings images of blooms, greens and out-of-doors fetes which can be elegant, whimsical, coastal or casual.

Not everyone has a lush garden at their disposal, so mix it up and host your garden party in a setting that you have access to; create from there. Backyards are ideal for their privacy, but if your front yard has a little more space or better curb appeal, then go for it. If you're one of the lucky few that boast the beach or river as your backyard, you certainly won't be challenged about the lack of a literal garden. Decks are great alternatives, and sometimes better suited to hosting a party during a rainy period. And if you're an apartment dweller, no worries -- you can invite guests to a local park. Just be sure to get there early and reserve the necessary number of picnic spots and check the rules on alcohol.

Create some signature garden drinks as that's what summer is all about-blooms, herbs and beverages! Put some effort into your designer drink following the craze of "Garden to Glass". That means fresh herbs mingle with fruity juices, teas and libations, while flowers add the crowning glory. Once the table is set with tablecloth, glasses, ice bucket, utensils and garnishes-let folks refill themselves, as desired.

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Create a theme by way of color, style and botanicals. This will be the foundation for building a glorious setting. There are large gorgeous vessels to house your festive beverage or you can choose a collection of mix-and-match pitchers.

You may even want to have some frivolous garden  party hats as in our photo, to don for the event which makes it festive-plus!

Blackberry Fizz

Serves 4

This dramatic cooler can be spiked with vodka or go virgin with extra ginger ale.

  • 1 pint blackberries, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 8 ounces vodka or for non-alcoholic, substitute extra ginger ale
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Ice, for serving
  • 24 ounces ginger ale

 Heat the blackberries, sugar, and water in a small pot over medium-high heat. While warming, smash with a potato masher, until a thick even consistency is reached, about 8 minutes.

 Pour the blackberries through a sieve, into a bowl, pushing some flesh through with the juices, making sure to catch the seeds. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

 Fill a cocktail shaker with 2 tablespoons of blackberry puree, 2 tablespoons of the mint leaves, 2 ounces of vodka, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and a handful of ice. Shake vigorously 5 to 6 times until the drink is ice cold. Strain the mixture into a tall glass. Top with 6 ounces of ginger ale and stir lightly. Repeat for the remaining 3 servings. Finish and serve with a short skewer threaded with fresh blackberries. 

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 As the photo above, how about crisp blue tabletop with perky daisies, white peonies or white roses?

Ideas and Tips

  • Create different flavored salts and sugars to rim your glass for extra sparkle. For the sweet rim, place large sugar granules (even naturally tinted a color) on a small plate. Rub the rim of the glass with a wedge of orange, lemon or lime and then dip the rim in the special sugar. On the savory side, by combine  kosher salt with different chile powders or herbs. Set on small plates that just fit the rim of your glass and set out an additional plate with water to wet the rim before salting.
  • To get the most flavor out of the herbs you pare with the beverage, make sure to muddle the herbs in the bottom of the container. You can also release the oils and essence by "working" the herbs in a mortar and pestle.
  • Have plenty of ice on hand. You want that beverage to stay cool and refreshiing.
  • Make use of garlands-on the garden party hats, hanging under the umbrella or around the base of an ice bucket or bowl.
  • Send your guests home with a fun favor. If you grow fruits or veggies in your garden, present your partygoers a small basket packed with freshly picked treats. Packets of seeds -- zone appropriate of course -- will yield a summer full of delight. Candles scented with delicate lilac or big aroma gardenias will keep the spring indoors during the rainy season.
  • For a uniques centerpiece, find a watering can treasure like the one below and fill that will a plethora of brilliant blooms.
  • You can stick flowers on the skewers – you don't eat them, but they look dramatic! 

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 It's a no-brainer that fresh foliage creates a lavish backdrop for your garden get-together. Inexpensive flowering plants are a great way to stretch your decorating budget and work in tandem with those bulbs you planted at the end of the fall that should be rewarding you with blooms right about now. Simple white lights strung in the trees or throughout umbrellas work for both dressy and casual fetes, and a fire pit makes for great nighttime lighting.

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If Bloody Marys are the choice, consider building a Bloody Mary bar which is entertainment in itself. Huge fresh shrimp as well as garden veggies and olives make stellar toppers. You can have your guests begin by flavoring the rim of their glasses by rubbing with lime and then dipping in Old Bay seasoning.

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