Summertime, just the mention of the word can set me to dreaming of long sunny days, the fragrance of new mown grass, the warmth of sunshine on my face, country fairs, farmer’s markets, strawberries, colorful summer flowers and patio dinner parties.
I love summer and I love outdoor entertaining. The long days and warm evenings of summer insist that we invite friends, chill wines and fire up the barbeque. Outdoor parties, given the nature of our weather in the Pacific Northwest are best planned at the last minute, less formal and much more fun than entertaining indoors. Guests are more relaxed, conversation flows easily; no one cares if you spill a bit of red wine on the grass and best of all you don’t have to clean the house.
Just as the menu for an outdoor party should be simple, seasonal and colorful so should your floral décor. I cringe every time I read a feature for an outdoor menu requiring four days of shopping, complicated food preparation and hours of work on the décor. Grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, a raw vegetable tray, potato salad, chips and dip, corn on the cob, watermelon and ice cream are just fine, thank you. The idea of a party is to have fun, not to be a slave to the menu… My perfect outdoor party begins with a morning weather forecast for warm sunny weather. This calls for a quick email invitation to friends and neighbors, one hour shopping at the supermarket and one hour of food and flower preparation before the guests arrive. Yes, one hour, that’s all! To be honest, I don’t cook, so most of the hour is spent decorating. The market has wonderful prepared foods, even barbequed ribs that you can reheat on the grill. I just transfer everything into my own serving plates, and then ask my husband, David to fire up the grill. As far as I’m concerned dinner is ready.
Ready for a Summer Party? Check out the following pages for my favorite floral decor for a patio party.
Colorful vases and bright aluminum wire are the beginnings of fabulous summertime party décor. Using a pair of needle nose pliers, twist the aluminum wire into festive curlicues. Don’t worry about perfection, have fun!
For summer inspiration, put on the golden oldie by Fats Domino: have fun and do the twist! Wrap the wire around the vase neck and you are ready to go. Be sure to mix up the colors for a bright and festive look.
On the day of the party, gather fresh flowers from the garden, farmer’s market or florist. Local, seasonal flowers are the best! Be sure to select blossoms in as many bright colors as possible.
To create a “gathered bouquet”, first lay your flowers out on a work table by variety. You will want 12-15 blooms for a 6” vase. To keep the flowers alive and the water clear, be sure to remove all the lower foliage.
Start your bouquet with the smaller blossoms first. Hold the stems loosely in your hand with all the heads at about the same level. This will naturally force the bouquet to fan out into a lovely, circular shape.
Nestle the larger blossoms into the bouquet. By adding them last, they show the most and the smaller flowers will help support them in place. Cut the stems to the desired length (about twice the height of the vase) and drop them into the vase. The bouquet will spread a bit to fill the vase. Fluff the blossoms into position and you are finished.
Clustered together, the vases are just magnificent! Make as many vases as time allows. That way you can sprinkle them throughout the party area. Group them on the tables, add one in the bathroom, set one or two on the buffet and place one in the ice bucket chilling the wine. You can never have too many flowers. It’s time for a party!
Who says that vases must be placed on flat surfaces? Use your imagination when placing your vases. For a fun and whimsical touch, hang a vase or two or a dozen in the tree branches. If you have table umbrellas, hang them there as well. Flowers at eye level are such an unexpected treat.
Summer is finally here. It’s time to gather your vases and get ready for a party. Don’t forget, make it easy, make it bright, keep it festive and above all – have fun!