Garden Party Planning Tips & Ideas

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The warm days of spring, summer and fall bring many opportunities to enjoy outdoor gatherings of family and friends. Garden parties are a time to relax in the shade, enjoy conversing with friends, fire up the barbeque, participate in a game of croquet and wander through the garden landscape. As long as your garden party has mouth-watering food, a garden that is as pretty as a picture and fun-loving guests, it will be the hit of the season. Here are some ideas to help you plan a carefree garden party.

garden party ideas ideal home garden

Plan the Party Menu

Garden party food can be as simple as hot dogs and hamburgers or as exotic as Asian fusion. No matter what’s on the menu, planning for a garden party should include provisions for the safe handling of food. Food that is prepared and served outdoors in warm weather provides a favorable environment for foodborne bacteria. When preparing and serving food outdoors, keep these food safety tips in mind:

  • Keep cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs until served. Keep beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. Keep the cooler closed.
  • Wrap meat, fish and poultry securely so that juices do not leak. Wash fruits and vegetables before packing in the cooler.
  • Marinade foods in the cooler and do not add used marinade to sauces or cooked food.
  • When grilling, cook food thoroughly and keep food hot until served. Use clean platters and utensils to handle cooked foods.
  • Hot and cold food should not sit out for more than 2 hours once served (1 hour if the temperature is over 90 degrees). Consider placing cold foods in serving dishes set in a shallow container of ice.

Decorate the Garden

Much of the fun of hosting a garden party is that most of the decorating is done for you. Use your garden’s natural beauty and charm as the inspiration for the party decorations. A garden can be easily enhanced with a few lights, ornaments hung from branches and garden gates and flower arrangements on the tables. Wander around the garden and look for small secluded areas for private conversation, open areas for barbeques and lawn games and shaded areas for picnic tables.

Here are some easy decorating tips that will enhance any garden party:

  • Weave string lighting in the branches overhanging tables and seating areas. String lighting can also be strung along pathways, on stair railings or around decks. For more outdoor lighting ideas, see Beautiful Outdoor Lighting Ideas.
  • Decorate tables with attractive tablecloths. Place a shallow water-filled bowl in the middle of the table and drop flowers into the bowl. Use tuberose, Gerbera daisies, hibiscus or gardenias.
  • Decorate tables with placemats. Fill vases with marble accents and arrange with orchids, calla lilies or roses.
  • Garden structures such as arches and gazebos can be dressed up with fresh flower arrangements, decorative ribbons and bows and icicle lights.

garden party ideas ideal home garden

The garden party is already set in a beautiful location and may not require many additional flowers or plants. A few plants may be added as table accents, to create a dramatic effect or to add a fragrant scent to the air. If potted plants or cut flowers will be used in the party area, be careful to avoid using poisonous plants. Here are a few ways to use plants at a garden party:

  • Create privacy by placing large potted palms as a screen along seating areas.
  • Add fragrance by sprinkling potted gardenias, lavender, hyacinths, lilacs or roses around the party area.
  • Use flowers as garnishes in salads and desserts. Many flowers are edible such as carnations, chrysanthemums, citrus blossoms, chive blossoms, Johnny jump-ups, nasturtiums, pansies and scented geraniums.
  • For DIY spring centerpieces, see Spring Centerpieces and Table Decoration Ideas.

Arrange the Tables and Chairs

When setting up the seating and eating accommodations for your guests, keep guest comfort in mind. On hot sunny days, provide plenty of shade so that guests may eat and relax in comfort. Here are a few more tips to create a comfortable atmosphere:

  • For large parties, set up different tables for cold dishes, hamburger fixings, dishes and utensils, and desserts.
  • Use beverage tubs to serve bottled beverages. Rustic barrels work well with the party theme and can hold plenty of drinks.
  • Create small conversation areas with a small table and a couple of comfortable lounge chairs.
  • When selecting chairs, think about guest comfort. Picnic benches may be fine for some people. Others may need s more comfortable chair or a chair with a back.

Have a Contingency Plan

It just makes good sense to be prepared to any situation. The weather may change and bring the possibility of rain. People get cuts and bruises while walking and playing in the garden. And, where there’s a barbeque, there might be a fire. Here are a few items for the emergency plan:

  • In case of rain, have an indoor location set aside or a temporary canopy.
  • Keep a first aid kit close to game areas and the barbeque.
  • A fire extinguisher should also be kept by the barbeque and any fire pits or campfires.
  • In the event the weather turns unbearably warm, set up a misting fan. The combination of cool moving air and a water mist will reduce the ambient air temperature.

A garden party is a time to have fun and to enjoy your guests. Make the party as simple as possible and think more about everyone’s comfort and less about the party’s surroundings. As long as there are plenty of refreshments, good food and stimulating conversation, your garden party will be a memorable event.

Last Updated: March 6, 2013
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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