Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Enjoying your Garden

The best reward for all the effort you’ve put in over the past few months is to have friends round so they can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over your fabulous garden.

I love throwing garden parties. There’s something special about being outside in the evening with the scent of flowers in the air and the smell of a barbecue. Light the candles, fire up the fire pit and turn on the patio heaters and there’s no excuse not to enjoy the night air. The clink of glasses beneath a setting sun makes for a mellow mood and easy conversation.

Through experience, I’ve learned that a great garden party takes a bit of planning. Nothing too onerous, but with garden parties details count. Mow the lawn about two days before, a day before at the latest. Mowing stirs up dust and pollen. You don’t want hayfever to ruin the evening. Plump the mulch around flower beds and add a little more if it looks patchy. This makes everything look smart. Deep soak all the plants if you can so they look their very best on the day. I’m not a hosepipe fan usually - water is a precious commodity - but just once in a while they’re useful...if there’s no ban.

The day before, shop for food and clean the patio area. Ensure it’s weed free and position some of your most glorious pots to show them off to their best advantage. As most garden parties are often barbecues, check you have enough charcoal or gas and that a gas barbecue is in full working order.

Town & Country’s Portable Barbecue Grill comes in three bright colours. My favourite is the blue one. It is perfect for me because it doesn’t need any screws or tools.

Make sure you set out enough seating and don’t limit it to just the patio. Guests love to stroll off to explore, or may want to find a quiet corner for a chat. Make sure they’re comfortable. Buy some citronella candles to ward off uninvited guests. No one wants to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

On the day, string up some fairy lights and set out clusters of tea lights for atmosphere. Create a table centrepiece. My best friend likes to use cut flowers from her garden. I’m a bit precious about flowers and feel terrible if I cut them so I use my potted herbs and arrange them as a centrepiece, or a couple of pots of African violets for colour. Then at the end of the evening I can give each of my guests a pot of something nice to take home.

I fill my wheelbarrow with ice and put all the beers and wine in there. For non-drinkers bottled iced teas make a refreshing alternative to orange juice. Finally, just before the guests arrive use this old Japanese trick: use a fine spray to mist the plants around the patio area. The leaves will glisten and sparkle and provide a magical feel. As I said, success is in the detail. Have fun...

-- Rob Amey

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