By Melinda Myers
Gardening Expert, TV & Radio Host, Author and Columnist
Summer is filled with parties, gatherings, picnics and more. We all want to make these occasions special and memorable for our guests.
Many gardeners tend to schedule events around peak bloom or harvest to share the beauty and flavor from their garden.
Unfortunately, nature does not always cooperate. It seems we are saying “you should have been here last week” or “come back next week when the flowers will be at their peak.”
No need to worry. It may be considered cheating by the purist, but isn’t it all about creating a great space and event for our guests? Consider adding some fun flower accents. Metal flower sculptures like daisy bouquet stakes, hollyhock stem stakes or aluminum fiddleheads ensure color throughout the season.
Or, make it fun with faucet handle flowers (gardeners.com), which are sure to spark some conversation among your guests.
You can also add some extra color with a bit of floral paint. Use garden colors to paint seedheads of flowers past their prime. Just cover the stem and leaves to ensure only the seedheads get painted for a more realistic look. It might fool your guests or give them a good idea for their own garden.
Or, stop by your local garden center. Many have flowering planters and large-size annuals that you can use to fill in voids and add color to the garden.
Pot a few of these up and use them as centerpieces on the tables. A search of the garage or visit to a thrift store may find reasonably-priced fun items you can convert into containers.
Keep your guests comfortable and the mosquitoes at bay with the gentle breeze of a fan. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, and the gentle breeze of a fan can keep them away. Or, step it up with the help of geranium oil. It’s natural, fragrant and can help repel mosquitoes.
And be sure to include fresh-from-the-garden flavor in your beverages and dishes. A pot of basil or mint near the party means guests can flavor their own lemonade tea or mojito. The hollow stem of lovage, cut down to size, makes a great straw for your tomato juice or bloody Mary. Your guests won’t forget the fun of sipping their drink through this celery-flavored straw.
Then, add some color and a gourmet touch to your salads with a few edible flowers. Nasturtiums, roses and calendulas are just a few to consider. Just be sure they are edible and pesticide-free before serving them to your guests.
Use fresh-from-the-garden or container herbs for grilling, salads and your main course. And consider drying a few herbs or starting cuttings from your plants to use as party favors.
Don’t let the sunset put an end to your celebration. Light up the evening with solar-illuminated planters, solar pathway lighting and decorative fiber optic lights. Or, go old school and set votive candles in a mason jar or tucked safely in the garden.
So, set aside some time to take a walk through the garden and plan a party or two for you, your family and friends to enjoy its beauty.
Nationally-known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and The Garden Book for Wisconsin. She hosts the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments, which air on 89 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. Visit www.melindamyers.com.
From the July 23-29, 2014, issue