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Summer Spruce Up

By Abbey Remkus | Photos Courtesy of Jittery Joe’s

For some people, entertaining is always on their calendar and it seems to come so naturally. I’m more likely to invite a couple over for dinner or gather with my closest girlfriends than a large group. This year though, Mike and I committed to hosting 50 friends in the garden, instead of a few smaller gatherings. This raised the bar. When planning a outdoor party or expecting special house guests, your home and garden need to look their best. Here are my suggestions.

Plan ahead – a week or two out

  • Schedule the lawn service (or you) to mow a week to a few days out, but not the day before. Freshly mown lawn tracks into the house. If leaves are falling you may need to blow off the deck and drive the morning of the party.
  • Snip off the spent blooms of your annuals and perennials. This not only improves their appearance, it encourages more blooms.
    I often cut blooms to bring inside at the
    same time.
  • Pull any weeds (and if it is late fall, cut back the perennials that have died back), then add a fresh layer of mulch. This alone can do wonders for a garden.
  • Do a walkabout with a camera. It’s amazing what shows up in a photo. What is that ladder doing there? Wouldn’t that bench be fun if it were painted turquoise? When did that tree limb get so close to the top of the table? Notice where the sun and shade are the time of day your guests will be outside.
  • Go inside and do the garden walkabout looking out the windows. How can you improve the view?
  • Now is the time to justify adding that special something you have been wanting. For me this year it was a tree swing, something I have coveted for years. For you it may be strings of lights, huge glazed containers, new tablecloths or doormats, a fire pit, or a garden bench under the tree.
  • Now is also the time to come up with frugal solutions. Ask friends if you can borrow a folding table to serve drinks (thanks Shirley!). Hit a thrift store for an eclectic mix of tablecloths or chunky vases to weight down those tablecloths in case of a breeze.
  • Wipe down the outside of large planters or containers (a great job for kids).

Shopping list for the garden center

  • Marigolds! They are not as common as mums for the fall and offer a longer bloom season.
  • Parsley, oregano and rosemary are herbs that are evergreen in our winters, thrive in sunny containers or planting beds and are useful in the kitchen. Herbal cocktails are the trend.
  • Bird seed – because empty birdfeeders are so sad and birds in your garden and outside your window are more interesting.
  • Chartreuse or variegated plants in a tall pots add color and another dimension to a quiet shade garden.
  • Hanging baskets or drop-in planters. Not only can you add fresh hanging baskets to your garden, but you can buy preplanted containers that are designed to slip right into your containers. You can also take the hanger off a hanging basket or buy a few containers, place in a shallow hole, fluff the pine straw and have it look like you are the most amazing gardener. The real planting can happen when you have more time.
  • Purchase plants you need to spruce up your containers. Folks at the garden center can better help you if you have photos of your containers on your phone.

The Day Of The Party

  • Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or two to come early and help set up. It can turn a stressful time into one of the best parts of the day.
  • Set pillows, cushions, tablecloths, vases out (even if guests just walk through the garden on their way inside).
  • Fill the birdfeeders and birdbaths, maybe float a flower in
    the birdbath.
  • Cut flowers and herbs to bring inside.
  • Accept compliments with a smile (a charming skill) and enjoy your guests.

Connie Cottingham is a, well, a garden geek – garden writer, landscape architect, Master Gardener, garden club lady, on staff at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and living amongst a collector’s garden, hundreds of garden books and Mike, a horticulturist.

Visit conniecottingham.com to subscribe to Love Notes from the Garden, a free, informative, whimsical note emailed to you weekly.