AWARD-winning garden designer Chris Beardshaw offers tips on planting, lights and show-stopping centrepieces, writes Hannah Stephenson.
With lockdown restrictions easing, there’s likely to be a lot of entertaining going on in back gardens throughout summer.
So, is your garden party-ready – where guests will be able to sit in comfort, savour the beautiful plants around them, and enjoy the atmosphere late into the night?
Of course, your own home-grown cut flowers will always pretty up a table, while sprigs of lavender or other herbs could add a scented accent to your place settings.
“All the research shows there’s a generation of gardeners, who have been exposed to the opportunity of getting outside, growing plants and experiencing the green world around them as a result of being locked-down,” says award-winning garden designer, Chris Beardshaw.
“One of the ways to keep that focus going is to provide opportunities in our gardens for increased socialising and increased sharing in the garden. People can enrich their garden without it becoming hardcore gardening.”
Beardshaw, who is supporting Readly, an online subscription service to consumer magazines including major gardening titles, offers the following tips…
1. Plant a riot of colour – “Plant up containers of colour. Take any container – basically if it has a hole in the bottom and you can put gravel and compost into it and stick it somewhere with light, you can grow something,” says Beardshaw.
“Choreograph those containers – perhaps with colour coordination, or with particular design approaches which suit the rest of your garden or your interiors or particular passion – so you get that instant colour creating a wow factor.
“Of course, the best range of plants to use for this are the annuals, the live-fast die-young plants, and short-term perennials such as dahlias and chrysanthemums, or perhaps bulbs like galtonias and leucanthemums. They create a chic, stylish look.”
2. Make a floral ice bowl centrepiece – “If you have two bowls which are interlocking (one smaller than the other), you can pour water between the two, then put it into the freezer and as it starts to freeze, layer on the petals like geraniums, cistus and nasturtiums as a veneer, and then keep topping up with water between the two bowls.
“When your guests arrive, you remove the inner bowl (by filling it with warm water), upturn the bigger bowl and you then have a complete iced bowl decorated with petals.
“You could fill it with fruit or ice cream as the entertaining takes place. It’s a great summer centrepiece.”
3. Create ambience – “Make sure you’ve got cushions and blankets and throws, which really extend internal furnishings into the great outdoors.
Corral seats around a firepit or under a parasol, where people can feel a bit more at home and a bit more willing to sit outside later in the evening and listen to the way nature is putting itself to bed, and maybe owls and other creatures making themselves heard.”
4. Wow guests with wildlife – “Choose plants which are more biodiverse and wildlife-friendly, with more open flower, things like cistus for instance, anthemis, the wonderful daisy flowers, an advertising hoarding for insects.
“Angelica is also very good, along with alliums and astrantias, where you have cluster flowers that are bringing in insects. You’ll not only see beautiful butterflies but also night-time moths.”
5. Enjoy home-grown party food – “Growing your own is a fantastic experience of gardening, with the rich flavours and satisfaction you get, and you’ll also have a knock-on admiration from anyone you invite in, as they munch on your lettuce or rocket, or fresh strawberries warmed by summer sunshine.
Your guest will be in love with your dining style forever.
“If you are growing produce in containers, go for short-rooted varieties.
“So if you are growing carrots or beetroot, go for the dwarf types; if you are growing salads, go for the cut-and-come-again varieties, where you can harvest them and they’ll keep growing back relentlessly.
“If you do have a glasshouse, conservatory or porch, you can grow things like peaches.
A home-produced peach is like nothing else. You might not get many of them, but they are sweet, juicy and delicious.”
6. Add subtle lighting – “In my own garden, we don’t shy away from subtle lighting.
We have old-fashioned festoon-style lightbulbs, which are solar powered and have little LEDs in them.
“They hang from some of the trees, shrubs and bushes to give a moonlight wash, a subtle extension of the internal lighting of the house.”
Visit readly.com/gardening for more information.