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A Garden Party That’s Anything But ‘Garden Variety’

Garden Party - Full Table

With dappled sunlight streaming through leafy branches, a carpet of lush green grass underfoot, and a tabletop exploding with bold beautiful blooms, the stage is set for a garden party that is anything but ‘garden variety.’ Here’s how Savvy designer Kathleen Matthews created an unforgettable and truly magical alfresco soirée.

Set the Stage

It’s summertime and, and as they say, the living is easy. Bringing the party outdoors gives you the opportunity to create a casual yet elegant ambiance. For this soirée, Kathleen chose to place the table and chairs in the middle of a beautiful grassy part of the homeowner’s yard. “It’s not all about the ‘patio’ party,” says Kathleen.

“‘Patio’ parties are awesome, but sometimes it’s fun to think outside the box,” she says. “A rustic table surrounded by glistening modern metal chairs plopped right in the middle of a grassy field adds an element of surprise. It’s unexpected and makes the party even more memorable. It’s also important to keep in mind the time of day when planning your party,” says Kathleen. “Prep for this party happened in the morning for a brunch that began at 12:30 when the sun was moving across the sky and not beating down on the table.”

If you’re having your party in the middle of the day, keep in mind where the sun will be. You don’t want your guests to melt!

Set the Table

Flowers, of course, play a starring role in any garden party. “More is more,” says Kathleen, “but it’s nice to have a color palette in mind when choosing your blooms.” For this party, Kathleen chose vibrant tangerine begonias to line the table, adding in multi-hued daisies, ‘dog eye’ euphorbia, and yarrow as filler. “We used tangerine as the pop of color, layering in the other flowers in soft lilac, buttery yellow and rosy pink,” explains Kathleen.

Adorable small potted succulents, placed on their sides, were tucked in between the florals, adding even more texture and interest.”Succulents are definitely having a moment in design,” says Kathleen. These easy to maintain botanical beauties come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They look great by themselves or bunched together.

Deep blues, such as indigo and denim, are on trend this summer, and the plates Kathleen chose for this tablescape, with their rich blue shade, complement the flowers perfectly. “It’s a ‘garden’ party’ says Kathleen, “so when choosing your table’s palette, it’s nice to bring out the colors in your particular garden. Or go the opposite direction and choose hues that complement the blooms around you. There’s no right or wrong answer. Use what you love, and it will always work.” Kathleen also says to forgo the paper plates, even outside. “Sometimes you just have to go for it, and a gracious garden party is one of those times. Use the china. Use the crystal glasses . . . even outside . . . particularly outside. It makes all the difference!”

A blue patterned boho scarf softens the wooden table and looks delightful fluttering in the breeze. Silverware wrapped in moss and tied with raffia, daisies floating in larger than life ‘champagne flutes’, and cupcakes topped with ‘icing’ succulents, are the perfect finishing touches to this tablescape.

Offer the Unexpected

Adding a fun activity to your party is another way to think out side the ‘party box’ and give your guests not only great memories but a cute takeaway gift, too. For our garden party, we decided to set up a make your own “succulent bar” behind the dining table. A tall wooden console serves double duty as a place to make a drink (don’t you just love that silver whale beverage tub?) and for guests to put together their own potted succulent to take home.

Placing a variety of succulents and vases (we actually used star votives) on three pedestal trays stacked on top of each other, makes for an elegant display and an easy way for your guests to choose what they’d like to use for their own succulent creation. A three-compartment glass hinged box is the prefect spot for potting soil (you don’t need much for a tiny succulent), and a selection of decorative rocks.

Tall orange foxtail lilies in large crackled glass jars are lovely on the console, as are clusters of bright yellow billy balls in small star votives. Orange and yellow ranunculus in clear glass vases peeking out of black geometric candle holders on garden stakes take their place next to ones filled with candles to light if the party stretches well beyond brunch.

Throwing a memorable garden party isn’t difficult, but it’s the little details that really take it over the top.


1. Flowers. Flowers. Flowers. I mean, who can have too many flowers? Impossible.
2. Mix design styles. Think rustic meets contemporary meets traditional.
3. Bring out the fine china. It’s okay to play with the good stuff, even outside. Your guests will appreciate it!
4. Dress your table with fluttery linens that catch the breeze.
5. Serve fun food! ‘Succulent’ cupcakes are a conversation starter and just look so pretty on the table.
6. Little details, such as the moss wrapped silverware, are touches your guests will remember.
7. Have an activity that doubles as a take-home gift. A make your own “succulent bar” is perfect for a garden party.

Everything found in this post is available at Savvy except the flowers, scarf, garden stakes, silverware/moss/raffia, and cupcakes.

Did You Catch Us on Show Me St. Louis?

Watch our garden party come alive and get even more tips for hosting your own backyard soirée!


Author: judy uelk

Photography: Loren Doughty

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