In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2007
Regional Report

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Water the garden well before guests arrive, then sit back and enjoy!

Secrets for the Perfect Outdoor Wedding

With June right around the corner, perhaps you or someone you know is planning an outdoor event of grand proportions. Do I hear wedding bells? If, indeed, you are planning a garden wedding, I want to share a few things I have learned over the years about hosting outdoor parties. When I was a gardener at Sunset Magazine, we hosted many outdoor events. This is what I learned:

No Unpleasant Surprises!
My first and most important word of advice is to make sure the automatic sprinkler system has been shut off so guests don't receive an unwelcome shower. Don't delegate this important duty -- this is the epitome of a do-it-yourself job. Check it once, twice, and finally one more time just before the guests arrive. It sounds absurd, but believe me, it has happened and it's not pleasant.

If the wedding is to be held on the lawn, I recommend watering deeply three days in advance. That way the grass plants will be fully hydrated yet the soil will have dried out enough that the ladies in their tippy-toe heels don't sink too far into it. If the refreshment bar is to be located on the lawn, I recommend placing a piece of plywood directly in front of the bar. Paint the wood a bright color if you like so people don't trip, but I have found through experience that the bar takes the most traffic, and the lawn around that particular area will be in tatters by the end of the event.

Make It Colorful
If you don't have a lot of color in your garden, you can make up large containers full of annuals in the color scheme of the wedding. This can be done up to two weeks in advance. Plastic pots are lightweight and easy to move about the garden. Place packing peanuts in the bottom of large containers so you don't need to use as much soil. Most annuals have shallow roots and only need about 12 inches of soil. Place plastic window screen or landscape fabric over the packing peanuts to prevent the soil from falling through.

Two large, colorful pots of annuals on either side of the alter can support a makeshift arch so that the bride and groom will be framed perfectly for the photographs. The arch can be made from thin branches of willow or birch placed firmly into the soil in the pots. Ribbons in theme colors twine the two separate pieces together at the top of the arch.

Tables Too!
Table decorations can be easy or elaborate Personally, I prefer easy, so this is what I recommend. Purchase 4-inch pots of colorful annuals, then wrap the pots in squares of fabric in theme colors, held in place at the rim of the pot with a rubber band, which is then hidden with a ribbon of contrasting color for the final dressing. Set several of the dressed pots together on large tables. You can also use citronella votive candles if the wedding takes place during the evening hours -- illumination and pest control wrapped in a romantic package! Large electric fans placed around the perimeter of the grounds will take care of any uninvited mosquitoes. Small flying insects don't like to be airborne in moving air.

Advance planning is the key to garden party success. Once more: Don't forget to turn off the sprinklers!


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