How to Throw A Liberty Garden Party
From sumptuous evening dinners to elevated barbecues and the ultimate picnic, we’ve got all the garden party ideas to make this the best summer yet.
Brighter, warmer weather means just one thing – all socialising for the foreseeable is being relocated to the garden. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or the furthest thing from a green-thumber, your outdoor space is far more than just a garden. It’s an outdoor room – an extension of your home and the perfect venue to gather with loved ones all summer long.
A garden party instantly makes guests feel more relaxed. With the right preparation and setup, your garden can be transformed into an enchanting dinner party location on a balmy summer’s evening, a formal but fun afternoon tea complete with the essential tiny cakes and cucumber sandwiches, a casual help-yourself barbecue, or a relaxed picnic party. We’ve called on Liberty’s Lead Creative and Visual Stylist Hannah Perse-Cottle to guide you through throwing the garden party of the season.
Win at Barbecuing
A barbecue is lovely in theory, but there’s inevitably a point when everyone is standing about waiting hungrily and the person cooking starts to feel watched. Perse-Cottle advises circumventing that and adding a richness to the setting “by laying out gorgeous, giant plates of salad, bread and cheese and all the other stuff that will please anyone who’s getting hungry or just doesn’t fancy a burger. Pile it all onto a table and stack crockery so that everyone can just dig in. This will take all the pressure off, look sumptuous and keep everyone content.”
Take the Dinner Party Outside
This is an event for the planners, those who enjoy the event planning process and luxuriate in curating the little details. This is that formal, special-occasion dinner party, featuring a sumptuous table, transporting candlelight, and elegant food.
“One thing I really like for a more formal outdoor dinner”, says Perse-Cottle, is matching your cushions to your tablecloth and napkins, which brands like Coco & Wolf do really well. Having textiles everywhere feels really scrumptious.” Rich, matching fabrics will certainly bring a formal feel to your dinner setup. “It’s not for the faint of heart or for a minimalist”, she advises, but “I don’t think it’s possible to overdo a pattern – there’s something so rich about layering it. It is visually spectacular.”
The fabric will be the star of your table, so plan the dishes, candles and glassware around it, picking up on one or two colours to tie everything together. To amp this up yet another level, Perse-Cottle advises creating a canopy over the table with your chosen fabric. “On a hot day or sunny evening, you can also rig up an ad-hoc shade with some matching Liberty fabric if you have an obliging tree, awning or wall. I’ve even done this with bed sheets! For a table with matching cushions, tablecloths and napkins, create the shade from a matching print too. It’s an exquisitely rich and beautiful way to elevate the entire event.”
Coco & Wolf
Mitsi Valeria and Wiltshire Bud Stitch Edge Napkins Set of Two
Elevate the Home Picnic
If you’re picnicking at home, “be sure to choose the most beautiful backdrop that your garden offers. People will invariably take pictures, so make the most beautiful aspect of your garden the centrepiece," Perse-Cottle says, so set up near a wall of climbing jasmine or a flowerbed that smells incredible, should you have one.
Picnics do present logistical issues that other sorts of garden party don’t. “It’s lovely to have flowers on a table”, says Perse-Cottle, "but carrying around vases of flowers isn’t practical, and they might fall over if set on an uneven surface." Instead, opt for a more convenient alternative. “Potted plants like mint or lavender are a cute alternative. The mint is functional because you can pick some off to put in your drink and it scents the whole experience too."”
Time for Tea
It’s perfectly possible to engage in the British tradition of tea and cake in the garden without having it feel stuffy or stressful. “Tea and cake to me feels intimate, so a small gathering of maybe four friends," says Perse-Cottle. "The smaller a gathering is, often the more detail you can include on the table.” With a setting of four, it’s easier to ensure that you have a more traditional arrangement of matching dishes and glassware to elevate your afternoon tea.
There’s no need to go too formal, though. “Keep place settings small and quaint without going overboard”, advises Perse-Cottle. “Choose simple, minimal cutlery and there’s no need for side plates.” To ensure that you can enjoy the experience too and it feels relaxed, Perse-Cottle advises bringing everything to the table at once on a beautiful tray or trolley. “A tray laden with tea and delicious cake is so enticing, and your job is done. You can just enjoy your afternoon with friends.” Just don’t forget scones – it’s not afternoon tea without them.
“Taking your dining table outdoors formalises a gathering slightly, grounding it and making it feel like more of an event. Unless you have really elevated garden furniture, it can make events feel more casual, which you don’t always want, and bringing furniture outdoors can make a room out of the garden.”
Photography: Jessica Gates
Styling: Hannah Perse-Cottle
Production: Nicole Hains
Assistance: Hannah Edgar and Danielle Hiatt