If you’re a home and garden party consultant, helping your hostesses come up with ideas for their parties can be a win-win situation for both of you. For the hostess, having a printed list with ideas, themes and even recipes can take a big part of the stress off her shoulders, and make her more motivated and enthusiastic about the party. For you, the consultant, having a happy hostess means happier and more relaxed guests, and everyone having a wonderful time at the party. This also can translate into more sales for you.

Although a garden party may make you think of elegant women in large hats, sipping tea out of tiny porcelain cups, in reality it doesn’t require a home in the country with a large lawn, beautiful grounds and lots of outdoor furniture. Successful garden parties can happen on small patios in the city, in the backyard of the suburbs or even in a living room or dining room. In fact, some of the most successful garden parties don’t even happen in the hostess’s home – we’ve had successful garden parties at the local park, at a family member or neighbor’s home, and once, even on a mother-daughter camp-out

Garden parties can range from the elegant to the casual: from large affairs to cozy, intimate gatherings. The most important thing when planning a garden party is to decide on the theme, and then use it to create the atmosphere you want.

Of course you’ll have to take into consideration the time of year, the time of day the party is being held, the number of guests expected and the location. But here are some fun themes that have resulted in successful parties with better-than-average sales and party bookings. Feel free to adapt them so that they work for you

Tea Party: Get elegant with cloth tablecloths and napkins, fancy napkin rings and place settings. The centerpieces could be glass bowls, decanters or bottles filled with flowers, fruit or candles. Serve tea, finger sandwiches and elegant little desserts on stacked trays.
Use flowers or potted plants if the party is on the patio, or set it up in the garden itself, if the time of year is right. Place your displays inside the house or around the outdoor area, and use the same tablecloths and elegant theme as the party. Light classical music, guitar music or new age would blend in beautifully.

Afternoon Delight: Set up a whimsical party with beach umbrellas or patio tables and umbrellas, a free-standing hammock, and drag out the kids’ plastic pool to fill with sand and use it to hold your outdoor display items. Serve icy margaritas or delicious mimosas with a little Jimmy Buffet in the background, and make sure your games are fun and that guests feel relaxed and at ease. Crackers, cheese and fruit make simple refreshments.

Bridal Shower: Although this idea is a little unusual, it’s actually a good marketing campaign and has been a surprising success. In your next marketing campaign – aimed at brides and maids (or matrons) of honor, mention that you hold garden party bridal showers. The guests get together, laugh, talk, eat and play games, just like at a regular bridal shower, but the bride can register for the gifts that she’d like for her new home, and guests can choose from her list, as well as picking up a little something for themselves. Themes can vary, but some nice touches include: stringing fairy lights and hurricane lanterns around the garden or patio (especially if the party is being held at night), using ribbons, lace and the bride’s wedding colors. Refreshments can be anything from a light buffet using fresh fruits and vegetables of the season (for spring and summer) to soups and a selection of elegant appetizers in the fall and winter months.

Bloom Where you’re Planted: This party is all about celebrating life and enjoying who you are. Table decorations can be tiny terra cotta pots with tea lights in them. You can use flower seed packets as place cards (write the guests’ names on the packets). Set up baskets or pots of flowers and plants around the tables. Use a wheelbarrow or garden cart for displays or refreshments, and if you have a trellis or standing metal archway, it makes a lovely setting for your display. Keep the games light and upbeat and the general theme about gratitude and how wonderful it is that we are all unique and different as flowers in a garden. Refreshments should be kept light – ice tea, lemon-aide or fruit smoothies and finger sandwiches with cookies or a variety of desserts works well.

Natural Pest Control in the garden starts with the soil. A good healthy soil structure is the key to having a successful healthy garden. Strong healthy plants can defend themselves from most disease and pest problem you can have. Organic gardening is a way of gardening in harmony with nature and using these natural methods that nature does.

When you are planting tomatoes, make sure that your soil is properly aerated and that you don’t crowd your plants too close together. They need room so that they receive a good amount of air flow around them.

Pruning your tomato plants so that there are no leaves or stems any lower than 12″ from the ground. This allows for the maximum airflow and leaves no place for insects to hide. It will also allow the plant to put more energy into producing a higher yield of fruit.

Companion planting garlic and onions with your tomatoes will keep several of the most common pests away. Mint is a good way of dismantling an ant problem and sweet corn will draw fruitworms away from your tomato plants.

To control the tomato hornworm, sprinkle cornmeal on the ground around the base of your tomato plants. The hornworm can’t digest the cornmeal and it will cause them to die.

The simplest thing that you can do in an organic garden over the years is to rotate your crops every year to three years along with mulching with an organic mulch. This will often be all that is necessary for you to enjoy a pest-free garden every year.

Gardens can be great training grounds for fitness buffs.

Add trails for jogging. Build benches for workouts. Use trees and fence posts for stretching. Lose even more calories by squatting or lifting while weeding, planting, hauling and digging.

You can personalize your garden to fit your energy level. Equipment such as exercise beams and conditioning ladders are inexpensive and simple to make, while portable gear like weighted rollers, jump ropes, dumbbells and Swiss balls can be eased into the routines.

“If you have children’s play equipment, it is easy to add a pull-up bar or climbing frame for adults to a tree house,” said Bunny Guinness, a landscape architect who runs a garden design business near Peterborough in central England.

Gardening in and of itself can be a formidable calorie burner, said Guinness, who with physiotherapist Jacqueline Knox wrote “Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness” (Timber Press. 2008).

View gallery.”This undated publicity photo released by courtesy Timber Press, shows Bunny Guinness using a garden …

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many illnesses, and gardening can provide it, said Margaret Hagen, an educator with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

“Raking is like using a rowing machine,” Hagen said. “Turning a compost pile is similar to lifting weights. Carry a gallon sprinkling can of water in each hand and you’ve got 8-pound dumbbells. Pushing a lawnmower is like walking on a treadmill, only much more interesting.”

Even more calories are burned when calisthenics are included in the mix. Add push-ups, chin-ups, bridging, power lunges and dips to the workouts.

Warm up before you begin to avoid cramping and joint pain. Pace yourself. Hydrate, especially if you’re gardening out in the sun. Avoid bending by using telescoping pruners, edgers and weeders. Opt for lightweight and easy-to-grip hand tools.

Work ergonomically. Stress good posture and balance.

View gallery.”This undated publicity photo released by courtesy Timber Press shows the book cover of “Garden Your …

“As someone who has had a back issue, I do try to follow my physical therapist’s advice and be careful to kneel instead of stooping while gardening, and to lift with bent knees and a straight back,” Hagen said. “One of the things I like most about gardening is that because you stretch and move in so many directions, it works all your muscle groups, releasing tension everywhere in your body.”

Don’t forget to include mental health in your landscape design. Add tranquil herb gardens, soothing fountains and small sitting areas for meditation, relaxing and cooling off.

“Any gardener can tell you that there is nothing like spending time outdoors gardening to refresh the soul,” Hagen said. “Psychologically, I’m sure it provides the same benefits to gardeners that recent research says recess provides to schoolchildren.”

Good nutrition also is an important part of any fitness package, and few things taste better than food served fresh from the garden.

“If you can boost your health and avoid stresses and strains in the process, it becomes all the more satisfying,” Guinness said.

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Online:

For more about the healing power of gardening, see this University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service bulletin: http://hendry.ifas.ufl.edu/HCHortNews_Healing.htm

You can contact Dean Fosdick at deanfosdick(at)netscape.net

My parents have been trying to grow a garden for several years now. Everything they seem to plant dies off rather quickly. They asked around and were told it was because they have two black walnut trees. Does any one know how this works? Is there a certain distance you need to keep? Are there vegetables that are immune to them? Or is the only way to stop it by cutting the trees down? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

Some information on the subject of Black Walnut trees and gardens near the trees. http://naturehills.com/gardening/blogs/common_questions_answered/archive/2008/01/10/black-walnut-trees-can-be-bad-for-the-environment.aspxhttp://naturehills.com/gardening/blogs/helpful_gardening_tips/archive/2009/05/14/growing-black-walnuts.aspx