Tips from a flower expert and Sunset magazine for hosting a garden dinner party, with flower centerpieces and garden-fresh recipes.
Garden party: 4 ways to add flowers to your dinner table
The flowers on the table are as local as the food on the plate at Field to Vase Dinners like this one. All photographs copyright Linda Blue, for Certified American Grown/CCFC.

The flowers on the table are as local as the food on the plate at Field to Vase Dinners like this one. All photographs copyright Linda Blue, for Certified American Grown/CCFC.

Warm evenings are the perfect excuse to invite friends over for an alfresco meal. Try one of Sunset’s outdoor dinner party ideas, and while you’re planning your menu and decor, insert some color with summer blooms. Here are my 4 tips for adding flowers to your table. 

Roses everywhere created a romantic setting at California Pajarosa Roses, a flower farm near Monterey, CA.

1. Start with a bucolic settingPlace your table and chairs close to flowers, imbuing your meal with an in-the-garden feeling. If you don’t have a garden of your own, invite yourself to a friend’s backyard, or head to a local park or beach where you can toss down a blanket to get close to nature.The photos here are from a recent Field to Vase Dinner at California Pajarosa Flowers, a flower farm based in Watsonville near Monterey Bay. (And yes, it was amazing to be surrounded by hybrid tea roses, spray roses, and garden roses.)

Local flowers, food, and wine—a recipe for the perfect summer meal.

2. Pick your flowersBe it a mason jar filled with wildflowers and herbs or a stunning stretch of summer blooms that runs the length of the table, vases filled with local blooms are a must. The arrangements here were designed by Teresa Sabankaya of Bonnie Doon Garden Co., a Santa Cruz florist and member. She also designed this, a floral twist on a chandelier:

If you have a way to hang mood lighting, try suspending a chandelier (or just a trellis) draped with flowers. Sabankaya created this one by pairing roses from California Pajarosa with passion vines clipped from her own garden. The results were simply magical.

Organic nasturtium flowers garnished an organic fennel and citrus salad with arugula, toasted pistachios, and local sheep’s-milk cheese.

3. Add edible blooms to your menuAt this Field to Vase Dinner, chef Tanya DeCell of Original Sin Desserts and Catering prepared a flower-friendly menu, relying on plenty of edible blooms to embellish her courses—including an aperitif of sparkling wine with a syrup of organic rose petals and fresh raspberries.Want to try cooking with flowers? Here are 10 dishes featuring edible flowers from Sunset’s Food team, including a nasturtium salad and the Sunset Palmer, a twist on the traditional Arnold Palmer with lemon verbena and lemon balm.

Arrangements designed by Teresa Sabankaya and her Bonny Doon Flower Co. team doubled as favors.

4. Send guests home with flower favorsGive friends a special memento by asking them to clear the table—of your arrangements. (Use mason jars as vases to keep your costs down.) At the California Pajarosa dinner, each guest received a “language of flowers” arrangement that Sabankaya designed. On each was a gift tag that shared Sabankaya’s recipe for friendship, naming the romantic trait of each stem in the vase: Did you know that the hydrangea symbolizes “remembrance” and the rose symbolizes “love and beauty”?

Looking for more ways to add flowers to your dinner table? Explore’s Garden channel for flower-arranging ideas, including one with roses and stems of blackberry and ivy that’s both simple and elegant enough to use as a centerpiece at a summer wedding. And try these 7 water-wise floral arranging hacks—whether your state is in a drought or not.

Want to be a guest at a flower-centric dinner in the West? Check out these upcoming Field to Vase Dinners:July 18th: Denver/Boulder at The Fresh Herb Co.September 12th: Seattle/Mt. Vernon at Jello Mold FarmOctober 3rd: Portland/Aurora at Oregon FlowersOctober 10th: San Diego/Fallbrook at Kendall Farms

Debra Prinzing is an L.A.- and Seattle-based writer and the founder of SlowFlowers, a website to help locate American-grown flowers near you.

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