For us, summer is all about getting together with friends and family and enjoying good food, with a few drinks, of course.
Normally, in the warmer months we will light up the Barbie and serve a mixture of food and drinks on the terrace or we will put together a continental breakfast in the courtyard, but this year we wanted to do something a bit different.
Not many people know this, but we have a beautiful Orangery, tucked away in the middle of our garden, hidden behind trees and amongst shrubbery. In the summer, light bursts through the wide windows, each one boasting a different angle of our lush green garden, dotted with bright summer blooms.
But we have got to be honest with you, this is not a place we use often, probably because our courtyard and terrace are so easy to reach from the kitchen, which makes access to food and drinks easier for guests. So, as you can imagine, the Orangery has a slightly neglected feel. We did feel a little guilty about this and spruced the place up a bit with some paint and this was when it hit us – this is such a beautiful space for entertaining. We then start visualising overgrown foliage, potted herbs and rustic wooden barrels.
So we transformed our neglected Orangery into a rustic Potting Shed. This look wasn’t too hard to achieve at all as we found bits and pieces from our garden and shed. We used old bits of wood for the main table, rotten barrels and stools for extra serving space and decorated the place with batted watering cans, crates, pots and iron chairs– the older and more rustic the furniture and props, the better for this look. If you look at something and think it looks too rusty and run down, don’t through it away just yet, use it as a prop for your potting shed instead!
We potted up an array of beautiful smelling herbs and even painted terracotta plant pots with yoghurt, which gave them a vintage white-wash look, without looking too harsh if we did it with paint.
We decorated the table simply with a few potted plants and unevenly draped foliage around the chairs to give it an ‘over-grown’ ‘and ‘unkempt’ look. Normally we put together a beautiful flower arrangement for our table centre piece, but that would have looked so out of place amongst everything else. Instead, we filled one of our Lisa Pitchers (which features an organic shape and glaze, so fitted in perfectly) with whatever foliage we could find in our garden, including cow parsley and honeysuckle.
Before we had even thought about the food and crockery, the table already looked so green and full of life. It was as if the plants were growing out of the table, giving it an unruly look and lots of character. So we had to make sure the menu was just right.
Because of its vibrant colour and association with true British Summer, our cocktail of choice had to be Pimms with lemonade. We filled Wormwood Gallone pitchers with strawberries, cucumber, orange and herbs and topped with Pimms and lemonade – so refreshing on a hot summer’s day! Also, you just have to serve Pimms in high glasses, so we went for Timeless High Ball because of its unique ridges, which add a bit of interest to the glass.
Now onto the tableware and food. Like the props, we wanted the tableware to look ‘thrown-together’ as if the whole thing was unplanned, whilst still complementing the food.
As this was an informal gathering and setting, we wanted to serve sharing food and snacks, things that are easy to pick at whilst enjoying a drink. Not only is this a lighter way to dine but it is more social than a sit down, three course meal. We find people are more relaxed and conversation flows better. After all, this is a party!
We served Padrons and Asparagus in Notos oval trays, which really complement the luscious green colours and we used the metallic stand to add a bit of height to the table. We served oysters and steak on Notos square trays, which are a great shape for this type of sharing food. We dotted Notos bowls around the table, filled with dips, nuts and crisps – these are just the right size for nibbles! We love the Notos range because you can literally chuck it all together and it looks fantastic because it was designed for exactly this purpose; to be mix and matched. Available in cream or black and featuring a sandy textured edge, these are definitely a new favourite for tapas.
We added a splash of colour by using Riviera, the leaf shaped plates were a real talking point and instantly livened up the table; perfect for our Octopus Carpaccio and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. A little foodie hint – drizzle the Octopus with olive oil mixed with garlic cloves, it is just delightful!
For water and soft drinks, we used Lisa glasses in Amber and Green, which really complemented the whole theme of the table, not only the colour but their organic shape too.
We topped the beaten barrels with Lagoa Metal Plates, where we served yummy Crudites, alongside hummus dips. Back to the table, the metallic gold bowl, oval plate and stand were show-stoppers, a trio made for fish; we served White Bait, Prawns and Basil Mayonnaise.
Overall, our table looked a little miss-matched and quirky, which is exactly how we wanted it to look – an impromptu party in the potting shed! Drinks and snacks flowed nicely (another hint – snacks are easy to refill!) and we were lucky to have such a beautiful day, we flung the windows open and guests were able to roam our garden, it was having our own little private Glastonbury, but obviously with a lot less dirt!!
Do you fancy partying amongst the potted plants? Shop our Potting Shed look here.