Thursday, October 16, 2008

Come to Tea: An Elegant Garden Gathering

Outdoor spaces of all kinds, including balconies, can be successfully adapted to a tea party. It's a charming reminder of bygone days and childhood make-believe. Perhaps nothing says "garden party" like having afternoon tea outdoors.
Tea parties span generations and will be enjoyed by your most sophisticated women friends or all the giggling little girls of your acquaintance.
What makes an elegant tea party? Look at these factors.
Plan to hold your tea party when your garden is in its fullest bloom -- perhaps it's lilac time, June roses, or peony season. Be sure to cut some of the blooms for the tea table vases. If you don't have a garden, buy an armful of flowers at a farmers' market or stop by a country ditch and pick bunches of wild daisies and Queen Anne's lace.
Include an invitation for the little ones to bring along a doll or teddy friend. -- perfect for day-blooming flowers. Typically, tea is held around 4 p.m. Your guests will recognize your party as an elegant affair and dress accordingly!

Send handwritten notes by snail mail.
Table Setting
If it's a little girls' party, you might want to invest in two or three miniature tea sets. Instead, use a crisp linen tablecloth, pressed cloth napkins and your best bone china cups and saucers. Stash the paper table covering and the plastic glasses just for today. The more elegant, the better.
They can add an elegant touch, whether left unadorned or covered with flowered chintz. Consider setting your straight-back indoor dining chairs outdoors. Try to have adequate seating for everyone.
Tea time is a fun way to introduce young ones to "elegant party" manners. Include "grown-up" shoes and old jewellery -- anything that will make the little ones feel elegant. You can also include a box of flowery cast-offs for dressing up. Make decorating the hats a fun activity at the party.

If the party is for little girls, collect old hats, scarves and silk flowers at a thrift shop, yard sale or discount store. Encourage all of your guests to wear hats -- big-brimmed, floppy and flowered.
You can substitute mini-cupcakes or tiny tarts. Sugar cookies and petit fours are traditional sweets. Try sandwiches of watercress, cucumber, or egg with the crusts removed and cut in quarters. All sandwiches and sweets should be dainty finger-food.

Other than teaspoons, no cutlery should be required at tea.
One of the first things that I learned in seventh grade home economics class was how to brew a proper pot of hot tea, but that was many years ago. I suspect that tea-making is becoming a lost art.
Tea is actually the common name of one plant: Camillia sinesis. The three basic types of tea -- black, green and oolong -- are distinguished by the amount of oxidization that the tea leaves have undergone. The more than 3,000 varieties of tea in the world are all derived from those three basic types.
Herbal teas -- more properly, tisane or infusion -- are made from a wide variety of flowers, herbs, barks, berries, fruits and spices.
Have milk (not cream!), sugar and fresh lemon wedges available. At a minimum, offer your guests a traditional tea and a caffeine-free herbal choice.
So, dust off your teacups and your manners and sit down with your girlfriends for a proper tea party. It's a lovely summer interlude!
About The Author
Visit her at Her latest how-to guide "Attracting Butterflies to Your Home and Garden" is now available on her web site. Debbie Rodgers, the haven maven, owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich them.
Mail to and get a free report on "Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space".


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