Throw a springtime garden party decorated with gorgeous blooms for your closest friends.

Setting the Table

PICK A PETAL. Whether you are a gardener or not, you can appreciate the new growth and colorful blooms that this time of year promises. Shake off winter sleepiness by visiting the local florist for an advance on spring.

To set the stage for an intimate gathering such as this, first choose the blooms to showcase. They will dictate the color scheme, the projects, and even the food selections.

We chose the pretty, delicate violet as the showcase flower, making it the party gift for guests. We also selected white hydrangeas to make the full centerpiece. Dainty white Stephanotis and yellow Forsythia pair up in the tussie-mussies.

SET THE STAGE. With a garden theme, it's easy to think up scene setters -- the "extras" that don't take center stage but complete the production. Watering cans in pastel shades linger on the buffet table. Cleaned-up garden tools dressed in ribbons sit on the table and the buffet, helping establish atmosphere. Mismatched chairs are flea-market and garage-sale finds with the appropriate rustic feel and pale, timeworn hues.

STACK THE PLATES. Pastel plates fit the color scheme, but plain white ones also work. Choose dinnerware without a pattern so it won't compete with the flowers pressed between the glass dessert plates on top.

Special Touches

RING THE NAPKINS. Dress up plain white cotton napkins with pretty buttons sewn in a corner. Then roll the napkins with the buttons up, and secure with violet ribbon tied in a bow or threaded through a mother-of-pearl buckle. These buckles are antiques, but you can find new versions in the doll section of a crafts store.

TIE A RIBBON. During the Victorian Era, people sent messages of friendship, love, and good health with tussie-mussies. Convey welcome by tying the small, handheld arrangement to the back of each guest's chair. Most often made with herbs, these are Stephanotis and Forsythia clumped together with florist's tape. Purchased at an art supply store, paper with flower petals pressed into it makes a sturdy cone. A row of glued-on buttons ties into the napkin adornment.

SET A PLACE. Once the napkins and plates are ready, set places for your guests. Turn the place mat (which was made of eyelet fabric and white ribbon attached with fabric tape) sideways for something different. This also allows room for the potted violet.

SOW SOME SEEDS. Corral silverware with paper folded and decorated like fanciful seed packets. Real ones would work too, but these are more fun. Torn tissue paper forms the flowers.

RESERVE A SPOT. The potted violets are take-home gifts for guests. Give each violet a job while it's on the table by making and inserting a place card that resembles a plant marker. buy real plant markers at the garden supply store, or twist soft, bendable wire into a fork shape and insert a place card. Handwrite the names for an informal touch.

FRESHEN YOUR DRINK. Prepare some fresh lemonade to get your guests into a warm-weathered mood, and serve it in large-size canning jars. Sprinkle fresh mint sprigs (available in most grocery stores year-round) and lemon rind into the ice molds before freezing. As the cubes melt, they add a little fresh flavor to the drink.

MAKE A STAND. This Austrian cheesecake wears a crown of edible flowers from the grocery-store produce section. Give it or your favorite dessert a place of high standing by setting a circle of glass 14 inches in diameter, custom-made in a glass store, on top of a pottery vase.

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