How to throw a Garden Party – in Scotland!

When the weather is great it’s easy to get creative about throwing an outdoor party.  Unfortunately though, the Scottish climate doesn’t always lend itself to partying in the garden – even during the Summer.

In this blog, Sara McQueen, who works in the marketing department of Scottish timber company, Stewart Timber, gives us her pointers for throwing a great party to make the most of your outdoor space, whatever the season or weather.

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Sara says:

“Summer always starts me dreaming of a garden party. When the sun shines here, it is the most beautiful thing in the world. This is partly because sunshine is always lovely, and partly because you feel as though you have all the luck in the world to have the sun smiling on you in our moody-skied little corner of the world.

“Whether it’s a birthday or just for fun, a garden party can be a beautiful, memorable and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. It also demands a fair amount of creativity: decorations, food and rain-check plans are all part of the fun!

Preparation

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The Guestlist:

“Even though it’s a garden party, plan your invite list according to your house size. If you end up having to move indoors then you will need all the room you can get!

Tidying Up the Garden:

“Make sure that the garden itself is looking good before you start to decorate. The Bonnie Gardener has some great tips on this (https://thebonniegardener.co.uk/2017/02/01/tips-to-keep-your-garden-neat-tidy/) for you to refer to. We’re thinking a raked/swept space, no weeds and a shed or greenhouse that has been de-cobwebbed, unless it’s a halloween party in which case, fill your boots!

The Budget:

“It can be tempting to get carried away but think carefully about the essentials (food and drink, places to sit) before you start buying decorations which can often be done cheaply if you take a DIY approach. If you’re planning a gazebo in case the weather doesn’t deliver, look into renting if you don’t want to splash out, or try buying second hand, but if you buy second-hand, ALWAYS do a practice run! A friend once got a ‘free’ gazebo which turned out to be a square tent with a pentagon-shaped frame…

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The Basics:

“At the least, make sure you have considered that guests have a place to sit, there’s enough cups and plates to go round, and that you know how you are going to prepare all the food. If it’s a barbeque, then does it have a hood or can you move it to a place with a shelter from the rain? If it’s a potluck, are you going to serve the food indoors or outdoors?  If it’s the latter, how are you going to stop the flies getting to your delicious dishes before your guests do? Will there be easy access to the house and bathrooms and are you bothered at the thought of dirty shoes in the house? These are all the boring things, but best to have them well-considered in your planning.

The Fun Part

Theme

“Themes aren’t compulsory but they are fun. We’re imagining a summer party, but you could also try Halloween or Christmas outdoor parties. Cold season parties are great if your guests are brave enough to wrap up warm with blankets, drink mulled wine and perhaps light a fire pit if your budget and space stretched to it. In the summer you could go for a vintage-style tea party, a BBQ with lots of kids games (whether your guests are kids or not!) or even recreate a tiki bar with rum punch and a coconut shy.

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Decoration

“Trees are just waiting to be garlanded with fairy lights ready for the evening, or banners and bunting which can be easily made by hand. If you have kids, or are inviting a few, then get them involved in the decoration, too. Dry days will allow for paper-chains, or if you’re worried, try a stronger paper which will survive a few showers for one day. Depending on how precious you are about your garden flowers, you could display some cut in glass bottles or jars hung from trees with twine.

DIY

“If you have some well-placed trees and lots of material, you could even attempt a DIY tent. Tie rope between two spots, hang with a piece of large material and just keep on knotting more together until you have a large enough cover. Keep your makeshift tent materials hanging taut to the ground with rocks or plant pots. Pallets can be used as an easy table for a picnic, surrounded by cushions and blankets to sit on, and have you ever used pineapples as pins for ten pin bowling? The best part is that once you’re done, you can chop them up and eat them!

Food

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“Make as much as possible beforehand, and if you’re braving the BBQ then have the oven on stand-by just in case! Finger food is great and you can get some really inspiring ideas on pinterest. If you’re using your own crockery, then make sure you have enough and if you’re opting for paper, then remember that these will blow away and get stuck in your flowerbeds if left unattended: plenty of bin-bags should be made available. Don’t forget a lovely dessert, too, whether you make it yourself or outsource to a friend with bake-off potential!

Entertainment

“Garden games can work no matter how much space you have to play with. You can make noughts and crosses by painting the symbols onto stones and marking out a grid with sticks on the grass, or good old chalk on a patio. Treasure hunts can work even in small spaces if you get creative with the clues, and (big) kids are always up for hide and seek if you have more room!

“Make up a playlist of music to play in advance and think about speakers if needed. However, make sure you are well stocked with board games too – just in case you have to move inside. On the day, you might find that everyone is making their own fun but it’s always good to have ideas tucked away.

On the Day

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“Here are a few quick tips to help the day go to plan, but ideally, it should just be a fun morning of party prep! If the heavens open and you have to move in, just take comfort in the fact that yours certainly wouldn’t be the first Scottish garden party to be forced to … ‘adapt’ due to the weather. Plus – most inhabitants of this lovely part of the world will be more than accustomed to breaking out the wellies and the brollies in the height of August. Turn up the music and call it a music festival – the rain only makes it more authentic!

  • Organise as much as possible the night before
  • Get help with the setup. You can bribe them with Pimms (or juice for the little helpers) if need be
  • Check the forecast. You’ll already be organised for both outcomes, but it helps to have an idea of how to dress!
  • Buy more ice – always! To free up fridge space, consider a rustic alternative to an ice bucket – you could fill a large, empty planter or even a wheelbarrow with ice and keep your beers and bottled drinks cold for guests
  • Have fun!

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“What do you think of our guide to hosting a garden party? Are you feeling inspired to take on the Scottish weather and plan a garden celebration? Let us know in the comments!

“Based in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, Stewart Timber is passionate about helping everyone to get the best out of their garden space and specialises in sheds, decking and garden furniture. Get in touch with us to talk timber and garden tips!”

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