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Whether it is your in-laws or your friends coming over for a visit this weekend, there are several quick and simple ideas to put a little pizzazz in your place before they arrive. Guess what! They all come from your garden. By adding special touches here and there, your guests will embrace your hospitality and enjoy their stay.

Nate Berkus, designer, TV Host and frequent past guest on Oprah states this: “There’s got to be some natural element (in a tablescape). A glass vase filled with sand and a candle, seashells that you picked up on the beach, and one framed photograph is a tablescape – and it’s not something you need to spend a lot of money on. Bring God’s work in, and make it your work.”

Let’s follow Nate’s lead and add some natural elements from our gardens to our interior décor. Here are 5 gorgeous ways from the garden to glam up for guests:

SIMPLE IDEA #1

Take small bud vases and disperse them around your house – in the guest bed and bathroom as well as the common areas of your home such as the living and dining rooms. Place small flowers such as Pinks (Dianthus) which is one of my favorites because it lasts so long as a cut flower. Sweet Peas, Azure Skies™ Heliotrope, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Shasta Daisies (Leucentheum), ‘Stars & Stripes’ Pentas, Lupine, Bee Balm (Monarda), Gaillardia or October Magic™ Camellia would all make excellent choices. A couple of the choices above would also add a sweet fragrance to your space. The idea is to just pick flowers that would be proportional to your vase. Typically, the bud vase will only be able to hold two to three flowers at the most, but it will make a big difference. Picking unique flowers like this ‘Chomley Farran’ Dianthus will draw attention to its beauty.

Beautiful 'Chomley Farran' Carnation in a bud vase in the living room.

Beautiful ‘Chomley Farran’ Carnation in a bud vase in the living room.

SIMPLE IDEA #2

This was a great idea that I saw on Pinterest and why no one hasn’t thought of it before is beyond me as it is so elegant and simple. Say you don’t have coasters, well the solution for your problem is simple. Go out to your garden and pick a couple beautiful Hosta leaves. The leaves have a waxy coating causing water to pearl up and acts as a perfect coaster, however at the same time adding sophistication to your living space. There are several varieties of Hostas that have gorgeous variegated leaves such as ‘Autumn Frost’, ‘Blue Ivory’, ‘Captain Kirk’ and many more.

'Autumn Frost' Hosta leaves make for perfect coasters.

‘Autumn Frost’ Hosta leaves make for perfect coasters.

SIMPLE IDEA #3

Pick out recipes that highlight herbs from your garden such as something as simple as roasted redskin potatoes with rosemary, a caprese salad using basil and tomatoes freshly picked or lavender lemonade to cool off on a hot day. Herbs are perfect to enhance a dishes flavors as well as garnish. Remember we always eat with our eyes first and by adding something fresh at the end just gives it that final touch. Plus serving friends and family the harvest from your garden is one of the best feelings in the world. Sharing the taste of freshly picked herbs, vegetables and fruits is a moment to be cherished.

Use herbs to garnish dishes where that herb is included in the recipe.

Use herbs to garnish dishes where that herb is included in the recipe.

SIMPLE IDEA #4

Creating a stunning centerpiece for the dining room table can be as simple as going out to your garden and picking some Camellia, Dahlia or any flowers that have star quality. When selecting which flowers to use, those that have a flat back float more gracefully. Feel free to mix and match the flowers to have a vibrant color assortment. Coordinating the colors with your table linens will add a polished look.

Float Roses, Shasta Daisies and Dahlias for a fresh and fragrant decoration.

Float Roses, Shasta Daisies and Dahlias for a fresh and fragrant decoration.

SIMPLE IDEA #5

Why not get some garden chores done at the same time as decorating for your upcoming guests? Do your Hydrangeas need a shear after they have bloomed or maybe that tree out front needs to have some branches pruned away? Make sure to not throw those garden trimmings away! Hydrangeas make absolutely gorgeous cut flowers and they dry perfectly while being in a vase. Simple cut your Hydrangea blooms at the height that would compliment your vase, add a small amount of water that will evaporate during the drying process and place in whatever room needs a pop of color. They will dry beautifully. Those branches from your tree out front will add a wonderful vertical element in floor vases that will last for years to come.

Hydrangeas add a pop of color to any room and make lovely dried flowers.

Hydrangeas add a pop of color to any room and make lovely dried flowers.

Like Nate Berkus said “Decorating is not something you need to spend a lot of money on.” It is as simple as going for a walk in the garden and collecting some color along the way. Here’s to celebrating the outdoors inside with our family and friends. Cheers!

Carmen

Source: Quote from Nate Berkus: http://yourdecoratinghotline.com/style-quotes/

As the mercury climbs for most of the country, my mind daydreams of sitting in the shade with a cool and refreshing cocktail in my hand. What do cocktails have to do with gardening you ask? Everything! “Garden to glass” is a huge trend taking place for mixologists across the country and by adding a couple herbs to your garden beds you can mix up your own favorite drinks for the summer. There are several herbs that can take your cocktail from blah to ta-daa. Take mint, for instance, without it what would a mojito do? The drink would fall flat and just be plain boring, but with mint it screams summer and digging your toes in the beach sand. Here are 5 herbs that you should consider for your garden to accessorize all your summertime cocktails:

Mint

Now there are several different varieties of mint – chocolate, orange, mojito, pineapple, spearmint and peppermint to name a few. Smell and taste the different kinds that you prefer. Mint can be used in all kinds of cocktails from mint juleps to mojitos. When growing mint, make sure to place it in a container as the plant is very vigorous when placed in the ground and can be very difficult to get rid of in the future; if you desire. It’s a great plant for the beginning gardeners because it thrives. It is happiest when planted in partial sun/shade (4+ hours of UV rays) and kept moist. That means that using a large container would be an excellent idea as it won’t dry out as quickly as something smaller.

Close-up of Mint leaves

Close-up of Mint leaves

Thyme

Again there is a number to choose from, but I prefer the variegated version (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Variegata’) as the leaves look gorgeous in the garden. Thyme is wonderful to flavor simple syrups that can be used in cocktail recipes. It makes for an exquisite garnish as well. The recipe below – Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a splash of vodka makes for an excellent refreshing cocktail in the summer. Thyme is a perennial and prefers full sun (6+ hours of UV rays) with well-drained soil. It is a very easy-to-grow plant and holds its leaves in the winter; making it perfect to flavor soups and stews during the cold months. A very well-rounded herb to add to the garden.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a Splash of Vodka

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a Splash of Vodka

Lavender & Rosemary

These two herbs in combination make the most lovely infused vodka. Just add 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of lavender per 3 cups of vodka and the cocktails recipes are endless from a simple vodka martini or tonic to a Mary Rose Martini, Tea Tini or Vanilla Rose.

Lavender is a perennial, if grown in USDA zone 6 or higher. (Find your zone, here). In zone 5, plants may overwinter, but it depends on the variety and weather conditions during the winter. Lavender prefers to be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. It is extremely drought resistant once established. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are considered to be two of the hardiest English varieties.

Rosemary is quite easy-to-grow and fairly low maintenance. Loves full sun with extreme tolerance to high heat. Prefers dry soil, but should be placed in a container to bring indoors if not gardening in zones 7 to 10. If you garden in these zones, Rosemary will overwinter well. The hardiest varieties being ‘Arp’, ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Albiflorus’ (or sometimes referred to as ‘Albus’).

Lavender & Rosemary Infused Vodka

Lavender & Rosemary Infused Vodka

Lemon Verbena

Lemon is one of my all-time favorite flavors. Lemon verbena can be used much like mint and mottled for a cocktail. This Lemon Verbena Spring Fling cocktail sounds very similar to a mojito, but full of my favorite flavors. I’m sure the gin could be substituted with vodka or rum. The key in growing lemon verbena is good drainage, like annual verbena, it prefers to be dry compared to wet. So take care and do not overwater. Giving it an organic fertilizer every four weeks will greatly enhance its growth as it will the other herbs listed above. When planted in full sun it yields the best vigor and most flavorful leaves. Place it where you brush by it to send a beautiful, citrus fragrance into the air. Lemon verbena will overwinter in zones 8 and higher with extra mulch for protection during the cold months and remaining dry during these months is key.

Image credit: Bonnie Plants

Close-up of Lemon Verbena leaves. Image credit: Bonnie Plants

Let’s celebrate summertime with this wonderful recipe from Real Simple Magazine:

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade

Boil 1 cup sugar, 8 thyme sprigs, and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and discard the thyme sprigs. Combine the thyme simple syrup, 1 quart strawberries (hulled and sliced), 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 5 cups of water in a large pitcher. Chill for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours). Strawberry flavor intensifies the longer it is chilled. Serve over ice, garnished with additional thyme sprigs. Splash of vodka is optional.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade and muffins make for a wonderful afternoon snack.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade and muffins make for a wonderful afternoon snack.

I hope that you will join me in the “garden to glass” movement and add some of these flavorful herbs to your garden to enjoy with your next summertime cocktail.

Cheers!