Enjoy dining in great outdoors

A classic but simple vintage tea party setting.
A classic but simple vintage tea party setting.

SOUTHSEA GREENHOUSE: Enjoying an early harvest

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There’s something truly heroic about eating outdoors in Britain, as we either dodge the raindrops, battle against the odds to stop sandwiches curling and ice cream melting, or wave away the wasps.

Although it’s definitely not a venture for the faint-hearted, the rewards are great - after all, who doesn’t have fond memories of lazy days picnicking or sultry evenings dining under a starry night sky?

Small wonder then that our appetite for al fresco is increasing. ‘Generally, people are becoming much more keen to live outdoors and really enjoy entertaining there. It’s part of the whole home trend for blurring the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors,’ says Steven Duggan, celebrity event planner.

‘A meal is somehow more special if it’s eaten outdoors, and there’s a realisation that being creative about the whole setting - paying attention to every detail, from the table decoration to the lighting - makes it even more so.

‘It’s quite common now to see chandeliers or lanterns hung from trees, elaborate centrepieces on tables using glass and flowers, and a theme such as a colour or style.’

Sir Elton John, Adele and Leona Lewis are just a few of the many celebrity clients for whom Duggan has created events, but he doesn’t believe a big budget is essential.

‘Being imaginative is far more key. For instance, if a table’s too small for a large gathering, get creative and use an old door on trestles. It can be easily dressed with a white sheet and decorated with jam jars or milk bottles filled with freshly-picked wild flowers,’ he says.

‘The trend currently is an organic, back-to-basics look, where soft shades such as mustard and olive green feature as colour themes, but look out for stronger colour and vintage or kitsch pattern later in the summer.’

Turn the centre of a table into a focal point, he advises, by arranging a line of small glass vases, filled with anything from hydrangeas to buttercups, interspersed with tea lights in pretty containers.

‘Add decadent detail with gold or silver-rimmed crockery and glassware,’ he says. ‘Have a large candelabra or a string of outdoor lights draped along the table, and the effect will be magical.’

A classic but simple vintage tea party setting needs only a few ingredients - colourful fabric, a collection of pretty china and blooms picked from the garden.

‘Buy or make bunting - strips of patterned fabric tied onto a string line work well - and drape it around a garden or along a fence to make the garden look extra pretty,’ says Jan Goodchild, marketing manager at Hobbycraft.

‘If you’re planning a more intimate gathering, glass painted tea light votives or candles made using old tea cups and saucers as containers, together with a table runner or cloth made from a soft chintz pattern fabric, will help create a more vintage look.

No one does that quintessentially English tea party look better than Laura Ashley. For the table: a set of three Flower-Shaped Melamine Dishes, from £12; a set of six Butterfly Tealights, £5. Accessorise with Butterfly Fairy Lights, from £21, and a Hanging Butterfly Tealight Holder, from £15.

Alternatively, hang up a Wire Birdcage, £39.95, Oscar & Eve, and use it for a pillar candle or fill with flowers.

If you like making your own effects, be inspired at hobbycraft.co.uk