I have always felt sorry for those people whose occasion to celebrate a birthday falls in a winter month. First off, there’s no opportunity for a party in the garden. Now what? In planning a party, the atmospheric conditions are the most important elements. Set the mood first. I look for that visual treat that encourages guests to leave their daily cares behind, and anticipate a festive evening. This client was not about to let the winter weather hinder her celebration, so why should I? The thought of her company slogging through the snow and ice in their party best made it clear there had better be something going on outdoors that would replace the that thought. However, there is no replacing the ice and snow idea in Michigan in January-so why not make a gift of the season? We would add a little fire to the snow and ice.
It’s not so tough to make ice outdoors when the temps are hovering around 25 degrees. We tried our homemade ice votives at the shop before we took the idea on the road. Plastic waste baskets, cardboard boxes lined with plastic, and whatever else we had on hand got filled with water, and set outdoors; we allowed a week for freezing. Quart sized milk cartons were set in the water, and weighted on the top so they wouldn’t float-we needed niches that would hold our fire-the votive candles. These overscaled ice cube luminaries did the trick. I could see the frowns on the faces of the women, putting their party shoes on the winter ground-turn to smiles.
We carried this winter snow and ice idea from the outside, inside. We outfitted sonatubes used for forming concrete cylinders into giant candles. A platform set just below the rim was stuffed solid with 10 hour votives in individual glass holders. Single leaves wedged in the center created a flame shape. The guest of honor’s table was dressed in white roses and lilies, and fern curl flames. The overhead flowers make an immediate statement at eye level when guests arrived. This treatment also makes it easy for guests to talk across the table.
Some parties call for table numbers. We set cotton batting snowballs on tripods of glass drops; this makes an organizational element part of the fun. Formal occasions do not necessarily mean stuffy occasions.
My client did want some color in evidence-chartreuse she liked. The quality of cut flowers in the winter can be hit and miss, so I stuck with varieties that are readily available, and tolerate winter travel well. Hollywood roses are my favorite white rose, but I need to order them well in advance to get them. White freesia and the white button mum “Green Peas” I can count on. White dendrobium orchids, and chartreuse spider mums are equally foolproof. White ranunculus can be good, and can be equally horrid; if I decide to use them, I order extra.
Glass bubbles in different sizes, shapes, and surfaces were spread on the tables, along with more snowballs. White twigs encrusted with plastic ice gave a little height, and lots of sparkle.
The chartreuse button pomp Yoko Ono is a cut flower workhorse. So much color from such a small flower. They can be used without water, if need be. The oversized votive candles have water in the bottom-this makes it easy to clean the wax out after the party, and re-use the glass holder.
Silver chargers, and white napkins wrapped in silver ribbon complete the table decor.
These large painted white branches are wrapped in mini lights with white cords. Some years ago Rob and I sprayed cut branches with a fine spray of water until they were glittering and icy-this I did for a party at home. One holiday party at the shop featured firewood burning in galvanized farm buckets all along the drive-even this simple treatment was every bit as effective as this more formal treatment.
This is not your garden variety garden party. Nonetheless, this winter version was inspired by the garden.