Cocktails in the Garden

I had the pleasure of meeting CL Fornari earlier this year
when she spoke at the Hardy Plant Society’s March Into Spring event. I was particularly excited about her lecture
since it was based on her book —The Cocktail Hour Garden. How can you not like that topic, even when it
is being presented at 9 AM?
I listened intently as she talked about the importance of
having spaces in your garden where you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your
labor. This concept resonated with me
since my mother also felt that way. She thought it was important to stand back
and admire your work after a hard day’s work in the garden. I guess that’s why I often start my day having
coffee on my back patio and end my day there too. Like CL, I think I was born to have a
cocktail hour garden.
In her presentation, CL explained ways to engage the senses
through the placement of fragrant plants or those that capture the late day
light in a special way. She even covered
party planning and talked about desired guests such as the birds and
Imagine my delight when travel plans took me to Cape Cod,
the home of CL Fornari’s own cocktail hour garden —Poison Ivy Acres. CL said the name of her garden was inspired
by the need to embrace the whole that a garden offers — the good and the bad
together, not separate. I liked this
idea as it was similar to what my yoga teacher always said in class – don’t
judge yourself and your flaws, just observe and enjoy the present moment. 
The whimsical entry sign made of license plates
CL was gracious in inviting me to visit her garden, and at
cocktail hour no less. What could be
better? I was greeted by her smiling
face and a yummy drink garnished with lemon verbena that we picked out of a pot
located just outside her kitchen door. As we toured the garden, I sipped on my cocktail and tried to absorb the
magic of my surroundings. I was truly on
sensory overload. The colors and
textures of the garden carried me forward from garden room to garden room. I
was impressed by not one, but many cocktail garden spaces from where the garden
could be appreciated and admired. 

Our delicious cocktails along with CL’s fantastic book
As we walked around the property, CL described the creation
of different garden spaces including the vegetable garden that was surrounded
by a fence her husband made from reclaimed locust wood and a patio area that
was created with rescued pieces of discarded granite. I was equally impressed by CL’s selection and
placement of plants and her careful editing to ensure a composed scene. Her cutting gardens and trial gardens helped
her pick the right plants and weed out the performers from the
One of the many cocktail hour garden spaces.  This one included pieces of reclaimed granite.

The garden shed and locust fence created by CL’s husband

What to do with a collection of old stumps?  Create garden art of course!

The entrance to the trial garden

The entrance to the cutting garden

A stunning display of blooms (and a pollinator too!)

Another beauty being trialed in CL’s garden
At the end of the tour we stopped to relax, sitting in the
very space that inspired her book. I
felt honored to be there and looked forward to incorporating many of CL’s
concepts in my own garden.  
The original cocktail hour garden
Cheers to you
CL.Thanks for sharing your piece of paradise with me. I hope you will join me for a cocktail in my garden
the next time you are in the Philadelphia area. 

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