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 butterflies. 

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 non-performers. 

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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