If you're my age you might remember Ricky Nelson's Garden Party which is what I think of for a moment when I read or hear Garden Party. However, 19th Century Garden Parties were a bit different. Below is some basic info on Garden Parties. The first excerpt is long but filled with some of the reasons for having a Garden Party as well as how to succeed with one. In the Northern hemisphere it is still a wee bit chilly to hold a garden party but with temps hitting in the low 70's this weekend in Florida it just felt like a good time to post about these interesting parties. Enjoy!
II.—GARDEN PARTIES, AND HOW TO MANAGE THEM.
Bv Phillis Brown, Author Of 'The Girl's Own Cookery Book.'
Summer is with us, roses are blooming, and balmy winds blow, the sun is shining, and more than all, the weather ought to be settled at this time of year, and there is plenty of ripe fruit to be had, so why should we not give a garden party?
There is no reason at all against it, that I can see, if you are favourably situated for such undertakings—that is, if you have a convenient house with plenty of rooms on the ground floor, and a large garden, not straight up and down, with brick walls -all round, and overlooked by half the parish, but a rambling, nooky and cornery garden, with delightful little paths which lead to nowhere, with fragrant bowers hiding romantic garden seats where young folks can make love and old folks can gossip, with tall trees which afford a grateful shade from the heat of the sun, and flowers and shrubs in plenty. This is the ideal sort of place for a garden party, and here the thing could be easily managed, and with very little trouble might prove an unqualified success.
But there are only a limited number of ideal gardens in the world, and pleasant garden parties are held amid very much less pretentious surroundings than these. Quite true, I do not deny it. I merely wish to suggest that it is not easy to give a garden party in a back yard. The question of the suitability of the garden, however, is one which the host and hostess must decide for themselves, and there is no doubt that wonders may be accomplished in matters of this kind with a little tact and management, while without these, the most spacious grounds will but be the scene of a melancholy failure.
Garden parties are exceedingly popular amongst party givers, and I think the reason is that an idea prevails that' to give a garden party is such an easy way of entertaining one's friends.'
Of course it is very easy to issue a number of invitations and to collect together a crowd of people gorgeously apparelled, to provide them with a few refreshments, and then to leave them to wander aimlessly about whither they will. But it is really very difficult to make a garden party 'go,' as the saying is. I feel quite sure that if the majority of the guests who are in the habit of attending entertainments of this kind were to give their honest opinion of them, they would pronounce them rather slow. In garden parties more than in other receptions, unless a hostess is specially gifted for her work, and puts forth all her powers to accomplish her task, the trouble and expense to which she has gone in arranging for the fite will be thrown away. The hours will drag wearily along, and though her guests may be too polite to say so, they will look upon the occasion as a 'dull affair,' and will have no desire to visit at the house again.
The success of a garden party consists in a great measure upon the sort of people who are invited. The company should either be for the most part friendly, to begin with (when the affair will almost succeed by itself), or they must have interests in common, and the host and hostess must take pains to introduce congenial people. They should also remember to prepare their friends for the acquaintance by mentioning to each the position and distinguishing characteristic of the other. For instance, if it is the pride of Mr. Smith's life that he once travelled in Siberia, and Mr. Robinson is thinking of spending his honeymoon in that land, the host should pave the way for a geographical talk; and if Miss Jones is passionately attached to fancy work, and Miss Brown is expending her energies on antimacassars, the hostess should let it be known that this strong bond of sympathy exists between the two ladies.
Perhaps it may be said that this breaking-up of the ground of conversation is always part of a host's duty. So k is. Still, people may make discoveries for themselves in drawing-rooms and dining-rooms, while the very fact that they are in the open and indulging in constant peregrinations from one garden path to another, is very likely to cause them to miss a good deal which they would afterwards regret. Therefore, the host and hostess are specially called upon to exert themselves in gardens, to prevent disappointment.
Garden-party givers often imagine that they will be relieved from the duty of entertaining their guests, because the latter will be sure to be busy in playing tennis, croquet, or whatever other games have been provided. I fancy, however, that more frequently than not this expectation is disappointed. At a garden party games are more or less of a sham. The players do their work in a half-hearted way, or else entirely for effect, not at all for the fun of the thing. The girls are not dressed for exercise, they have been got up to look beautiful, and are not as free as they would be if suitably attired. True, a few men, intimate friends of the host and hostess, may bring their flannels and begin to play in earnest, but, for the most part, the thing is a pretence, and the host will be wise not to press it. If the young folks enter into the spirit of the thing spontaneously, all well and good; but if they do not, best to leave them alone.
Real tennis parties, which are a sort of modification of garden parties, are very often given now, and if tennis is to be played these parties are much more likely to be successful than are the nondescript entertainments, when the guests must either play tennis or amuse themselves as they can. When a real bond fide tennis party is given, twelve or sixteen players may be invited (with a few lookers-on if it is wished), and 'tennis at four,' say, may be put on the cards of invitation. Then the guests will arrive dressed suitably for what is before them, and all will be well. But to expect men to come dressed out and delightfully starched, and then to run about and get hot, with the prospect of having to do the polite to fashionably dressed young ladies as soon as they are thoroughly limp, is almost too much of a good thing! Society requires a good many sacrifices from its votaries, but surely this one, which demands that a fashionable individual should appear before the world otherwise than as the absolutely correct thing, is too severe to be endured.
Years ago, when garden parties were not nearly so formal as they now are, there was nothing of the effort required to entertain the company which there is now. Girls came prettily dressed and brightly expectant, young fellows came shyly reserved or boldly importunate, and there were games—poise-ball, hare and hounds, or perhaps, in very primitive companies, 'kiss-in-the-ring,' and then high tea, and home by the light of the moon. But now all is changed. We should not even dare to confess that years ago we attended garden parties of this homely description. One of the chief features nowadays is the dress. If only this is sufficiently gorgeous, and we can eclipse our friends and acquaintance, we consent to dawdle about in groups of twos and threes, boring others and being bored.
So much has the difficulty of entertaining a mixed company at a garden party been felt by those who own houses and gardens, that it has of late become not uncommon for the host to engage professionals, singers, readers, and imitators, etc., to say nothing of having bands of music to brighten the affair. Occasionally amateurs undertake the business, and the hostess draws up a programme beforehand, according to which Misses A. and B. or Master C. exhibit their exceptional talents at intervals, while between the performances the guests wander through the grounds, or contentedly ' refresh themselves' by means of strawberries and cream or ices. This is by no means a bad plan, especially where drawing-room windows open upon the lawn, so that the performances can go on indoors and the perambulations be carried on outside. Yet even if this plan is not approved, by all means let a programme of some sort be arranged, for anything is better than having one's garden filled with melancholy groups of would-be holiday makers interspersed with here and there a miserable solitary individual who has suddenly developed an intense fondness for the study of botany.
As for the provision to be made for occasions of this sort, I hope I shall not be considered irreverent when I say that the higher you go in society, the less likely you are to get much to eat at a garden party. It is not altogether because it is a little vulgar to be hungry, though there is something in that, but because garden parties are held at a time when people are not supposed to require food, the words 'from four to seven,' or 'four to eight' being printed on the card of invitation. Therefore light refreshment, such as tea and coffee, dishes of splendid fruit, two or three kinds of ices, dainty cakes of various kinds, with claret cup and champagne cup without limit, are all that the most prodigal of hostesses would provide. If the party were on a large scale, a marquee would probably be erected in the garden, and here the refreshments would be laid. Hospitable dames would doubtless have a cold collation laid indoors in the dining or breakfast rooms for the elderly people, or those who come from a distance, and for this there would be more substantial viands, pressed meats, meat pies, salads, and sweets; in short, the sort of dishes which would be prepared for a supper party.
The cards of invitation for garden parties (unless for very grand ones) are usually sent out about a fortnight beforehand. It is not advisable that the date should be fixed too far ahead, on account of the weather. We English are not in a position to boast of our climate, and we are not often disposed to glory in our privileges in this direction. We do but accommodate ourselves to circumstances when we do not presume upon probabilities of sunny days. What a melancholy record of disappointment it would be if a list could be presented of all the garden parties which have been held to the accompaniment of thunder, lightning, and storm, and ended in damp, influenza, and rheumatism!
Occasionally it is arranged that dancing in the evening (on the lawn) should succeed walking about and talking in the afternoon. This is not very usual, however. If it should be decided upon, then supper would have to be laid in the marquee or in one of the rooms, and every delicacy of the season which could be obtained would have to be provided.
'Grand affairs' in garden parties do undoubtedly not infrequently turn out 'slow,' yet it must be acknowledged that if enjoyment is considered as one of the ends to be attained in entertainments of this kind, there is plenty of fun and 'good times' generally to be had at small unpretentious gatherings where friends and acquaintance meet in a garden, not for display, but to enjoy one another's society, and cultivate sympathy and kindliness. It is astonishing how much more charitable and large-hearted we human beings grow when we come together, exchange ideas, and listen to each other's experiences. People \i ho stay always at home and goover the same weary round day after clay, week after week, and month after month, get morbid, narrow, and discontented. But if they can be persuaded to come out of their shells, and hold communion with their fellows, they discover what pleasant folks there are in the world, they find that others have trials, and are trying to bear them patiently, and to help others as they go along as well as themselves, and they realise that their limited horizon does not shut in the universe. Modest garden parties afford most suitable opportunities for social intercourse of this sort, and with tact and management they may be enjoyed without much difficulty.
For a garden party of this description it would be necessary only to have plenty of fresh fruit, especially strawberries with cream and white sugar, small cakes, tea, coffee and lemonade.
As to the detail of arrangement, perhaps I may be allowed to suggest that a table containing suitable refreshments should be placed either in the garden or in one of the sitting-rooms, and that a trimly dressed maid should be stationed behind it to act as waitress. It is a good plan, in-order to do away with the necessity for a large quantity of cups and saucers, to have a bowl with hot water on the floor behind ihe table, and in this the attendant can rinse the cups and dry them quickly on a napkin which has also been put -' handy.' The fruit should be abundant, and should be constantly renewed, and great care should be spent upon its arrangement . All dirty plates, etc., should be removed as soon as done with.
If tea and coffee are to be acceptable, they must be served hot. Very good lemonade may be made as follows :—
Lemonade.—Pour two quarts of hot water upon the juice of six lemons, the rind of two, and three-quarters of a pound of loaf sugar. Let the infusion stand in a cool place for an hour, and decant it for use. Water may be added according to taste at the time of serving. Lemonade is always better for being iced.
Lemonade in a Minute (a la Dr. Kitchener).—Dissolve a quarter of an ounce (avoirdupois) of citric acid (to be bought of any chemist) and a pound of loaf sugar in a pint and a half of boiling water. Flavour with a few drops of essence of lemon, or, wanting this, with thinly-cut lemon-rind. Strain the preparation into a decanter. When wanted, put a little into a glass, and add cold water to taste. For most people, a tablespoonful of the lemon syrup will be sufficient for a tumbler full of water. Where seltzer water is to be had, or where a seltzogene can be boasted as forming one of the possessions of the family, may I recommend that lemon squash should be provided as a substitute for claret cup? In my humble opinion lemon squash employed for refreshing and invigorating purposes is worth all the claret cup which ever was manufactured.
Lemon Squash.—Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a tall glass, with two heaped teaspoonfuls of castor sugar; stir juice and sugar briskly for a minute, and, still stirring, fill the glass with seltzer. The quantity of sugar used must be regulated by individual taste; some people like more than the quantity named, some less, but in all cases there must be plenty of sugar; that is one of the secrets.
Cherry Water.—Bruise fine ripe cherries; put them into a jar, and set this in a pan of boiling water till the juice flows freely. Filter one pint of this juice through muslin, add a pint of strong clear syrup and a quart of spring water.
Currant Water.—Take one pint of the drawn juice of red currants, or of red currants and raspberries mixed. Add a pint of clear syrup and a quart of water. The syrup for these fruit juices may be made by dissolving, off the fire, a pound and three-quarters of refined sugar in a pint of water, which has been whisked with a teaspoonful of white of egg. Put the syrup over a moderate fire and heat it gently till the scum rises. Remove this, and add two tablespoonfuls of cold water once or twice to assist it. When clear, strain for use.
Fancy biscuits of all kinds may be bought so excellent in quality and so moderate in price that it is scarcely worth while to make them. But for the benefit of those who prefer home-made articles, I will, in conclusion, give one or two simple recipes for small trifles of this nature.
Soda Buns.—Rub six ounces of butter into a pound of flour, add six ounces of castor sugar, two ounces of candied peel finely shred. Mix a quarter of a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda in a little less than half a gill of milk. Pour this into the flour, sugar, and butter; drop in gradually the yolks of four and the whites of two well-beaten eggs. Stir, grease a baking-tin, put the mixture on it in very small lumps, and bake in a brisk oven.
Ginger Hunting Nuts.—Rub five ounces of butter into one pound of flour, add three-quarters of a pound of very coarse sugar, and quarter of an ounce of ground ginger. Break an egg into a bowl and mix all together with half a pound of treacle. Make the nuts the size of a marble, and bake in a slow oven.
Little Cakes (made without butter).—Mix together a cupful of flour, a cupful of sugar, and two or three chopped almonds. Stir in one egg, grease the tin, and drop the mixture in very small knobs upon it, and bake.
One word I will add about the style of dress suited to the occasion. In the language of Mr. Collins, one of the most delightful characters in one of the most delightful of story books, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, 'Do not make yourself uneasy about your apparel. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest; there is no occasion for anything more. Your friends will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed.'
Source: The Girl's Own Outdoor Book ©1889
Garden Parties.—It may be useful to give a general idea of the quantities required in providing for a party of, say, eighty
people. Five gallons of tea, allowing five ounces of tea to the gallon. Six gallons of coffee, half hot, and half iced, allowing eight ounces of coffee to the gallon. Three gallons of claret-cup, allowing for each gallon four bottles of claret and four bottles of soda-water. Twelve quarts of water-ice. Twelve dishes of sandwiches, all different. Eight plates of rolled bread and butter, four brown, and four white. Eight pounds of cake cut up into small thick pieces. Six pounds of sponge finger-biscuits, freshly made and not out of a tin. Macedoine of fruit (see page 497) is always popular and so is syllabub. For this it is no longer the fashion for an elegantly dressed young lady to milk a cow, gaily decorated with ribbons and garlands, into a china bowl. Put a pint of Marsala into the bowl with half a pound of sugar, and pour on it warmed milk from a teapot, held high above the bowl, till the wine and milk become a solid froth.
Source: Mrs. Roundell's Practical Cookery Book ©1898