Decorator Stiles Colwill loves having company. One of his greatest pleasures is to get friends together for an informal meal in his backyard. “If the host is relaxed, guests will follow suit,” says Colwill, dressed for dinner in the requisite pink and green.
Fun cocktails get the party rolling. And what better place to share a drink among friends than in the company of gorgeous flowers? Ice-cold cosmopolitans and Southsides started off this party.
Let your dining room chairs make an appearance alfresco. “Guests don’t expect to sit on Chippendale chairs outdoors, but in fact, it’s what people used to do,” Colwill says. Add some slipcovers for a splash of color.
“It never bothers me to mix and match,” says Colwill, referring to the stylish combination of antique china, ancestral silver, mismatched glasses, and contemporary Pottery Barn chargers.
In addition to hurricane lamps and votive candles, garden-themed Staffordshire figures and miniature garden implements that the couple have collected over the years further enlivened the tabletops. “If you’ve got it, use it,” Colwill says.
Gargiulo worked with gardener Gary Baverstock to assemble luxuriant bouquets of shocking pink and red peonies for the centerpieces. A profusion of snapdragons, forced white lilies, hosta leaves, and branches of variegated red-berried elder filled a large antique urn atop the buffet table.
Many of the flowers came from the farm’s gardens and greenhouse, including this dazzling display of homegrown red and pink peonies. Try multiples of one flower in varying shades for easy drama in your arrangments.
Colwill’s Try and Guess Salad is always a big hit at parties. The decidedly retro aspic dish has become one of the farm’s “great culinary traditions.” A glimpse of the recipe shows it calls for raspberries and stewed tomatoes -- try and guess the rest, huh?
The couple prefers that guests serve themselves, which is why they served a buffet of Maryland crab cakes, stuffed beef tenderloin, baked asparagus, minted potatoes, and Try and Guess Salad, a recipe handed down from Colwill’s mother. “A buffet gets people up and moving,” says Gargiulo. “It makes for a more animated meal.”