Prince Harry will tie the knot with Meghan Markle on Saturday 19 May, and it’s the perfect opportunity to hold a garden party. Haynes shows you how to make your celebration go with a swing
Fly the flag – with flowers
In Victorian times, patriotic bedding plant displays were the height of fashion. Why not plant a Union flag to welcome your guests as they arrive to celebrate the royal wedding? Download a picture of the flag from Google images and use it as the basis of your planting plan, marking out the rows using string and plant sticks.
Rich-red salvias, blue-flowering lobelia and white alyssum – all available at garden centres now – are perfect for patriotic planting. Keep them well-watered, liquid feed every few weeks and your living Union flag will flourish until the frosts.
Create a red, white and blue hanging basket
If you don’t have room to plant a Union flag, why not hang a patriotic hanging basket outside your front door? Petunias are just the ticket: cheap, cheerful and long-flowering.
Line a hanging basket with moss, fill with multi-purpose compost and mix-in a sprinkling of water-retaining gel. Petunias are available in shades of red, white and blue.
For something more unusual, try the new eye-catching blue-and-white Petunia ‘Night Sky'.
Hang up the bunting!
Nothing says garden or street party like bunting strung from buildings and lamp-posts, so transform your back yard with a charming flag display.
If shops are sold out, it’s easy to make your own bunting: take any colourful patterned paper (unwanted wallpaper offcuts will do) and cut it into triangles, using glue to secure each triangle to garden string or twine. It’s a fun project to keep the kids entertained.
If bunting isn’t your thing, a simple display of balloons will brighten-up the dullest corner of a garden.
Green-up your grass
Cast your eye over your lawn a week or so before holding a garden party. If it’s looking a bit ropey, there are quick-fixes to transform it into a bowling green.
EverGreen Extreme Green is a high nitrogen feed that claims to green-up grass in just three days and can be applied between March and September. Westland’s Aftercut is a lawn feed and seed that thickens your lawn and conditions existing grass.
Add charm with outdoor lighting
The days when garden lighting meant a costly electricians’ bill for installing an outdoor power supply are long gone; nor do you need to leave extension cables trailing around for your guests to trip over.
Garden centres and DIY stores now stock a huge range of LED party lights, many of which use solar power to charge-up by day, while others are battery-operated.
Hang strings of lights from the branches of trees or wind them around pergolas and archways to create a magical light show as darkness falls.
Line paths with lanterns[Shutterstock ID: 267224639]
In addition to suspended strings of LED lights, consider lining paths with lanterns and using them to mark the outline of lawns. If you have kids and aren’t keen on using real candles, you can often find solar powered path lights at discount stores.
Turn up the heat
Let’s face it, summer evenings are often anything but tropical in Britain, so take steps to avoid your guests shivering. Chimineas are attractive and kick out a lot of heat, while fire pits are a fantastic addition to areas used for socialising.
Patio heaters are a quick-fix solution, too, but don’t forget to check there’s enough gas left in the bottle. You can find out more about fire pits, chimineas and outdoor ovens, and how to cook on them, in the Haynes BBQ Manual.
Games for kids… and adults
Garden games are great fun for kids and adults alike, and will help your party to go with a swing. Whether you choose a traditional croquet set to place on the lawn, or set up an area of skittles, make sure to provide ample seating for spectators, so armchair experts can observe the proceedings.
Keep the drinks cool
Whether you’re putting on a barbecue or a finger buffet, chances are that your fridge isn’t big enough to handle the mountain of beers and wines that your guests will (hopefully) bring along.
A garden trug or bucket filled with cold water and ice cubes makes a perfect receptacle to keep the booze chilled, ready for thirst quenching. Place it near the barbecue as it will make guests head in that direction – then whoever has been nominated as chef won’t feel that he or she is missing out on all the fun.
If you fancy brewing your own beer for the next barbecue, grab a copy of the Haynes Beer Manual.
Weather-proof your party
The royal wedding is going ahead come rain or shine, and so must your party. If the forecast looks unsettled – and let’s face it, this is British summer time – it’s worth investing in a gazebo.
Some can be as frustrating and time-consuming to put together as flat-packed furniture, so it’s worth paying more for an easy-to-assemble pop-up gazebo. Make sure it’s well anchored to the ground though, as you don’t want to end up retrieving it from next door’s roof after a gale.
Create a photo booth for selfies
We are a nation obsessed with taking selfies – and selfie ‘photo booths’ at parties and celebrations are big this year. Consider dressing a corner of the garden with plants, bunting and decorations, using LED lights and candles to make sure its well-lit.
Provide fun props (pictured) so your guests can get into the party spirit and take snaps to remember – or feel embarrassed about when they see the pictures on Facebook the next morning.
Make a permanent planting
And finally… royalists may wish to mark Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding by adding a plant to their gardens, and there’s plenty to choose from. You could choose Dahlia ‘Royal Wedding’ or Pelargonium ‘Wedding Royale,’ perhaps.
For a permanent fixture, there’s Malus (apple) ‘Royalty’, ‘Royal Beauty’ and ‘Royal Gala’. Lovers of roses have plenty of royal-themed roses to choose from, including the rose ‘Royal William’ (yes, we know it’s the wrong prince), ‘Royal Celebration’ and ‘Royal Jubilee’.
Use the RHS Plant Finder to find stockists near you, or a mail-order supplier.