Gardening with Evelyn: Planting some ideas for party decor, entertainment


Summertime is BBQ time in Encinitas. Your patio was looking pretty good, but now it needs a quick fix. How do you make that BBQ buffet area look smashing without smashing the budget all to pieces?

Here are some ideas you can use this year or next year or any time.

• Double duty: Use watermelons, pineapples, even eggplants as food and as centerpieces. Start with the blooming succulent Kalanchoe. It comes in vibrant hot summer colors, red, yellow, magenta or pink. This blooming succulent thrives anywhere and comes in all sizes.

The centerpiece is the watermelon (or eggplant, or pineapple). Long ones are best. The outside becomes a natural container for easy blooming color. Cut them in half and hollow them out. The insides become part

of the fruit salad or are saved for another use. Place the two halves around the plant, secure with invisible fishing line or hot glue. The melon takes the center place. Add the rest, including tomatoes, bananas, peppers. When the party is over, eat or throw everything but the plants away.

• The request you can’t turn down: Can the baby shower (or bridal shower) be held in your lovely garden? “Of course,” you graciously respond while your mind races to come up with some quick color ideas.

Begonias to the rescue. Pretty, feminine and easy. Solenia begonias or tuberous begonias make easy table centerpieces. You’ll find them at Weidner’s Gardens, headquarters for all the begonias.

Budget is tight? Pick up some extra plastic pots. Spray paint and glitter do amazing things, and a quick trip to the fabric store yields shimmery, silky fabric to swirl around your centerpiece. A begonia basket or two hanging from your patio cover, and you are ready.

Need inspiration? Weidner’s Gardens Begonia Festival is June 20 and 21. Take advantage of the speakers and specials, and get ideas from the sample arrangements. The free sample fertilizer tank will be up. Bring your own gallon jug or pay for a new one. Go to for details and to download coupons to save you money.

• Daisies, the decorators’ delight: Gerbera daisies are the No. 1 flower for almost every flower arrangement. They last a week and then are gone. Garvinea gerberas are a new daisy that is trouble-free and will bloom year-round in our climate. One Garvinea will take the place of that flower arrangement and will keep on giving for months. You can even cut them to make your own arrangement. No, they aren’t as big as the florists’ gerbera, but dollar for dollar you come out way ahead.

• Old-time tip: Strands of ivy are so useful when you are decorating. But how do you keep them fresh? Cut your ivy a day or so ahead. Hydrate in water; the bathtub works. Dry them off, and dip in old-fashioned liquid floor wax. They will hold and look fresh for several weeks — and be shiny, too. Use anywhere some greenery is needed.

• The Western BBQ theme: Here comes the burlap from your fabric store. One smashing succulent centerpiece and you have the theme. Set each place with a different 4-inch succulent. The burlap and some hot glue make quick pot covers.

• The Do It Yourself table centerpieces competition: This is for the big party where you need a mixer to get things going. You gather some sand, shells, branches, eucalyptus seed pods, rocks and a few blooming 4-inch bedding plants. Add old half-burned candles, kitchen utensils, broken pottery. Anything you can find.

Divide your guests into as many teams as you have tables. Put all the stuff in a big pile. Guests have 30 minutes to come up with the winning design. Of course, you make sure they have some drinks to get them in the mood, and every team gets a silly prize. Memory pictures are taken and you have time to get all the last-minute food ready. It’s a surefire way to jump-start your party.