Pacific Islands

Outdoor Dining in the Pacific

Why not use one of the best ‘rooms’ in the house and get outside for entertaining on a grand scale or just a casual meal with a few friends. Carolyn Ernst tells how to prepare your garden for a great meal.

September 5, 2019
travel-big-img
Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

September 5, 2019

Gardens are emotive, they conjure up a wide range of feelings in every one of us from the success of being able to create a thing of beauty, to being a place to relax and rejuvenate our minds and bodies amongst the peace and tranquillity. They can be plain hard work (for the non-gardener) and a challenge – to be able to grow something that nobody else has, frustration – because it just won’t do what YOU want it to and finally, for many of us, a place to enjoy our friends and family. It is always pleasant to go to a nice restaurant and it is certainly less work to entertain this way, but there is nothing like a special event in your own garden. These events can range from a simple afternoon tea with a few friends to a sit-down formal dinner for 100 people, with every option in between. Having your special event in your special place, that place that you have created, makes it even more special.

The grand event is not for the faint hearted, a lot of hard work and planning goes into a successful function. If you do not feel up to doing all of this yourself, there are many choices available.  There are some great hire places that can provide everything you need and there are also some marvellous caterers that will provide whatever food and drinks you require, and there are event managers that will do absolutely everything for you. It is essential that you are honest with yourself about the level of your capabilities. If it is an important occasion for you, you need to be able to enjoy it, so make sure you only undertake what is within your skills and what will not stress you and spoil your pleasure on the day.

I like to entertain, and I also like to garden so it comes as no surprise that I combine the two on as many occasions as possible. At our current property the first building we built was a local style nakamal (thatched structure) that was used for part of my fiftieth birthday celebrations. Since then, it has been well used for my daughter’s wedding, my husband’s sixtieth, a celebration of life for a very good friend, my sixtieth and countless other lovely get togethers with friends and family. We have the lights and power needed for night functions and the toilets are close, these are all important requirements for any party location. When thinking of outdoor functions, one of the things often forgotten, is the requirement of clean toilets. The bushes may work for most males, but we females require a little more. This can be easily fixed with portable toilets, if you have a good hire company anywhere near you.

If providing food, the provision of plates, knives, forks and glasses is an important consideration.  All these things can be hired, but this can get expensive. Over the years I have purchased cheap glasses at bargain shops and second hand cutlery that allows me to cater for nearly 100 people, without any issues. The prices I paid were cheaper than the available hire rates. You also need to consider, tables and chairs. I have always hired them for important sit-down events but also on other occasions I have used homemade substitutes, stumps, blocks and planks, anything to enable people to sit and eat. What you use, depends on the theme you are trying to create.

If you enjoy entertaining and enjoy doing it yourself then having an area in your garden for this, is important. Many people are now building and developing very sophisticated outdoor entertainment areas. Many include BBQs, smokers, pizza ovens and upmarket visual and audio systems. Swimming pools and spas often feature. With the advent of garden heaters these places can now be enjoyed in all weathers.

Preparing your garden for your very special event can take months and much planning.  My aunt potted and grew hundreds of pots of annuals that were due to flower during the planned period.  She did the hard work and started from seed. In many places you can buy flowering plants which makes it easier and more predictable. If you go and have a chat with your local plant supplier, they can give you a list of the plants that are available for that period and then you could pre-order what you want. These pots of annuals can then be buried in the garden to add instant mass colour. I did the same with pots of bougainvillea for my daughter’s wedding, although I must admit, I only got half of them to flower at the required time.

In your forward plans it is good to think about giving the garden a good prune, this needs to be done at least three to four months in advance to allow the bushes and shrubs to recover. Give them a fertilise at the same time and make sure they are getting enough water over the following months to provide that lush healthy growth you want, to make them look their best.

If you have access to reasonably priced flowers, then large arrangements of flowers add a nice touch to every occasion. I love sharing my garden with friends, with a bunch of flowers picked from my garden.

If your event is in the evening, then lighting is an important consideration. Fairy lights are cheap and a beautiful addition to every occasion. There are some lovely cheap ways to make lights and Pinterest will give you a huge range of choices. I have seen some lovely uses of tea lights and paper bags and used jam jars are now the thing for everything, from lights to glassware. By thinking outside the box there are almost always cheap options for everything you require.

Many people do not have the space to have an event in their own garden, but this does not need to stop you having an outside party. There are beach parties, picnics in the park, operas in the vineyards and many more options. All of these are ways we can enjoy the outside environment for our entertaining. There is a huge range of venues for hire and they provide a whole range of services. From providing just the venue, to providing the BBQs for do-it-yourself meals, to full catering with all the frills. It is up to you to decide the right location and services, for you.

As our lives become busier and busier the opportunity to relax and enjoy ourselves sometimes seems to get harder and harder. I believe it is important to make the effort to celebrate the special things in our lives with our friends and families and to celebrate every one of our birthdays. The numbers keep getting bigger and bigger and for some reason I can’t resolve the difference in how I feel, to the size of that number. I believe that we must celebrate the passing years, as well as celebrating the fact that we are still here able to celebrate them. There are so many people that have not been that lucky.

I also admit I love presents as well. Happy Gardening 

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Pacific Island Living