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Cocktail gardens are one of this summer's biggest trends. It is a natural offshoot from the trend toward outdoor bars and dining areas.
The pandemic has made us rethink gardens, and they're no longer just spaces for plants and lawns. The latest garden trends expand the use of the garden for partying and entertaining guests.
The cocktail garden is a step up from your ordinary herb garden, it is all about growing plants that will give your summer cocktails that extra special touch. We've asked garden designers, plant specialists, and even a cocktail expert to give us tips on what to include in a cocktail garden and design it with style.
What to include in a cocktail garden
1. Rosemary and Lavender
While learning how to grow mint is an essential first step for starting a cocktail garden, the choice of plants is much greater than you may think. Herbaceous perennials like rosemary, thyme, and lavender are all highly suitable for a cocktail garden, since they add a wonderful medicinal twist to many cocktails.
2. Thai Basil
For an exotic twist to a cocktail garden Erinn Witz, a garden expert and co-founder of Seedsandspades.com (opens in new tab), recommends growing Thai basil. 'The flavor is mildly sweet and slightly spicy, so it adds a unique taste to your cocktails,' Erinn explains.
'Plus, Thai basil is just as easy to grow as its Italian counterpart, and it also has lovely purple stems that can add a shot of color to your drink.'
A little large than a herb, cucumbers can be a great addition to a cocktail garden. 'It can help soften the flavor of strong alcohol, and it’s mild enough to play well with various other flavorings,' explains Erinn. 'A cucumber slice can also be a lovely green garnish that adds a fresh element to your drink.'
When it comes to how to grow cucumbers they do need a lot of room and sun to thrive, so why not use them as a living shade canopy in your cocktail garden area? Erinn says that 'if you put them in a sunny spot on your deck, it could also create some shade for you on those hot summer days.'
Pol Bishop, a landscaping and gardening specialist working at Fantastic Gardeners, casts his vote for growing lime trees in a cocktail garden. 'For me, the most essential plant to grow in a summer cocktail garden has to be lime,' he says.
'It’s an essential ingredient for margaritas, daiquiris, and even mojitos. Lime adds a fresh, zesty taste to both cocktails and desserts.
'Since it’s a subtropical tree, lime is best grown in a pot, especially if you live in an area with a colder climate. Keep the pot outdoors during summer when the sun is strong and the weather is warm, and move it indoors close to a sunny window once winter comes around.'
5. Edible flowers
Flowers will go down a treat as a cocktail garnish, especially when dried. 'Dried flowers and fruits have become a growing trend over the past few years and creating that refined look is easy,' says Jane Danger, Pernod Ricard’s Master Mixologist.
'Just toss unused cut citrus in a dehydrator (many air fryers have this option now) for tomorrow’s garnish - the components will last longer and create a photo-worthy moment.'
When planning which flowers to grow and use do check whether they are safe to eat. The RHS (opens in new tab) has a great list of edible flowers that are safe to use, but rose buds are one of our favorite places to start.
Styling your cocktail garden
The easiest way to grow a cocktail garden is, of course, by just grouping plant pots together, incorporating it into your container gardening ideas. Alternatively, you can be a bit more adventurous with it.
'You could create an herb cocktail garden out of a variety of pots in whatever color combination you prefer,' suggest Erinn. 'Then group them together on a ledge or deck railing. If you have enough light indoors, you could also transform a sunny windowsill into a small cocktail garden.
I’ve also seen people plant cocktail gardens in an elevated planting box, which I think looks beautiful. Also, there’s no bending required when it’s time to harvest some fresh cocktail ingredients!'
Prominent Austin designer Christina Simon, at Mark Ashby Design (opens in new tab), recommends going even further and investing in the design details of your cocktail garden.
'Turn an outdoor table into an elegant cocktail bar,' she suggests. 'Approach it from a visual perspective. Use unusual bar accessories in brass, copper, wood. Style your bar with small potted plants, flowers, candles, and decanters in various shapes and sizes.'
'Add attractive bar accessories like vintage colored glassware. Place everything on a beautiful tray or a large cutting board. Flank the area with exotic potted palms and eclectic rain chains for more visual interest.'
Will you be spending your summer relaxing next to your stylish cocktail garden?
Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.
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