A spring fete in a greenhouse

There are two things I need to tell you about being at Riverbend, the country home of my dear friends Beth and Mike.

1. This amazing couple, who founded the Global Orphan Project, which provides care for orphaned and abandoned children in Africa, Central America, Asia and Haiti, are among the most loving, gracious and generous people on the planet.

2. I like to shamelessly invite myself over to their home every chance I get.

Their home is magical, and the moment you get there, you just stand up straighter and feel brighter. So when Beth was telling me it was time to empty out her greenhouse and move all the plants into the garden, I got an idea. A creative way I could snag an invite for dinner. A spring fete in the greenhouse! If Beth would host, the team and I would help with the decorating. To my delight, Beth was all over it.

Here’s something else I have to tell you about Beth: She is the consummate hostess. We all have those friends who do everything well. Beth is one of mine. She grew up helping in her mom’s flower shop, so she can whip up jaw-dropping floral arrangements in a jiff (a skill I have never been able to master). She is a fabulous cook (also a skill I have not mastered, unless you count making microwave popcorn). And she has a heart as big as all outdoors, making every person she meets feel like a star.

As the founders of the GO Project, Beth and Mike entertain a ton. After Mike retired early, they decided to devote their considerable energy to making the world a better place, one orphan at a time. They designed their house and grounds to accommodate gatherings, large and small, whether it’s teams of volunteers serving with the GO Project, ministry supporters or just a few friends.

After winding down a curvy country road, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of their home, set against the hills, fields and woodlands. The greenhouse, situated behind a lovely rose garden, is a working room where Beth tends flowers and pots plants.

Since Beth keeps a 72-inch round table in the center of her greenhouse, all that was needed was dining chairs. As the visual story for the party came to life, it revolved around the bright colors of spring, lanterns and dozens of votive candles for romantic lighting and ribbons. Lots of bright ribbons cascading about, reminiscent of a May pole.

I’ve been teased unmercifully by my husband for creating centerpieces that make cross-table conversation nearly impossible, so we decided to bring in the drama from the ceiling. We started by draping yards of a gauzy cream fabric from the ceiling, accenting it with streamers of ribbons in a rainbow of colors. The softness of the fabric was an ideal answer to all the hard edges in this space, with its rustic brick floor and glass walls.

We covered the table in a tablecloth, using one of my favorite fabrics for spring. Because I would start shaking if we left the table’s center completely bare, we snagged a beautiful brass urn from a corner of the greenhouse, dusted it off and filled it with a Boston fern. For the next layer, Beth filled a few simple black urns with pink rose bushes. A little something unexpected, yet super easy and stunning.

Since Beth entertains several times a month, she has an enviable cache of dishes and serving pieces. Be still my heart! I was like a kid in a candy store, watching her decide which to use for our party. The gold edged china was the winner, and it looked sensational atop gold chargers. If you know me, you know I’m over the moon about monograms. So my heart skipped a beat when Beth pulled out her set of monogrammed dinner napkins. Each place setting was topped off with a place card and a dinner menu.

Pashmina shawls, in the same spring colors as the ribbons cascading from the ceiling, rested over the backs of each woman’s chair, ready to wrap up in if the early spring air got too chilly. Mostly, though, we were wrapped in the warmth of the sublime evening, the fellowship of great friends and a wonderful way to open our arms to spring.

Thanks for joining us!

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This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com