Secret Garden Inspired Soiree

To celebrate fall, an elaborate dinner party is staged to awaken the creative spirit of even the most experienced hosts

The tablescape features the rich colors of fall to showcase a rustic garden setting.
Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Inspired by the exuberance of the Renaissance era, we step back in time with a dinner party designed to illustrate visions of grandeur.

“I’m always looking for layers and movement and this [scene] is very ornate, with lots of gold and Baroque-period styling,” says Steven Bowles of Steven Bowles Creative, who conceptualized the party theme.

The dining table centerpieces showcase the rich colors of fall, including burgundy dahlias, dark red peonies, red amaranthus, salmon-colored ranunculas, hydrangeas in antique red and green, and even pheasant feathers for a touch of old-world drama. Flower risers hold up the curly willow branches and create height to display bursts of blooms.

The table is draped with ornate fabrics and layered with magnolia leaves, weeping eucalyptus, and wheat—as well as fruits and vegetables like lemons, artichokes, and apples. It is a simple, yet creative, idea that anyone hosting a dinner party can replicate in their own way. “It’s not about what you use, it’s how you use it,” Bowles says. “Forage some branches and place them down the middle of the table to create a runner and add fruit to that.”

Votive candles hang above the table to further illuminate the dining experience. “Candles are never out of style,” Bowles says. “In a pinch, you can use candles as a centerpiece. Try a tall candle for the center, and mix votives with pillar candles. Place the candles down the middle of the table or bunch them together in different areas of the table.”

The dessert vignette features moss-covered chairs and a table that looks as if it is growing from the ground with curly willow branches wrapped around the stand.

Keeping with the rustic theme, the main course of this soiree is simple, fragrant, and stunningly visual. Wild quail is served atop spinach and wild rice with a mix of grains, figs, raspberries, seeds and nuts. “When you think renaissance, you think game hens of some fashion, and I thought quail would go nicely,” says Chef Jay Wolfson of Prestige Catering.

For dessert, a five-layer spice cake with spiced cream cheese frosting, topped with candied pecans and gala apples with a caramel drizzle, is served in a secret garden. The moss-covered chairs showcase ethereal whimsy. The table is layered in galax leaves, while the stand is wrapped in Spanish moss and curly willow branches. “The idea was to make the table and chairs look like they were growing from the earth,” Bowles says. “I wanted the elements to enhance what was naturally beautiful.”

For dessert, a five-layer spiced cake is topped with candied pecans, gala apples, and a caramel drizzle.

The woodsy bar vignette serves sangria complemented with white peaches, raspberries, citrus, and pomegranate seeds. A garden arbor is the frame, to which Bowles added shelving and a wooden back. “I wanted to make the bar more than just a place to get a drinks,” says Bowles, who added different types of branches to create a garland around the front frame. “You have a brief amount of time to capture someone’s attention. You want to engage their mind and touch their senses.”

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