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The Green Party

HOW DO YOU design a garden-themed party that's neither flowery nor feminine? Think green. And think tools. This approach worked for Prospect, Conn.-based Parties with Pizzazz, which last spring created a surprise party for a man celebrating his 50th birthday, a CEO with a passion for gardening.

The client picked the basement of a local grange hall for the event-not a glamorous site. To greet guests with the garden theme, says Marie Schlump, Parties owner and president, "we covered the wall of the entranceway in fabric printed with a green vine pattern and hung up bunches of curly willow trimmed with small, clear globe lights."

Inside the basement, tables featured dark-evergreen-colored cloths topped with pale-yellow overlays with a pattern of flowers, seeds and bulbs. Each tabletop boasted a centerpiece of both live and faux flowers. Clay saucers served as plates. The take-home favors-4-inch watering cans containing a small clay pot, dirt and seeds-doubled as napkin rings. Miniature garden tools sprouted up everywhere, gracing the birthday hat for the guest of honor (a custom-decorated straw hat), the salt and pepper containers, and the cake.

In addition to the miniatures, real garden tools came in handy as well. "We served the hors d'oeuvre on big shovels," Schlump notes.

The playful elements surprised everybody. "The guests expected a much stuffier event," she says. Instead, the whimsical decor, made up of many inexpensive details, fostered a relaxed, joyful atmosphere. "That's why carrying out details is important to us-even with lower budget affairs-because people really do notice," Schlump says. "It gives them the feeling that someone cares."-T.M.

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