Our insider: Tina Barkley, co-founder of Vancouver’s Fleurs de Villes, a flower-focused events-planning company with global reach.
On her table: Twenty different-sized glass vases and containers placed down the centre. “This way, you create impact but people can see one another.”
Summer entertaining style: Curated comfort. “I’m not someone who wings it, but I’m not uptight. I like to set the scene and watch the evening unfold.”
Can’t host without: A white tablecloth and white plates – the ultimate blank canvas to showcase a variety of blossoms.
Best party trick: Floral ice cubes and swizzle sticks featuring petals from edible flowers such as viola, geranium, lavender, rose, pansy, or nasturtium. “Use distilled water that’s been boiled to eliminate impurities,” she advises.
If you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to Tina Barkley’s lush Vancouver backyard, prepare to enter a blooming wonderland – and that’s just the table. “My approach is to tell a flower story right down the table, so everyone gets to enjoy the flowers, not just the person in the middle,” she says. Though Barkley isn’t a florist by training, she’s made a business from her passion. The company she co-founded in 2016 with Karen Marshall, Fleurs de Villes, is known for creating wow-worthy, Instagrammable installations by partnering with local florists, designers, growers and nurseries around the world.
When she’s not producing experiential events for clients as far away as Edinburgh and Melbourne, Barkley and her husband, Michael, enjoy hosting intimate groups of up to eight guests. Though menu planning is top of mind initially (Barkley usually serves a buffet-style meal), she quickly shifts to the aesthetic, never showcasing the same tablescape twice. “I may decorate with all white flowers one time or all greens another time; as a creative person, I like to mix it up.” Her advice to those who are nervous about branching out beyond the typical bouquet? Experiment with multiple arrangements, but stick to one colour or one type of flower for cohesiveness.
At this time of year, with so many blossoms at peak showiness, she opts for a cheerful, multicolour palette of both brights and pastels. An eye-catching and formal place setting, like one perfect bloom under a glass cloche, elevates each guest’s experience. To keep the mood from feeling fussy, she tucks wildflowers into the tablescaped arrangements; Queen Anne’s lace (or wild carrot) is a favourite for its “boho, weedy-chic vibe.” Summer entertaining, Barkley says, is a fine balance between preparation and spontaneity: “I like people to know I’ve put time and effort into the evening, but I also want to give them permission to relax and let loose.”
“When I look around and see a giant mess, and my husband and I haven’t slipped away to the kitchen to tidy up, I know it’s been a successful evening.”
Stay-Fresh Tips for Summer Arrangements
Tina Barkley, co-founder of Vancouver’s Fleurs de Villes, reveals how she keeps her bouquets looking lively in the heat.
- Remove extra leaves and trim stems so they can soak up fresh water.
- Fill the vase with this special recipe: 1 quart water + 2 tbsp lemon juice + 1 tbsp sugar + ½ tsp. bleach.
- Keep arrangement out of direct sun.
- Replace the water and retrim stems daily.
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