How Florist Tina Barkley Sets a Summer Table: Neat Comfort

TRACEY AYTON/The Globe and Mail

Our Insider: Tina Barkley, co-founder of Flowers from Cities of Vancouver, a flower-focused event planning company with global reach.

On his table: Twenty glass vases and containers of different sizes placed in the center. “That way you create an impact but people can see each other.”

Summer entertainment style: Neat comfort. “I’m not someone who likes it, but I’m not tense. I like to set the scene and watch the evening unfold.

Impossible to host without: A white tablecloth and white plates – the ultimate blank canvas for showcasing a variety of florals.

Best Party Tip: Floral ice cubes and cocktail sticks adorned with edible flower petals such as viola, geranium, lavender, rose, pansy or nasturtium. “Use distilled water that has been boiled to remove impurities,” she advises.

Tina Barkley is the co-founder of Vancouver City Flowers, a global flower-focused event planning company.TRACEY AYTON/The Globe and Mail

If you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to Tina Barkley’s lush Vancouver backyard, prepare to step into a blooming wonderland — and that’s just the table. “My approach is to tell a flower story all the way to the end of the table, so everyone can enjoy the flowers, not just the person in the middle,” she says. Although Barkley is not a trained florist, she has turned her passion into a business. The company she co-founded in 2016 with Karen Marshall, Fleurs de Villes, is known for creating stunning, Instagrammable installations by partnering with local florists, designers, growers and nurseries around the world.

When not producing experiential events for clients as far afield as Edinburgh and Melbourne, Barkley and her husband, Michael, enjoy hosting intimate groups of up to eight people. While menu planning is a priority initially (Barkley typically serves a buffet-style meal), she quickly moves on to aesthetics, never featuring the same tablescape twice. “I can decorate with all the white flowers once or all the greens another time; as a creative person, i like to mix things up. His advice to those who are afraid to diversify beyond the typical bouquet? Experiment with several arrangements, but stick to one color or type of flower for consistency.

At this time of year, with so many blooms at their peak, she opts for a cheerful, multi-colored palette of brights and pastels. An eye-catching and formal setting, like a perfect flower under a bell jar, enhances the experience of every guest. To keep the mood from being whimsical, she places wild flowers in the table arrangements; Queen Anne’s lace (or wild carrot) is a favorite for its “boho, weed-chic vibe.” Summer entertainment, says Barkley, is a fine balance between preparation and spontaneity: “I like people to know that I’ve put in the time and effort into the evening, but I also want to give them permission to relax and to let go.”

To keep her bouquets alive in the heat, Barkley removes extra leaves and cuts the stems so they can absorb cool water.TRACEY AYTON/The Globe and Mail

“When I look around and see a giant mess, and my husband and I haven’t crept into the kitchen to tidy up, I know the evening has been successful.”

Tips for staying cool for summer arrangements

Tina Barkley, co-founder of Vancouver City Flowers, reveals how she keeps her bouquets alive in the heat.

  1. Remove the extra leaves and cut the stems so they can absorb fresh water.
  2. Fill the vase with this special recipe: 1 liter of water + 2 tablespoons of lemon juice + 1 tablespoon of sugar + ½ tsp. bleach.
  3. Keep the arrangement out of direct sunlight.
  4. Replace the water and prune the stems daily.

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