Join me for cocktails – book review & giveaway!


The romantic softly variegated foliage of a dappled willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki') takes center stage when illuminated at night.

We have recently purchased a fancy new propane fire pit. It is one of those lovely ones with a tile surround large enough to function as a table for your wine glass and snacks and pretty reflective glass through which the flames dance and flicker. Being propane it is a great option for instant ambience without the smoke and with the unprecedented warm temperatures Seattle has been experiencing, my husband and I have found ourselves….RELAXING in the evening! What a concept.

Our usual routine is work, work and then more work. As business owners that also work part time  it seems that there is a never ending list of  'must do's' from grocery shopping and cleaning to laundry and cutting the grass. Your list may include child care, car pools, sports or music practice. The point is Life can trump Living. That's why the new book The Cocktail Hour Garden by C.L. Fornari (St. Lynn's Press, 2016) caught my attention.


Late afternoon sun can be hot – provide shade structures or a colorful umbrella

The Cocktail Hour Garden gives a plethora of ideas for designing, planting and accessorizing your garden space to offer maximum enjoyment for those couple of hours when you can actually indulge in sitting down. Whether that is an hour before you start dinner with a calming cup of tea or like us, taking your wine glasses (and chocolate) over to the fire pit at dusk to watch the bats start to fly and the stars come out. C.L helps the reader evaluate their current garden and ask what each plant "brings to the party". How does it support your vision for a magical gathering place for 2 or 20, a space that lures you into the garden at twilight?

For those of us who need help fine tuning that vision C.L. takes the reader through the design and decorating processes step by step, all beautifully illustrated with her evocative photographs. As you turn the pages I guarantee that your heart rate will slow a little and your breathing become easier as you being to imagine the possibilities.

Plant selection is key and C.L. discusses her favorites to include for fragrance, including several that only release their heady scent in the evening. From shrubs and vines to annuals and herbs be sure to include something that lures you outside. We have included several Phenomenal lavender (Lavandula x intermedia 'Phenomenal) in a raised bed adjacent to the fire pit and I am hunting down the night scented phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis 'Midnight Candy') for that area also. Mmmmm.

The colors of the cocktail hour garden are also important; white, silver and soft lavender seem to glow at dusk for example and many examples of great foliage and flowers in this palette are suggested.


Talking of delicious plants this book also covers fun edibles to include for your cocktail garden design. Imagine reaching over to snip a stem of lemon balm to stir into your iced tea? CL goes much further than that though, with a fabulous chapter called Cocktail Hour Grazing. Here she discusses the new trend in flexible, edible landscaping and provides us glimpses into her  front garden, entered via a rustic arbor, which is an exuberant tapestry of edibles and flowers that frames an enchanting patio. Those flowers attract pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies and more) that add life and movement to the garden – another aspect of garden design that is so vital and helps us re-connect with the natural world around us.

C.L. also discusses the importance of lighting for your cocktail hour garden, from battery operated candles to string lights and professional landscape lighting you can add just the right balance of drama, mystery and intimacy. The leading photograph of an illuminated dappled willow tree shows how effective uplighting can be.

Perhaps my favorite chapter in this book is Conversations with Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Sky. As a designer I pride myself in creating gardens that will be experienced – not just observed and that means engaging all the senses. C.L. addresses this by discussing how our senses communicate with the elements and giving ideas on how to purposefully plan for them. Whether it is by the inclusion of a small pebble mosaic that invites us to touch, or deliberately planting a swathe of tall grasses to move in the breeze atop a windy bluff or incorporating a petite fountain near a sitting porch.

Cocktail Hour Garden Cover_fornari

So I invite you to step out into the garden and simply 'be'.

"The cocktail hour garden is a landscape that reminds us to put …. distractions aside and be in the present moment. It's an environment that, like a strong ocean current, pulls us determinedly into the natural world and invites us to relax and better sync our rhythms to the flora and fauna around us".

Enter to Win!

I have one signed copy of C.L.s book to give away to a lucky winner! Simply leave a comment below and you will be entered to win. I will draw a name May 23rd 6pm PST.

Buy your copies here

Follow C.L. on her website, Facebook or one of her two call-in radio shows; GardenLine on WXTK and The Garden lady on WRKO.

And the winner is….

Nancy Daniels!

Congratulations Nancy, and thank you to everyone who entered. I hope the rest of you will purchase a copy through the link given. Cheers!

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  1. Linda on May 17, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I'm creating my own coctail garden as we speak so am very intrigued with this subject matter.

    • Karen Chapman on May 17, 2016 at 8:23 am

      I'll be right over to test it with you Linda! Good luck on the giveaway

  2. Lisa Port on May 17, 2016 at 8:40 am

    After many years of designing gardens for others as places of activity, respite, fine dining, and recreational spaces, I am finally at a point to want some of this in my own personal space. It is time. 🙂

    • Karen Chapman on May 17, 2016 at 8:42 am

      I SO agree – we were at exactly the same place ourselves which is why this book was so timely. Good luck on the giveaway!

  3. jeanne cronce on May 17, 2016 at 9:58 am

    What a great subject for a book! I do sit in different areas when i drink my glass, glasses of wine. I have been wanting to clear out a space in the back woods where my husband enjoys looking into. Maybe this fall we will be working on it. Thanks for sharing! Jeanne cronce

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      Good luck Jeanne!

  4. Nancy St George on May 17, 2016 at 10:31 am

    What a wonderful concept! May have to consider doing this weekend n my garden.

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks for entering the giveaway

  5. Robin Wyll on May 17, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Love these ideas for the firepit garden. I've been focused on tropical and fiery colors for plantings in mine, hadn't thought about edibles/drinkables for that area. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      Love your color scheme – have fun with the project

  6. Sheri M on May 17, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Great to see a new post from you today. I've been refreshing my screen for days hoping a new post would pop up. I recently discovered your blog and it is full of inspiring ideas and beautiful eye candy!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      That's so kind of you – thank you! Good luck in the giveaway

  7. Glenda on May 17, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Great post Karen and great subject matter,as gardeners we find it very difficult to sit relax and enjoy our hard work this book will be very helpful towards a goal of relaxation. Hope I am the lucky winner. And thank you for doing this drawing it is a great giveaway.

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comment Glenda – and good luck

  8. Nancy A. Daniels on May 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Love C.L.'s advice. I love my Cape Cod gardens and know exactly how she feels!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks for entering Nancy

  9. Ellen on May 17, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    This is just what my garden needs!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Good luck!

  10. Gale Greene on May 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I'm a big fan of C.L. 's books, gardening advice and plant suggestions. She's continually challenging me by offering new planting ideas to try and lists of flowers that I should consider purchasing for my garden. C.L. 's personal gardens are inspiring and I love that she was inspired to write about her own original cocktail hour garden. Can't wait to get my hands on her book; it would be fun to win it! Thank you!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Good luck – thanks for entering

  11. Craig on May 17, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I love the idea of a nook where a couple could sit undisturbed in the garden. Nothing is quite as relaxing as sipping a beverage in the garden admiring your handiwork. 🙂

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      totally agree – thanks for leaving a comment Craig

  12. Christy Haig on May 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Can't wait to sit down in my garden and read this new book!!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks for entering the giveaway Christy

  13. Karen Minster on May 17, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Great review, I can't wait to read the book! We have a little patio that is begging for this sort of garden – and then a cocktail party!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Wonderful – good luck with the giveaway

  14. Ed on May 17, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    The book would make a great addition to the garden relaxation and of course the cocktails

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Cocktails help us ALL unwind….good luck

  15. Cindi on May 17, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    What a lovely idea. We have been working on creating just such a place in our backyard along a green belt.

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Perfect – good luck!

  16. Cindy Metzler on May 17, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Beautiful pictures ! Would love to have my yard looking likr this!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      You'll love this book Cindy

  17. Julie gammon on May 17, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Cocktails in the garden is my favorite way to wind down! This book is calling my name!!!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      Totally agree – good luck!

  18. Teri Speight on May 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    The perfect way to end the day is to sit outside, embrace the calm of the night rolling in with a cocktail in hand and nothing but gratitude on the mind. I would love to learn the hints and tips offered n this book!!

    • Karen Chapman on May 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks for entering the contest Teri – good luck

  19. Julia oliver on May 17, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I love everything C.L. touches, writes, lectures….guess I'm a groupie of hers, but, sshhh don't tell

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      ha ha – funny! She'd be tickled but your secret is safe

  20. Faye O'Neil on May 17, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    So inspired by this book review! Here's to winning a copy for keeps, and to making the Cocktail Hour Garden a reality in my own backyard!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      I'll be right over…..

  21. MaryAnne Farley on May 18, 2016 at 5:01 am

    I am so glad C. L. 's FB page led me to your blog! More encouragement for creating a beautiful space in our gardens and lives for enjoyment! Thank you, Karen!

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      You're welcome – good luck!

  22. Vera Clifford on May 18, 2016 at 7:09 am

    I'm in the process of creating my "Now or Never" backyard space. Husband is wheelchair bound, but I've come to realize I can create a garden for both of us to enjoy in the time we have left here on earth. The book sounds intriguing and I thank you for the chance to win it.

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Good for you – seize the moment

  23. Roz on May 18, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Perfect timing for the book, as we are right in the middle of redoing our patio, including a new fire pit.

    • Karen Chapman on May 18, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Fabulous! Good luck Roz

  24. Deborah on May 18, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Got my new raised beds yesterday so I'm ready to plant tasty and beautiful herbs and veggies. My garden will be the view from the covered patio we hope to complete this summer. Perfect for a beverage!

    • Karen Chapman on May 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      Sounds wonderful – congratulations on progress so far Deborah!

  25. Lorraine Browne on May 19, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Just discovered you and the inspiring book The Cocktail Garden. We are restoring a sweet little 1935 cottage and its gardens and need all the help we can get. So hope to be the lucky winner of the book!

    • Karen Chapman on May 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Wishing you good luck Lorraine!

  26. Gary Bachman on May 19, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Growing your cocktails, how fun

    • Karen Chapman on May 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Almost as much fun as taste testing…..

  27. Melissa S on May 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Wow! looks like a great book that would inspire me as we're struggling with completely re-doing the backyard, small sections at a time!

    • Karen Chapman on May 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Good luck Melissa

  28. jennifer on May 19, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I have collected chairs for years – my family always commenting that maybe one day I will actually SIt in one of them! Maybe this book will help!

    • Karen Chapman on May 19, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      Too funny – I must admit since we indulged in new comfy furniture I have in fact relished sitting in the evening with a glass of wine just enjoying the view.

  29. Nancy Mellen on May 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    CL has spoken to my garden club many times and is always wonderful on every subject she speaks on. Consequently, there in no way her book wouldn't be entertaining, knowledgeable, and helpful.