Iris Afternoon Tea

A wild and luxurious purple extravaganza!

This year, our irises are so beautiful! I was standing at the back door one day just drinking tea and enjoying the morning quiet when I suddenly saw the garden in a different way. The backdrop of the phlox with the irises and sage in the foreground and the petunias is just so very lovely! I decided then and there that I wanted to make a iris afternoon tea party table setting using the purples and blues as a backdrop.

I had to work fast! I knew there was a thunderstorm due the next day and I didn't think the irises would last past then. 

Here's the result! The rest of this page breaks down how to get the look.

Flowers look good in jars

I knew straight off that I would want to bring the phlox onto the table because they were part of the inspiration.

I love the wide jar for displaying them! This particular jar came from some flowers I was sent recently and I saved the jar because it's so pretty. But a mason jar would work equally well - or even an old jam jar.

If you tie a piece of lace or ribbon around the top, it transforms a plain jar into something special.

Cover your table for instant colour

Our outside table is just a round cheap plastic table and it doesn't really look very nice. So the first need was to cover it.

This purple fabric used to be a sheer from my sitting room window - but it didn't stay there long because I really didn't like it. But I guessed it would look wonderful against the petunias and it really does.

I love the way it drapes on the floor.

I put another plain table cloth underneath it because otherwise you could see the table through it. I could instantly see how this iris afternoon tea was going to need to be quite wild and informal....

Ivy softens the look of any table

I love the table to feel soft and natural and plants go a long way to achieving this.

A couple of strands of ivy instantly made a gentle and slightly wild look to my iris tea party table.

I fastened them to the underside edge of the table with clothes pegs. I then cut large leaves off the ivy and covered up the clothes pegs with each leaf.

I used sticky tape which I folded over onto itself to make it double sided. You could use proper double sided sticky tape, or a dab of glue, or poster putty.

You can make your own rectangular sandwich stand

I've often yearned for a rectangular plate or stand of some kind to put sandwiches on. I really think they look their best when they're displayed in a row.

If I could have the sandwich platter of my choice, it would probably be this pretty plate from Royal Doulton, as shown below. I covet the whole set! I can just imagine them in my old-fashioned kitchen... Sigh.

Back to reality. I had a sudden inspiration as I took my craft knife out of an old tin. Why not simply use the lid? Stick it onto a glass, like so many tutorials I've seen on Pinterest. But I actually use this tin. So my compromise was to stick it on with poster putty. I get to have my cake and eat it. Or should that be, have my sandwich and eat it... Click here for a full tutorial.

Available from Amazon, this Polka Rose Formal Vintage Rectangular Serving Tray is very high on my list of desirable tea party china! Royal Doulton china is renowned for its quality and has been part of English afternoon tea life for 200 years!

Napkins folded into flowers make pretty bowls

I'm between sugar bowls at the moment.... the demise of my antique glass candy bowl with a lid was a sad moment.

None of us actually take sugar - but it seemed right to have a sugar bowl somewhere for the photo!

This is a green paper napkin folded into a flower with a small ramekin dish in the middle.

As it happens, I don't really like it too much in the final photographs and I went to quite a bit of trouble to cut it out of the shots!! I felt it dominated the table when I wanted the attention to be on the chocolate eclairs and the little cupcakes surrounded by purple prettiness.

However, the flower folding is very simple and very pretty. I used it for serving the cupcakes as well, just with a different napkin.

I chose gold teacups to complement the purple

I borrowed these beautiful gold teacups from a friend. She came round and saw my half completed table design and suggested they would fit in well - and they really do!

I just adore old tea cups, and these are particularly lovely. I used plain white plates because I think there's enough other stuff going on with all the flowers and I wanted the food to really stand out. 

Dark chocolate looks great against purple, so there's plenty of chocolate on the menu!

In comes the food! I chose plenty of dark chocolate because I think it looks rich and dramatic against the purple.

Chocolate eclairs came top of the list. I love chocolate eclairs - they're my very favourite pastry!

For more chocolate, I chose dark chocolate cupcakes because they're rich and so delicious.

For sandwich fillings, I chose cucumber and ham. I felt that the colours of these fillings would look great without standing out too much. I would also have added egg mayonnaise sandwiches for more people.

I served green tea with this combination. I love green tea with dark chocolate - it cuts through the richness and it feels more refreshing than a black tea on a warm day. And this was a warm day...

You can wind ivy round the handles of your dishes

Dark chocolate cupcakes are so lusciously rich and inviting. I served them on this silver plate that I found at a thrift store and I wrapped a strand of ivy round the handle to tie the table together.

Of course, some plants are actually poisonous and you wouldn't want to put them in direct contact with food. I check on the internet before I use any particular plant.

Ivy is poisonous if ingested in large quantities, and it can cause skin irritations. But I didn't think it would be a problem to use in this setting. Of course, this is a choice we all have to make individually.

Chocolate eclairs need no further decoration....

Chocolate eclairs look good served in row. I have this pretty little pale yellow dish that fits my mini eclairs perfectly.

But eclairs look good on any plate, so long as you leave a little room around the edge of them so that they don't fall into each other.

My son Jamie had been having a few problems with choux pastry and I didn't want him to be put off making chocolate eclairs for me - where would the sense be in that. ;-) So we worked out what was going wrong and added these tips for perfect choux pastry to this page.

Basically, the pastry needs to be dried out properly and the amount of eggs can be adjusted if necessary. As you can see, he made perfect choux pastry this time.


Sandwiches look pretty served with flowers between them

I was so happy with my sandwich stand! We made cucumber sandwiches and ham and mustard sandwiches. We used grainy mustard with the ham and they were delicious.

We alternated the fillings and finished off by fitting clover flowers picked from the yard between the sandwiches. Clover is a really pretty flower to do this with as they can stand being out of water for a while before they wilt.

The finishing touches are what pulls our iris afternoon tea together

Picking sage flowers and putting them in a pretty glass vase.

Picking some roses and petunias and floating them in a little glass bowl.

Picking some clover flowers and tying them together with green yarn (this is KidHaze from Rowan yarns - possibly my favourite yarn in the world). I put them on the saucers, but they would look very pretty just placed on the simply folded napkins.

Making napkin flowers to hold the cupcakes.

Adding any little purple ornaments I had that I thought made it look pretty - like my little purple paper-weight and my purple vase (which I put an iris in)

Using my gorgeous flowery teapot which always looks good with any kind of foliage.

Purple cushions for the chairs.

I couldn't take a picture of us sitting round and enjoying this tea because it actually started to rain just as we were finishing taking photos!! So we ate standing up, slurped the tea and then raced to take apart the table and get under cover - not all things go according to plan. :-)

But we really loved the food - how could we not! And we loved the iris afternoon tea party setting and we'll use it again for sure.