Floral Designer Sandra de Ovando Shares Her Secrets to Effortless Outdoor Entertaining

Gold votices, red cabbage and artichokes add glimmer and surprise to a table runner.HC&G: What makes for a successful outdoor party in the Hamptons?
Sandra de Ovando, founder and owner, Ovando Design and Production: Well, to start, a beautiful venue and not too hot a day! Plus, great friends, family, and food and drink. You need a coherent theme, with the decor matching the food, the servers’ outfits, and the drinks. Everything should be harmonious, without being too obvious. Keeping things relaxed and casual is what sets a Hamptons get-together apart.

What flowers do you prefer to use in outdoor arrangements?
I really love hydrangeas, which come in all different colors and varieties throughout the summer; blue and white delphiniums; and peonies, when they are in season. I also like cosmos, which are so playful—they remind me of happy faces. No matter what the flower, though, arrangements should always be loosely put together and appear effortless. You want everything to look natural.

Lots of outdoor parties take place on the lawn, but what’s the ideal patio or terrace space?
One with good flooring. Pebbles and slate are nice, but they create very different feelings underfoot. My ideal patio space would be lined in bluestone and softened by potted plants in various colors and textures, arranged at different levels for visual interest. I love the way grasses and ferns move with the wind—and hydrangeas, of course.

Table centerpieces include herbs and white flowers in terra-cotta pots and julep cups.How can you make a vast pool area look interesting?
It’s fun to “decorate” a pool by floating hundreds of gardenias on the water, or possibly gerbera daisies, which come in so many hues, you can color-coordinate them with the party.

What’s your favorite lighting for an evening garden party?
Candlelight is always so romantic. I use pillar candles in different heights and shapes to make an evening more magical. I also light just a few mildly scented candles to set the mood, so when guests walk in, they think, This smells delicious.

A bridal bouquet made of white peonies, roses, phlox, herbs and eucalyptus.How would you decorate an outdoor wedding at home?
An outdoor wedding party in the Hamptons shouldn’t be too rustic or country, which can seem forced. More often than not, it’s a dressed-up garden party. For a recent wedding, we decided to incorporate vegetables and herbs into the decor, since the bride is a caterer. We worked black artichokes, lavender, tarragon, and oregano into arrangements of peonies and garden roses, basically creating a white and green palette with a little bit of dark purple. And the tables were dressed with creamy linens that felt very quiet and pretty, not over-the-top. In a garden in the Hamptons, simple and natural is what it’s all about.

A version of this article appeared in the August 1, 2016 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Ovando Magic.