ST. PETERSBURG — There's an old saying that the seeds of romance begin in the garden. If that's true, then wouldn't marrying in the garden somehow guarantee love that will blossom and grow year after year?
Jeremy and Ana Massey think so. The St. Petersburg couple were married on a sunny day last year at their Lakewood Estates home. About 70 family members and friends attended the ceremony under the shade of huge oaks in the front yard, followed by a dinner reception in the lushly landscaped back yard.
The couple had worked together for months in the yard to create a colorful, tropical backdrop for the spring wedding.
"There are lots of places you can go and have a wedding outside, like the beach, but being at home and knowing that everyone really enjoyed the scenery, and the fact that we did all the work ourselves, were important," Jeremy Massey recalls.
Orchids — the bride's favorite flower — were hung in small clay pots on the white arbor where the ceremony was performed, and on each of the tables. In vibrant shades of purple, yellow, orange and pink, the 30 orchids came from a plant vendor at a local flea market for just a few dollars each.
It's easy to create an outdoor setting for an at-home wedding and reception. Start this month, and your love garden will be ready by the warm days of March. Cool-season flowering annuals can get the garden ready even faster.
The key to creating a romantic setting is blocking the outside world, with plants, a wall or a fence, say experts at public and private gardens in the Tampa Bay area that host thousands of outdoor weddings year-round. At the Florida Botanical Garden in Largo, landscape designers created a secluded wedding garden within peach-colored walls, secured by an iron gate.
You can achieve the same effect in your yard by using densely planted shrubs and trees or installing a wall or fence softened with vines such as climbing roses, bleeding heart or jasmine. If you can't conceal a chain-link fence with vines, soften it with rolls of inexpensive bamboo cane fencing.
At Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, thick stands of mature tropical plants block the noise from busy Fourth Street. Weddings inside the park feel private and intimate.
The entrance to your garden should set the mood. Rounded doorways are always better than square ones. At Sisters' Secret Garden in Valrico, brides stroll through three ivy and bleeding heart-topped archways.
Other romantic touches include water features (a pond, fountain or bird bath), planted pillars and obelisks, soft landscape lighting or candles, garden statues and art. Seashells collected on romantic beach walks are another nice touch.
Hosting your wedding in your garden means you'll long be surrounded by memories of the special day. "Every time I walk outside, I always think that we got married here," Ana Massey says. "It's a very nice feeling."
Yvonne Swanson is a Pinellas County master gardener and freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.