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Dinner Party Flower Guide

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It has long been a tradition to give the hostess flowers when invited round for dinner. Flowers, wine and chocolate, particularly on a special occasion are the staple fare of dinner party guests. Yet, it can just add to the workload of the person who is cooking, entertaining and preparing drinks. There's finding a vase, cutting the stems, finding flower food, removing leaves and arranging them to be done.

So here is our guide to thoughtful giving, meaning you can bring the joy of flowers without giving the hosts extra work. First of all, think about what kinds of blooms will be best for the home you are invited to. Consider what kinds of flowers and colour schemes are usually there. What tones your hostess favors, what colour clothes she wears … even her hair colour. After all, you don't want to be the one who brings a clashing display which is quickly hastened to a room out of the way.

Also, if you've been invited round for dinner before, think about whether the person whose house you're going to usually does a floral display. If so, she or he may not need, or even want, extras. Or, perhaps they always have a centrepiece but there's a nice mantel in the dining room which could do with some additional colour. Some people plan very carefully how the room will look and you could just throw them off their stride with a well meant, but inappropriate, gift.

If your host is a consummate flower arranger and the table setting is always pristine, maybe consider a different gift. Scented candles can be lovely. If you're hooked on plants though, perhaps buy a house plant, already potted. Maybe some jasmine for the bathroom. A poinsetta for a rich cream room, or at Christmas. A tea rose for the conservatory. Go for something unusual and different, and maybe consider a plant for the garden: a rose, lily or fern.

The great thing about giving potted plants is that they don't need immediate attention whilst all the guests are arriving. They also last longer than cut stems, meaning your hostess remembers you for many months after your visit. It's one of those gifts that truly does keep on giving. If the family are more brown that green fingered though, stick with the shorter lived cut flowers that they wont feel guilty about killing!

Stem arrangements have come on in leaps and bounds too. You can now buy pre-arranged, pre-cut and deleafed flowers that don't need all that immediate work doing. Some will even come in a vase with water, so all that's needed is to take off the cellophane. That's also something you can do, as the perfect guest.

If you do choose a traditional bunch, consider getting them delivered in advance, perhaps on the morning of the party. You are giving the hosts a chance to enjoy them, read a personal note from you and also do the work of getting them ready with no time pressure. You may well see your delivered arrangement as the centrepiece!

Finally, when you do simply turn up on the doorstep with a bunch of cut flowers, it can be a great icebreaker for you to do the preparation and arrangement. Particularly if you don't know your hosts well, you can follow them through to the kitchen and chat whilst you help out, removing their workload and letting them get on with the other dinner business. And if you're not sure if flowers are a good idea, you can always simply ask in advance.

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