Party Like a Southerner: The Social Garden

Two Crescent City tastemakers forgo the dining room to celebrate a lush landscape’s year-round charm

Photo: Rush Jagoe

The Social Garden
New Orleans, Louisiana

Jane Scott Hodges has made a career of dressing dining room tables across the country with expertly monogrammed, hand-spun textiles. But entertaining is not all about formality for the founder of Leontine Linens. In fact, her favorite place to entertain is outdoors, where decor takes a backseat to atmosphere. “In New Orleans, you can enjoy nature year-round,” Hodges says. The alfresco approach is something she picked up at an early age from her aunt Ruthie Frierson, an avid gardener. These days, the two frequently join forces, cohosting gatherings in Frierson’s lush garden across from Audubon Park; it has been the site of multigenerational celebrations for more than three decades.“Ruthie hosted my college graduation and engagement parties there,” Hodges says, “and, later, family picnics. I cherish the memories of sitting by the fountain having tea with my daughter.”

The landscape has been intentionally cultivated to accommodate a variety of occasions—from intimate Sunday suppers in the courtyard to hundreds-strong cocktail soirees on the main lawn. But just because a party starts in one place doesn’t necessarily mean it will end there. Pathways lined with different scented, colored, and textured plantings encourage exploration in the garden’s five “rooms,” including a secret garden with a pond hidden in back. “There’s a freedom to entertaining in an unconfined environment, in discovering lily pads and vines instead of appreciating furniture or finery,” Hodges says. “It allows for an intimacy you can’t have in a living room.”

BONUS PHOTOS: See more Southern entertaining spaces