What Are the Key Ingredients for a Garden Fit for Hosting?
Read on for ideas on how to turn your garden into a relaxing and sociable entertaining space
Having space for guests to spread out and form their own breakaway conversations can make for a relaxing get-together. Even if your garden is on the smaller side, you might be surprised at how flexible a compact space can be, as this design by Pippa Schofield Garden Design illustrates.
Think about spots that work as casual perches for when you have a group of people over; steps and the edges of built-in planters can work well here. Where possible, try to have at least a spot for eating and a separate area for lounging – even tiny versions – with shade and full sun taken into account to maximise the functionality of each.
If you’re an enthusiastic cook or like to host barbecues, consider a permanent garden kitchen. Again, it’s not necessary to have a vast space, as this compact urban plot, built by GDL Property and complete with grill, storage space, worktop and sink, demonstrates.
The owner of this garden hosts supper clubs and also had a special kitchen island designed that wheels out to double as a food serving space, but an extendable or fold-up table could equally suit your needs.
Do consider your fuel carefully, though, particularly if you live in an urban location. For example, will regular wood or charcoal smoke affect next door’s enjoyment of their garden or drying washing? Gas or electric barbecues may be worth considering to maintain harmonious neighbourly relations.
See the rest of this small Victorian house where every inch is maximised.
Where the only space for a dining table is bang in the middle of the garden, you might sometimes want to opt for something more flexible and informal. Here, designer Monica Tostes has created a two-level garden, where the step doubles as somewhere that can be used as seating.
A built-in bench running perpendicular turns this into a sociable zone. When there are more guests, or small children in need of a rug, the floorspace in between becomes additional seating. Add in the comfy chair, lightweight drinks table and low-slung hammock, and you’re spoilt for choice.
Encouraging wildlife to hang out in your garden, too, can help to make the space even more of a relaxing retreat and a magical space for you and your guests.
This urban plot, designed by Joanne Bernstein and bursting with bee-attracting blooms and wild grasses, shows beautifully how a garden can be welcoming to both humans and creatures.
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Even if your garden is a great size and looks good, if it’s overlooked, that’s likely to be a barrier to using it as much as you could.
There are all sorts of attractive ways to shield your spot from prying eyes, and some will help to muffle noise, too – whether passing traffic or your own conversations.
In this space designed by Hamilton Cody, the challenge was exaggerated because it’s a front garden. Not only did the area need to perform as a relaxing, social space (there’s a back garden, too, but it’s much smaller), it also had to allow access to the front door. Tall trees and attractive fencing, along with strategically placed evergreen hedging, were used to create a sense of enclosure and to screen out parked cars. A path to the door is fringed by soft planting.
You might also like How to Make Your Garden Feel More Private.
Rain is something you’ll want to factor in to be able to make good use of your outdoor space for as much of the year as possible.
This beautiful London veranda brings to mind the sort of design more common in houses across the Atlantic, but it’s been created thanks to a common situation – a house that sits on a higher level than its garden. Whether you have a small drop down or live in a home with a lower ground floor to somehow connect, consider this idea.
Not only does the generous veranda, spanning the full width of the house, create a cosy and practical space right outside the back door, it’s also the perfect spot for a glass or polycarbonate roof to keep downpours out, but sunlight coming in. In fact, you can just imagine how lovely it would be to sit here during a summer storm, with a blanket and a drink.
Though rain might be the most obvious element to factor in, bright sunshine can be a barrier to a useable garden, too. Shade is particularly useful over dining spaces, where harsh rays can make sitting down to a leisurely lunch uncomfortable. A pergola like this one allows you to grow climbing foliage overhead.
Consider also adding flexible or permanent shade over areas where you might want to sit and read a book or where children play – think sails, large trees or parasols.
You might also like 8 Inspiring Ways to Weatherproof Your Patio for a British Summer.
Used sparingly and sensitively (so as not to scare off nocturnal wildlife), lighting is key to extending the life of your garden for social gatherings beyond daylight hours.
For dining, candlelight may well be enough. For something more permanent, consider strategically located uplights or downlights highlighting foliage, as seen in this project by The Garden Builders.
The sound of running water will help to soothe your senses, as well as muffling the external hubbub, thus creating a garden that feels pleasingly secluded, especially for smaller social gatherings.
A water feature can usually be designed to fit into the most compact of spaces, as seen in this contemporary garden by Fraher & Findlay.
It’s not only the sound of trickling water that can boost the sensory experience of being a guest in your garden. Just as you might light a scented candle for an indoor gathering, you can envelop your guests with delicious scent outdoors, too.
Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine), as seen growing in the large pot in the foreground in this garden by Taryn Ferris, not only has a powerful scent, it’s also fast-growing.
Which other things have you found to be essential when entertaining outdoors? Share your tips and photos in the Comments.