Think Garden, Think Richard: Outdoors… Say Cheers to Entertaining Again!

Think Garden, Think Richard: Outdoors… Say Cheers to Entertaining Again! Richard Arnott

I am a strong believer that nature has a key role to play in effecting our sense of wellbeing and connection to the land. Our connection to nature has been eroded by our busy lives full of time saving devices that encourage us to click a little button or swipe a screen. This pandemic has steered many people to reconnect with their outside spaces in the wider landscape as well as their gardens. We have all been learning to do more with less, but as the restrictions disappear hopefully these new habits will have become embedded as new behaviour and nature will be a constant stream of inspiration and wonder!
This month as we come together more it is a good time to think about where and how we like to gather in our outside space, whether on a picnic rug in a woodland glade or under a vine clad pergola in the garden enjoying being together!

Outdoor kitchens are everywhere in modern garden design. We have been eating out in the summer months for generations, but the inside outside blending of space is great with a purpose made area for cooking and dining. In its simplest form it can be a purpose-built brick barbeque with seating around for mingling and dining. Why not push the boat out and be bold with a pizza oven and bar counter?! I recently designed and built a timber entertaining space with a cooking counter top for pizza production, drink preparation and barbeque to the side. The level changes allowed the work top to act as a bar counter from one side and cooking work space from the other with storage beneath. The dining space was on an upper terrace with additional space on the generous lawn. Having a designated cooking area really helps when adding more detail such as plant beds and seating. We all know the picture of the lonely barbeque abandoned in the garden, rusting in the winter, so why not create a space for cooking and entertaining? I like it when materials can provide dual use such as sleepers that create raised beds but can also provide raised seating too! 

Overhead shelter from a pergola can help to create the sense of a garden room for entertaining and relaxing in. I like to use pergolas to provide shade in hot gardens with foliage from vigorous climbers such as Vitis coignetiae above, but a pergola can be used to delineate a dining room in the garden. I look at transition points between space when I am in a garden for the first time to see how cohesive the space feels. Effortless flow through one space to another will give cohesion and needs to be considered. I recently designed and built a porcelain paving relaxing patio at the back of a townhouse leading into an entertaining pergola for relaxing under on rattan modular sofas. The barbeque station was off to one side but had a designated position thus allowing the seating components to be designed around. The structure was anchored into the space with plant borders either side with transparent, flouncy planting and climbers above. Garden lighting is great for creating an atmosphere under a pergola at night. I love to use simple, tubular, downlights to cast a soft light. Or why not go for it with festoon, party lights to lift the mood!

Fire pits draw us together as it turns dark. The warm glow from a fire always lifts my spirits and draws me in. It is a primitive part of what makes us humans. I like to design the fire area into a garden where space allows. I recently designed and planted a woodland glade for some clients with a designated fire pit area within the glade, this is not always possible in smaller gardens, but having somewhere to gather around fire even if it is portable is good. I have a cast iron fire pit on legs that has a position on the patio. I am looking forward to gathering around it and raising a glass with friends! Cheers to the future!

Remember to stay observant and be present whilst out in nature and allow this to influence your garden. The journey of creating a good garden should be enjoyable!

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