There’s something about dining outside in the fresh air that makes food taste so much better. Those who are lucky enough to have space for an entertaining area in the garden should read on for tips on optimizing this valuable asset.

Get the basics right


For a generous outdoor dining area, allow space for a dining table and a set of chairs plus room to move around to serve food and drinks. Allow the surroundings to help dictate the materials used for the surfaces – if the main house is of wood construction, fit timber decking to complement. Alternatively, use stone paving for a garden patio on an old stone or brick built property. Ensure that all floor surfaces are level so that drinks don’t slide off the table and there are no trip hazards. It can be tricky fitting decking or paving to a high specification, so for best results consider hiring a professional hard landscaper. For small areas where a soft surface is required a fragrant chamomile lawn is a popular option. It needs only light manual clipping, is soft and velvety underfoot and has a heavenly perfume. Perfect for the gardener with a romantic streak…


Be sure of shade


Eating outside in the sun is lovely, but there will be times when shade is desirable. For fixed solutions, why not consider a wooden or wrought iron structure such as a pergola erected over the dining area? Adorned with climbing plants, such as fragrant honeysuckle, rambling roses, wisteria or Virginia creeper, this permanent structure will help define the lines of the space whilst keeping the sun off. Always bear in mind that evergreen plants are better for year-round shade, but if winter sunlight is desired opt for leaf-dropping deciduous varieties.


Eat the plants!


A kitchen garden stocked with a variety of herbs, fruit and vegetables will be invaluable to the regular   garden entertainer. Impress friends by picking then cooking food right in front of their eyes. Large rectangular planters edging a patio or deck make the perfect place to grow rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil, and their delightful aromatic scents will fill the air.


Furnish with style


It is worth fitting out a garden dining space with good quality furniture. There are various elegant and hardwearing garden furniture options that score points on good looks as well as on a practical level. Create a timeless, stylish appeal by using fine solid tables fashioned from sustainable wood that work perfectly in an outdoor setting. View the garden dining area as a fresh air extension to the home, a place where socializing with family and friends is enhanced by the nearness of nature and a sense of freedom.


Sensual pleasures


Finally, indulge the senses by using planting schemes close to the dining area that attract insects and butterflies as well as filling the air with heady perfume. Lavender, honeysuckle, ilium, monarda, nicotiana, lilac, nepeta and buddleia are all great plants to pull in the pollinators, as well as smelling super sweet.


Garden dining is a great way to enjoy sunny lunches and candlelit suppers on warm summer evenings. The winning combination of food and flowers is always going to be fun, so why not get out there and see what’s cooking?