How to Create a Garden Perfect for Outdoor Entertaining

Nothing beats spending time in the garden with friends, family or a good book, and we have the perfect guide to get your garden looking its best and ready to enjoy summer. Whether you prefer afternoon tea or barbecues, have time for lazy meals in the sunshine or just a quick breakfast and cup of coffee on the terrace, making the most of your 'outside room' is the key to enjoying the summer as much as possible.

If your garden looks neglected, bare and unsightly, take some time this weekend to spruce it up. Follow our guide and you can create a garden perfect for outdoor entertaining this summer.

Create zones

Even in a small garden it is possible to create separate zones for sitting, perhaps a dining area near the house and a Lutyens bench under a tree in another part of the garden.  Draw out a plan of your space and sketch in different ideas to see what works for you.  Remember that dining and cooking space doesn't have to be just outside your back door.  Consider having a small breakfast table near the house and a larger barbecue and dining area further away, or have a secret table à deux in a sheltered spot.

Outdoor entertaining doesn’t have to be grand or elaborate.  Spend time thinking about and planning, browse Pinterest, and be creative.  Your outdoor space can easily be stylish, comfortable and welcoming, whatever its size.  Ensure privacy and create the sense of a private oasis by adding lattice for climbing plants, bamboo screens and pergolas.  Plant beds around the edges for colour or add tubs full of scented flowers, herbs and edibles.  Pelargoniums, gardenias, nicotiana, hebe and stocks all work well for scent and colour.


Adding an outdoor structure helps to define areas, and adds another space for lounging or dining.  Use pergolas, trellises and arbors to define areas, add a sense of height, and offer much-needed shade when the sun is at its strongest.  Creating luxurious private spaces makes your garden feel bigger and offers another outdoor room in its own right, although it may not be as big as the one below!  A simple arch or short pergola works to transition from one space to another, or add a gazebo or summerhouse to make a more permanent structure to protect from inclement weather too.

On any outdoor structure you can grow clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine, wisteria, climbing roses or vines for a beautiful, natural look which adds interest and colour, and connects the space to the wider garden. Hang lanterns or strings of fairy lights to make the most of the long summer evenings.  An awning, simple table umbrella, or placing a long dining table under a mature tree, also works well for creating shade when the sun is beating down.

Photo, Dobbies


There are so many choices when it comes to outdoor furniture, from reclaimed wood, traditional cast or wrought iron, aluminium, rattan and the latest synthetic , weatherproof versions.  Always buy for comfort and durability, as you won't want to shell out each year.  If you have more than one sitting or dining area, vary your furniture to define the two areas, focussing on complementing rather than matching.

Photo, Lampcommerce

Canterbury sofa set, Wyevale Garden Centres

Creating communal areas, spaces for two, spaces for kids, and small spaces for just one (you, the gardener, of course) helps to add mystery to your garden and gives plenty of space to relax.  Adding quirky seating that can be moved around also helps add an element of fun to the garden.

Indoor outdoor chair, Cox and Cox


Cooking al fresco has moved on from the simple charcoal Barbie to embrace a whole host of outdoor cooking options, with big gas barbecues, pizza ovens, fire pits, food smokers and even full outdoor kitchens.  Plant a herb wall or containers near the cooking area for easy access when cooking or mixing cocktails, and you could also grow chillies, peppers and tomatoes nearby if it is a sunny spot.

Chilson table set, Garden Trading

While many of us may dream of a grand Australian or American style outdoor kitchen, all sleek stainless steel and chutzpah, the best we can get is probably a grand gas barbie.  But add a side table as work space to create your culinary masterpieces, a beer fridge or ice bucket, and a few burners and you'll be well away.  Add a pizza oven or wood burner for added possibilities and you'll be away.


Good outdoor lighting is essential if you want to create an inviting atmosphere in the evenings.  Lanterns, candles and fairy lights do look pretty, but for something more immediately accessible and permanent, try the new breed of outdoor lights.  Uplighters, downlighters and spotlights help being your garden and outdoor living space to life.  Use them to highlight water features, statues or ornaments, or just to light up your dining and relaxing spaces.  I love the use of this giant outdoor Anglepoise lamp, fins similar from Artemide.

Using a variety of lights, such as those to illuminate steps and paths for safety, functional lighting for cooking, fairy lights and candles to add whimsy, ambient lighting for relaxing, and solar lights in flower beds and pots or around water features, helps create a magical evening atmosphere in your entertaining garden.

Final touches

Just like your indoor space, the perfect garden for entertaining should include beautiful, well chosen finishing touches.  As well as your carefully chosen furniture and planting, add accessories such as bright and beautiful cushions, wall decorations and quirky details.  Create your own mosaics or art work from pebbles and shells collected on your travels, or get the kids to create some unique art using plastic plant saucers as below.  You could even give them some glow-in-the-dark paint to be creative with on a fence or wall.

Photo, B&Q

Cushions & bench pad, BeanBagBazaar

Strew colourful cushions on your outdoor furniture, buy a selection of good quality outdoor cutlery, crockery and glassware.  Add outdoor rugs to make your deck or patio more welcoming and add colour, and treat the whole space like an extension of your beautifully designed home.

Coco indoor/outdoor rug, Dash & Albert Europe

All, MiaFleur

Create flow

Merging interior areas into the outside and creating flow is essential.  Create a balance between hard landscaping and softer, greener more natural elements by creating flow from house to patio to garden, and your entertaining space will flow beautifully from indoors to out.  This will make your interiors seem more airy and connected to the garden, and the garden more a part of the house.

By adding carefully though through furniture and accessories you will create the perfect garden for entertaining friends and family this summer, and for you to relax in all summer long.  You could always reward yourself for a job well done by investing in one of these:

Tiipii floating bed, The Garden House
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