5 ways to create an outdoor dining space

Now that Summer is here and thoughts are turning to al fresco dining, our garden design expert Janet Bligh shares her top 5 tips for creating the perfect outdoor dining area.

1. Give yourself room

Don’t just think about the size of your furniture, but take into account how much space you need for moving around the table, pulling out chairs, and having additional room to add extra tables and chairs when friends and family come round. Barbecues are getting bigger, and fire pits and outdoor sofas are all the rage right now but they do take up a lot of space, so think through the scale of your dining area carefully in advance.

give yourself room

2. Make a  space for sun and for shade

Most of us yearn for a space in the garden where we can sit outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun.  But sometimes it can actually get too hot and as we all know too much sun can be harmful, so create a space where you have the flexibility to add shade such as a cantilevered parasol when you need to escape the heat. Or if you prefer the shade anyway, think about building a dining area under a pergola with plants growing over it, or build in a shade sail to help keep you cool on hot sunny days. If you prefer something greener, you can even buy trees which have already been shaped into a parasol shape!

shade -wisteria on pergola

3. Relax and do your own thing

Create a space where you feel comfortable – and for most of us that means somewhere with a degree of privacy and cosiness.  If you’re overlooked by neighbours then strategically placed trees or shrubs could be all you need to block them from view.  Or trellis panels with climbing plants twining through them can make a simple and attractive screen.

privacy - pleached trees

4. Light up your garden

Eating outside on a warm summer evening is a real pleasure.  And lighting a garden at night means that your outdoor space is usable for so much longer.  You may be happy with simple tea lights or fairy lights to illuminate your supper, but if you’re building a new patio and think you may want something more permanent and practical to use all year round, then plan your lighting in advance and get the cables and fittings in place at the start of the process.

scent - roses

5. Make it sensational

Don’t just concentrate on the hard landscaping.  To make your dining area a really lovely place to be think about how you can plant around it to make it really special.  Add scented plants such as lavender, honeysuckle, jasmine, roses, and sweet peas.  Tactile plants such as grasses soften hard landscaping and make a space more dynamic.

scent - honeysuckle

Include plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies, and plant herbs and edible flowers which you can add to your food.  For an extra touch, add the sound of running water and you’ll have created a beautiful calm space to enjoy throughout the summer.

edible plants - nasturtium

All images courtesy of Janet Bligh.