With the weather well and truly starting to sizzle, don’t leave it any later to get your garden summer and party season ready. With a few creative touches to your outdoor living area, you can transform your garden into the ultimate al fresco summer spot. Garden guru Matt Leacy of Landart Landscapes shares his tips and tricks to take the heat off your summer hosting preparations, ensuring your outdoor space is ready for those leisurely sunny afternoons.
1. Creating a shady retreat
As much as we all like to bask in the sunshine, too much sun can leave you feeling frazzled. Avoid being beaten inside by those summer rays by creating a shady haven in your garden. For those gardens without any natural shaded areas or large trees, there are plenty of affordable man-made options that will ensure you and your guests can relax comfortably and stylishly away from the suns’ glare.
A large umbrella is a great addition to any patio and can transform a seating area into a cool oasis without losing the outside ambience of your garden. Umbrellas not only offer an instant escape from the sun, they are conveniently mobile and can be set up on the lawn or poolside, and angled to banish sun glare no matter what time of day it is.
If your summer entertaining guest list is too big for an umbrella to cover, consider introducing a more substantial shaded area into your backyard. Canopies, cabanas, retractable awnings, pergolas and outdoor pavilions (some complete with full outdoor kitchens!) are all great ways of adding some protection to the back of your house and can bring a touch of style to your outdoor living area.
2. Put a shrimp on the barbie
No Australian garden party is complete without the sight, sound and smell of a barbeque in full flow. Give your friends and family an al fresco dining experience to remember throughout the summer months by creating an outdoor cooking space ideal for any occasion. Convert your outdoor area into an extension of your indoor cooking space by creating an outdoor kitchen. Choosing the right spot is key; a flat, wind sheltered area away from the main seating area is ideal and will ensure your guests are invited to explore and enjoy different zones or areas before sitting down to dine.
The other consideration is choosing an area that the barbeque and other kitchen facilities don’t dominate and become the thing that catches the eye most in the garden design. The outdoor kitchen should be a draw card and an asset to the space but not the main feature.
3. Summer showers
An outdoor shower is a fantastic addition to any summer garden, providing a great place to rinse off after a swim in the pool, trip to the beach or a spot of gardening. The al fresco shower is also part of a growing trend of people bringing the indoors outdoors, with the increasing popularity of outdoor bathrooms and kitchens.
When you’re choosing to install an outdoor shower there are a few important factors to consider to ensure you make the most of your shower come rain or shine. The best outdoor showers take into account the beauty of the natural surroundings as well as practicality. If you have a swimming area you may wish to set it up poolside. If you want the shower for everyday use, it may be wise to install it within close proximity of the house, and where you can also enjoy privacy. Proximity to the house may also remove any potential issues with plumbing.
As with all elements of garden design, it’s important to have an outdoor shower or bathroom work as part of the overall garden design. Keep in mind the multifunctional use of the space. By using natural stone and timber in the design and having plants around the area to create a natural privacy shield, the shower can integrate with the surrounds, not dominate it.
4. Sunshine proof
It’s important to ensure your outdoor furniture and finishings can withstand the harsh Aussie rays. When purchasing those comfy additions to your outdoor space look for good quality and outdoor specific fabrics that will not fade out after one summer. Moreover, with the unreliable weather forecasts you also want to choose a fabric that won’t have you running outside every time there’s a drop of rain. Everything should be marine grade and the sponge used should be free draining so it can be sat on a short time after it has been raining.
Durable decking and flooring should also be a focus when getting gardens summer ready. Considering the desired look for the space and the practicality of your chosen material could make all the difference. Count on a dense limestone for example, to keep cool under your feet during the hot summer months. While timber may require a little maintenance, it adds an organic feel to a space that can look less harsh than other stone finishes.
5. Light it up
Show off your creation morning, noon and night. Incorporating the right amount of lighting in all the right places can drastically transform your garden’s atmosphere. Look to illuminate the key features of your landscape. This could be a striking tree, running waterfall, pool area or pathway. Use recessed lights in the timber for example, to add a new dimension to your backyard.
I like to use lighting as a design feature in gardens, on everything from statement plantings to water features. It not only provides a functional use come evening time, but can create an amazing ambience and set the mood when done properly.
6. The practicalities
Once all the design elements are determined, some important maintenance is necessary to ensure your garden is summer ready. Replanting gardens suffering from neglect is much more expensive than paying for ongoing maintenance. I’m a big believer in outsourcing garden maintenance if you know your lifestyle won’t allow you to stay on top of it.
People spend a lot of money getting gardens designed and installed and then I often see them neglect their investment. Weekly or even monthly maintenance is a small outlay in the scheme of things, and it helps ensure you maximise the leisure time you have to spend in your outdoor space, whilst noticing a huge difference in your gardens healthiness and vibrancy. This ranges from installing a reliable drip watering system, if you know when the weather warms up you won’t have the time to devote to watering your plants, to mulching to retain water, weeding and pruning.
–Matt Leacy is a landscape designer and director of Landart Landscapes.