I’ve just visited a gorgeous small town garden for entertaining.
If you are thinking of building an outdoor kitchen, then Dan Cooper, the owner, has the most brilliant tips (see below).
Dan Cooper blogs about urban and coastal gardening in his blog, The Frustrated Gardener. He opens the garden once a year, in August for the NGS. He was also a top executive for a famous department store, so he traveled around the world. Coming home and entertaining in his garden is his way of relaxing.
Dan has also just started an online shop called Dan Cooper Garden, selling some of his favorite tools and accessories.
Two gardens for entertaining
And while many of us have a front garden and a back garden, Dan’s home is unusual – it has two side gardens. He recently bought the house next door and knocked through.
Broadstairs is a charming historic town, with houses and streets growing higgeldy-piggeldy up from a beautiful sweeping beach. A quirk of architecture means that both of Dan’s gardens are tucked away around a separate entrance door on either side.
This means there are two seating areas, each different in feel. It’s wonderful to have two – or more – different places to sit. A chat in the garden with a friend is different from dinner for six. See this post for more ideas on seating areas.
One garden has an outdoor kitchen and a large generous dining table.
The other is called ‘the Gin-and-Tonic garden’ because it has a small table and chairs for enjoying an evening drink.
Both are crammed with flowers and plants, many with unusual foliage. Dan is particularly expert at planting pots, and uses pots to create a ‘border’ effect in a limited space. How to group pots has his best tips for creating a garden full of floral color in a small space.
How to create privacy in a garden for entertaining
Dan has made his garden private and sheltered for entertaining by using lots of tall plants. Like any seaside town, Broadstairs can be windy, so he’s chosen a few unusual evergreen trees to create a year-round windbreak and the sense of being tucked away from the town.
His theme is broadly ‘exotic gardening’ – definitely one of today’s hot new trends. (There’s advice on creating an exotic garden in a cool climate and an unusual tropical garden, also in Kent, in previous posts.)
How to install an outdoor kitchen
Dan has a basement kitchen. Having people round meant a lot of going up and down stairs during the evening. He also works as a buyer for John Lewis, with a four hour daily commute, so entertaining needs to be as relaxing as possible. The solution was to build an ‘outdoor kitchen’ in the garden for entertaining.
He prepares food beforehand in the main house kitchen, and cooks on the built-in barbecue/hob in the garden. There is also a sink, worksurface area and some storage.
I’ve also interviewed chef Heston Blumenthal on barbecue-ing when entertaining friends in the garden.
What wood to use in an outdoor kitchen
‘Make sure that you use good quality tanalized wood for an outdoor kitchen,’ advises Dan. ‘My kitchen isn’t under cover, so it gets rained on, snowed on and is hot in the summer. However, because I used the right wood, it has lasted for ten years.’
‘But don’t let the wood touch the ground directly, or it will rot. I’ve created something like a splashback in slate at the base so that water on the ground doesn’t rot the wood.’
He also advises you to minimize the number of joins on your outdoor kitchen work surface. ‘We started off using the same slate tiles as we had on the ground, but the joins all leaked. Now I have a piece of granite with just one join and there are no leaks. A kitchen unit outside will swell and shrink as the weather changes – it’s quite different from a kitchen inside. So it’s easy for cracks to appear.’
Use marine-grade stainless steel
It’s also essential for any metal in outdoor kitchen equipment – the hob, barbecue and even the taps – to be of marine grade steel, so that they can survive the weather, including Broadstairs’ salt air.
There are more outdoor kitchen ideas in these show gardens from RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival.
Plants in a garden for entertaining
We’ve already mentioned evergreen shrubs and trees for privacy and shelter. Dan also likes scented plants. A splendid Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) welcomes visitors at the gate, perfuming the air in summer and creating an evergreen wall the whole year round.
Having unusual and exotic plants also creates interest.
Furniture in a garden for entertaining
Dan has a table made of recycled oak, so it will go more silvery with age. He’s also chosen light, easy-to-wash, arm-free chairs, which tuck neatly under the table. Big garden chairs with arms would have taken up much more space. There are more ideas here in 10 practical and beautiful outdoor seating ideas.
Should you have a fridge in your outdoor kitchen?
Dan decided not to have a fridge in the outdoor kitchen, but he does have a sheltered spot on the work surface where an ice-bucket can sit.
See more of Dan’s garden on video here.
Or catch up with him on the Frustrated Gardener blog or YouTube channel, Twitter or Instagram
And we’ve somewhat neglected the Gin-and-tonic garden, so here’s a shot of it:
Garden designer Charlotte Rowe is an expert at transforming a small patch of lawn into a stylish garden where friends and family can relax together. She and her de ella design director Tomoko Kawauchi share their garden design tips here.
And if you visit Broadstairs, don’t miss…
Don’t miss an ice-cream or an ice-cream sundae at Morelli’s, the traditional ice-cream parlor on the sea front. We treated ourselves to an evening swim and then had a Salted Caramel Nut Sundae. A heavenly way to round off a delightful evening.
More ideas for entertaining in your garden
If you’re giving a party, there are lots of thrifty ideas for decorating your garden in Easy Garden Party Ideas. And there are real-life practical tips for table decorating and giving a party in Garden Party Decorations – Big Parties on Small Budgets.
If you’re thinking about decorations from your garden for Christmas, then Zero Waste Christmas Decorations has some eco-friendly and festive ideas.
And there are some great tips from Heston Blumenthal on how to barbecue for a crowd.
I find that Pinterest is a great source of inspiration, and there are more garden party ideas on my Garden Party Decorations board.
Happy party-giving! And if you’d like more tips, ideas and inspiration for your garden, join us for a free weekly email from the Middlesized Garden.