Elements of a Joie de Vivre Garden Style – Living Outdoors

We all need a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  There’s no better way to unwind on a daily basis than outdoors in your own garden.  Have you ever taken a vacation to rest and recharge, only to find that you need a vacation to recover from your vacation!  Just the pre-planning and effort required to get there are often exhausting.  I’m certainly not against travel adventures, we all need a dose of that from time to time too.  Sometimes the fun and excitement makes the work to get there a necessary evil we’re willing to endure.  But, just think if we put some of that time, effort and money into our own piece of paradise, that we could enjoy daily, what benefits that could pay out over time!

The modern concept of outdoor rooms evolved from Mediterranean gardens, where indoor-outdoor activity can happen much of the year. But creating a pleasant outdoor space for however many months your climate allows it to be enjoyed, will pay major dividends towards your well-being.  Size is not important but a table and chairs to enjoy leisurely meals or a glass of wine with cheese and fruit is essential.  Comfort is paramount, as is visual and tactile appeal.  Think of where you have felt your most tranquil and relaxed and its likely you’ve been immersed in nature in some form – beautiful vistas, hiking in the mountains, wading cool bubbling streams, floating on a peaceful lake or standing on shore overlooking the ocean.

All of these experiences have many elements in common and can be re-created on a smaller scale in your own backyard.


Define a Space

The most common is with hardscape in the form of a patio.  Any shape or materials will suffice.  But plants can serve the same purpose.  Whatever your approach, it is a visual cue you instantly recognize.


Create Shade

Shelter from the intense summer sun is central to all gardens.  Structures such as pergolas, loggias, arbors and arcades can create quick shade and serve to further define the space.  They also provide an opportunity to enhance the ambience with climbing vines and strings of lights.  A well-planned garden with mature trees and other forms of shade can be just as welcoming.  Bottom line if there’s no shade anywhere you won’t use the garden.


Use Local Materials

Incorporate whatever is natural to your locale into your garden.  You can give your garden a sense of place and reduce its carbon footprint by sourcing materials locally.    Use local stone for paving.  A variety is nice including gravel, decomposed granite or bark chips in place of hardscape materials.  If your garden to be is a flat patch, then create a visual vista with native trees and plants in the background.  There’s a lot less upkeep and expense if you go native and natural.  If you have a hillside, let gardens scramble up or down.


Grow Edibles

Plant herbs, citrus or fruit trees, and vegetables like cherry tomatoes in pots.  Growing edibles close to living areas, where they can be seen, smelled and tasted, adds to the allure of the garden and your health!  Think about an espalier apple tree or grape vines grown on a fence that divides your yard from the neighbors.  Use a trellis to stake a green bean vine next to the patio.


Grow Aromatic Plants

Lavender is an ideal choice either in the ground or in containers.  There are many varieties in varying sizes, colors and growth habits.  If possible grow it close to windows for its visual appeal and so its fragrance can permeate the indoors too.  There’s nothing quite like stepping outdoors to be surrounded by a fragrant aroma.  Other fragrant plants like roses, jasmine and lilacs are great choices too.


Create Privacy

An outdoor room or garden is most comfortable and welcoming when it feels “protected” from uninvited guests.  It isn’t necessary to enclose all four sides, just enough to feel a sense of privacy. This can be created in numerous ways.  Wooden trellis panels, hardscape features like a built in fireplace or even a half wall with planted containers on top.  Large trees or plants in containers strategically placed can create privacy too.  Just identify where your neighbors sight lines are into your garden and place a visual “barrier” there.


Create Magic

Many Mediterranean plants have leaves that are coated in a white fuzz, which gives the garden a light-catching, shimmery appearance and when lit at night enhances the magical effect.  Create lighting at night that is soft and diffused with hanging lanterns or strings of lights.  Candles are perfect for this too and if they’re lavender or citronella they’ll help keep the bugs away!  Use pillows, tablecloths, outdoor ornamentation and decor to enhance the visual and tactile appeal of your space.


Include a Water Feature

A great feature for any size garden whether it cascades, sprays, burbles, dribbles or pools in a birdbath.   Even a trickle of water — is just enough to prompt a feeling of relief from the heat.  And the sound of water provides a relaxing ambience.

In total it all connects us back to nature, nurturing our body, mind and soul!

I dream of clear blue skies with distant vistas; warm air scented with sage and lavender; a certain stillness broken only by the gentle splashing of a cooling fountain; weathered terra-cotta urns; and long, lazy lunches with good friends, good food and good wine under an arbor covered in grapevines.

Al Fresco Dining Event – It’s having passion for the small things that makes an event so inviting!

Enjoy the splendor of Autumn and its crisp, bracing spirit with outdoor dining Al Fresco Style!

Al Fresco Dining have these common elements:

  • Outdoor and Casual yet with a touch of whimsy and an ambiance that provides escape from the everyday routine.
  • Tablescapes are Natural, Colorful and Uncontrived. Linens are important…but once again nothing too fancy. A burlap table runner or a favorite colorful cotton scarf or shawl turned on a diagonal for interest. I know they are a pain but cloth napkins are one of those small details that makes a difference.

Formal floral arrangements are out of place. Think…small potted trees or plants, as well as terra cotta statuary or even seasonal fruit on a platter with ivy or other greens as a centerpiece.  Use an eclectic mix of shapes, styles and sizes of pottery or other table decor for the most natural look.

Candles and lanterns add an ambience any time of the day. Hang lanterns or string lights in the trees for magical evenings.

You can simply spray paint pumpkins in sage green, french blue, white or even a metallic grey and then twine grapevines in and out – can’t get more simple or Fall than this! Some dried bundles of Lavender would add color and scent.

Table settings can be mismatched and fun but stay to the same color range. White or clear dinner and glassware is the most versatile blending with a neutral palette or providing a counterpoint for color.

Now that you’ve set the visual mood; let’s talk food.

Food is typically simple, light in flavors and fresh. Salads, fruits, grilled veggies, pates & dips, cheeses and often seafood or simple pastas make for a great menu. Good olive oil sprinkled with herbs de provence in small ramekins for each guest served with baskets of crusty bread makes a great starter. Grilled fruits with ice cream or lavender panna cotta make simple yet elegant desserts.

Drinks and Desserts are often fruity or herbal and light too. Wine is a classic standard. Lavender lemonade is a great refreshing choice and can do double duty when mixed with vodka. Use frozen fruit instead of ice to prevent watering down drinks.




Vintage, rustic or shabby chic tables or carts make perfect food, drink or dessert tables.