Are you the sort of person who always has friends and family dropping by?
Do you love to share and celebrate the good times?
Are impromptu barbecues and parties high on your list of life's pleasures?
If so you need a garden designed for outdoor entertaining.
Can you imagine the joy of creating a setting filled with colour, scent and soft sounds to share with your friends?
The perfect garden design for outdoor entertaining combines the right atmosphere with functionality and makes entertaining a real pleasure.
As with all garden design, visualization is the key - close your eyes and take a few moments to picture a typical gathering...
... everyone knows that the secret of the best parties is happy guests so design your outdoor entertaining garden with your guests in mind.
Chances are your guests have dressed up for the occasion and they are going to enjoy themselves much more if they don't have to worry about staying clean and comfortable. So...
Lawns can be a great garden feature BUT imagine your best friend struggling across a damp muddy lawn in her Jimmy Choo's! She's not going to be pleased...
A better idea is to provide a large enough area of paved patio or decking to accommodate your guests. Even if there's a rain shower, this will soon dry out. You can learn more about planning the perfect patio at patio ideas.
And don't forget the seating. Provide plenty of places for your guests to sit or perch. Few of us have enough garden chairs for a large party, so get creative and include other features in your garden design that will double up as seats.
The walls of raised beds and pools can easily be converted into comfortable seats by adding cushions and throws.
Sunlight is great but it can be frankly uncomfortable sitting through a meal in the glare of the midday sun. Provide shade by incorporating awnings or garden parasols into your design.
You could also build a pergola and train climbers up it. There is something very soothing about relaxing in dappled sunlight as it filters softly through flowers and foliage.
Is your garden a wind tunnel? Does the prevailing wind make itself felt on even the balmiest summer's day? If so you will have to resolve this problem in your outdoor entertaining garden design.
Solid barriers create turbulence and a down draught so use hedges or non-solid fences as windbreaks. These will effectively filter the wind and lessen its force.
If you live in a variable climate, a summerhouse or gazebo could be the perfect solution. There is something quite delightful about retreating into the shelter of a summerhouse.
There can be an awkward moment at any outdoor party when the sun goes down and the warmth of the day gives way to the cool of the evening. This is the time when your guests start to reach for coats and wraps and wonder if it's time to head home. The party mood is broken.
Patio heaters will take the chill out of the air and your guests will love to gather round the warm glow of an outdoor fireplace or chiminea.
If you've got the room, it's a great idea to divide your garden into a series of separate 'rooms' or spaces so that your guests can circulate and split off into smaller groups.
Everyone loves secret nooks and crannies and surprises. Use arches and winding paths and walkways to draw your guests further into the garden, perhaps to discover a hidden arbour smothered with fragrant roses or a secret pool reflecting the moonlight.
One of the very best ways to keep your party going into the night is to install outdoor lighting.
Fairy lights strung though trees create a magical atmosphere and spotlights can be used to illuminate focal points and create dramatic shadows.
You can find out more about installing and using garden lighting at outdoor patio lighting.
Your parties will much more fun if you design your outdoor entertaining garden to make your own life easier.
You don't want to spend the whole time struggling back and forth laden with piles of plates and trays of food so position your barbecue and cooking areas near the house and make sure you have enough surfaces for preparing food and serving drinks.
If you really love cooking outdoors you could indulge in the ultimate luxury and install an outdoor kitchen so that everything you need is at hand and you never need to leave your own party!
Further garden and landscape design ideas and tips can be found on these pages:
An overview of the garden and landscape design process can be found at the 'Garden and Landscape Design Guide'.