There are outdoor rooms—and outdoor rooms



First, there was the notion that your garden was like an extension of your house, a verdant, fragrant retreat where you could just hang out, whether you were actually gardening or not. And there was another, concurrent notion that gardens could actually have “rooms” of a type, spaces defined only by the plants they contained, or by trellises, distinctive water features, and casual seating.

Then, more recently, the idea of an outdoor room became much more literal for many. A kitchen—but outdoors. An entertainment center (these were once called cultural centers when they had books in them)—but outdoors.


Personally, I tend to prefer the earlier interpretations of outdoor rooms, but for those who entertain often, I can appreciate needing to go the extra mile. For example, my friend Gordon has just installed a cantina in the back corner of his large (for a city space) garden. What I like about it is that it is not visible when you walk through his garden gate, because his space actually is a series of outdoor rooms.


There is a room immediately to the left as you come in, defined by the front of the house (very much obscured by plants) the side fence, and a small, winding path lined with tall perennials and tall tropicals. To the right, another room features the large front pond (shown at top) with a seating area (screened by plants) adjacent.


Walk through an arched trellis and there is the back pond, the cantina and a more traditional patio seating area. As you walk through the garden you’re discovering these discrete spaces; you are not confronted with deckorama. There’s quite a bit of hardscaping, but somehow it’s still a garden.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Deckorama…I love that word! Some people think the hardscape needs to be bigger than the garden…obviously they aren’t gardeners:)

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