Party Gardens



Undoubtedly one of the coolest things about gardening is creating great spaces for entertaining, right?  Examples, please.

First up is a good-sized deck elevated above a very Oehme, van Sweden-type New American Garden (sweeps of grasses and tough perennials).  Guests aren’t quite IN the garden but they’re close, and there’s a great view from everywhere.


Next in the photo above is a very small part of the huge, amazing garden of James David in Austin, and it’s easy to imagine a stylish dinner party at this table, a la Garden Design Mag.   Here the guests are surrounded by garden.

Then there’s the social hub of Buffalo – Gordon and Brian’s garden, photo right. 
I mean good LORD, there’s not just a bar here and a sound system, but a flat screen TV.  It’s like a beach bar, only inland and very urban.  And  looking outward from the bar who should we see but our own Eliz with her buddies Cheryl and Polly.  These ladies who know how to partay! 



After these lush garden scenes you can see from the final photo why I’m so jealous – coz when I entertain outdoors it’s way above the garden.  The view’s nice but the deck?  It’s just a deck, not a garden.

If you’ve posted photos of your outdoor party room, leave the link in a comment – or even send me a photo and I’ll post it. (

Thanks to Gordon Ballard and PamJ for the use of their photos.



  1. Love the outdoor bar. Kind of looks like my party “island” garden called Tropic-Al’s. Complete with pirate flag overhead, outdoor rock like speakers a blue lagoon, grasses reminding one of the shore, hot tub, and grill area. It has become my outdoor man cave

    The (stranded on a desert island) TROLL

  2. One word for you, Susan – containers! I know of a 2nd story deck that is a delightful garden oasis because it is jam-packed with containers. Without all the flowers and foliage spilling out everywhere, it would be sterile and so uninviting.

    It would also give you another place to play with plants (more lilies!). If you set up a drip system (pretty darn easy), tending them isn’t a lot of extra work.

    I love James David’s garden! There’s nothing I like better than intimate garden spaces – it’s like being hugged by the garden.

  3. Gordon and Brian’s open air patio is a great space. I am particularly liking the exposed metal roof on the underside. I am actually contemplating something like that for the interior of my cozy little cabin.

    The fake palm tree however is truly atrocious. Like gag me totally. Ick!!~~! Make it go away.

  4. Susan, you need sweet autumn clematis on that deck railing. It is a monster–catalogs say it will grow 30 feet–but also incredibly delicate and subtle and romantic.

  5. The party bar is COOL! I love the palm tree — my nextdoor neighbour has one too, but hers is neon — purple trunk, green fronds, and hot pink coconuts. I covet it. I’ll see if I can get hold of it and smuggle it to Buffalo for next Garden Walk.

    Heather, your garden is beautiful and I can see why you spend so much time on the patio. What a lovely space!

    Hesitantly posting some photos of my outdoor space — I think if you click on my name you will be taken there. I am timid about posting this, because I am in awe of all of you and your garden expertise!

  6. I’m a bit perplexed.
    In the past there has been a decidedly negative view cast down on ‘the outdoor living room’.
    ‘Gardens are for gardening’ has been the battle cry.
    Have views changed ?
    Are alfresco garden rooms acceptable as long as a party is taking place ?
    Or do we simply have to call them Party Places in order not to incur the oft verbal wrath ?
    Sort of like changing the name to protect the innocent .

    It’s nice to see outdoor garden space being embraced and celebrated as an extension of the home.
    It’s been done for hundreds of years in temperate climates across the world ( Hell, most the homes in Bali don’t even have walls )

    But don’t go too far people by installing a built in bbq into that bar or a low voltage lighting system.
    That might just tip the balance.

    Of course I write this tongue in cheek because I have been an advocate for outdoor living for so many years and have listened to folks dissing magazines like Garden Design who artfully demonstrate the beauty and practicality in outdoor entertainment and garden living.

    The change in attitude is nice to see.
    I’ll take a margarita while sitting up at the bar in that outdoor ‘party room’.
    You can turn the TV off though. That’s a bit too much .

  7. Lovely! I feel better now knowing it only looks stark in the photo and not in real life. Frankly, I was a bit amazed that a die-hard gardener like you would have a plant barren deck.

    I had a kiwi vine once, the kind that would have gotten the ugly brown – but delicious! – fruit if we’d planted its mate. We didn’t. We planted it to scramble over our deck pergola and provide shade. It did that and then some. I started calling it Jack’s beanstalk because it would send tendrils 12-15′ up, threatening our gutters. We removed it when we resided (it’s attached to the house). I loved the theory of it but not the reality; the vine proved impossible to maintain. Even try pruning a vine on a pergola 31′ long, 9′ deep and 10′ off the ground? If you go to my August 12, 2007 entry here you can see the pergola. I really need to update my blog and I think I finally found software I can download to make it easier to maintain.

  8. Michelle, my view hasn’t changed one iota. I’m always urging people to USE their outdoor space and I hardly care what they’re doing out there. Badmitton, croquet, grilling food, lying in hammocks, sitting at bars, doing tai chi – all GOOD.

  9. Susan, the vine is wonderful, but it does sound like a lot of maintenance! It must be beautiful though providing a green fringe along the deck. And I love your hyper-tufa pots–I have considered taking a class in making those.

    I know about vine maintenance — just yesterday, I paid los hermanos Garcias $85 to get up on the ladder and prune the climbing hydrangea which I planted on the west wall of this house 25 years ago. It covered the west wall, and had gone around the corner to partially cover the south wall. Problem was that it had its tendrils behind the downspouts and behind the siding on the second floor, and was leaning heavily on my large camellia. There is a possibility that it Will Have To Go Completely.

    As for using the garden — we have had my daughter’s college graduation party, my husband’s milestone birthday parties, and most recently, daughter’s rehearsal dinner, in the garden. For that one, we rented little tables and chairs, used Japanese lanterns in the trees, and had Red Hot and Blue cook barbecue, for 50 people.

  10. I just posted something about our party space — very basic, no bar, tv’s, etc., but very kid and food friendly! Maybe once our kids get older it will morph into a more elegant entertaining space but for now, it’s extremely casual!

  11. Yeah, who’s against outdoor rooms? I wish I could afford a little more artificiality in my backyard–stone terrace, gunnite pool, new fence, teak table–those things would suit me perfectly.

    We just don’t think installing this stuff is exactly gardening.

  12. “We just don’t think installing this stuff is exactly gardening” ….. well, I suppose that strictly speaking it isn’t, but to me (speaking for myself only) it is one of the reasons to garden — i.e., to make a lovely flowery space outside where people can sit, talk, laugh, read, enjoy the flowers, the birds and the fresh air. Aren’t those some of the purposes of a garden? And my space, btw, doesn’t have fancy electronic or cooking equipment–those things do indeed seem extraneous.

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