We are so lucky to live in the SF Bay Area, with our Mediterranean climate. Many years we do agonize over the lack of winter rain, but somehow the tradeoff is a mild winter, magical spring, temperate summer and another magical fall. That means we can enjoy and entertain in our garden almost all year round.
How many of you have already ventured into the garden to share a Sunday morning brunch with neighbors? We may not have fired up the barbecue yet, but it won’t be long before we can and will.
When most of us plan our gardens, especially the backyard, we place a patio or deck near the back door of the house—it gives us an easy transition from our home to the garden—and makes carrying food and whatever else we need for entertaining in the garden easier.
Another wonderful feature to include in the backyard is an herb garden: why not plant it close to the barbecue? And perhaps raised vegetable beds within easy reach of the house so that they can be planted and harvested easily. (Now is a good time to plant the herbs, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, green beans, leeks—but hold off on tomatoes and peppers until the weather gets warmer in April). Nothing is more entertaining than picking fresh produce from the garden to serve to guests that very evening!
Let’s go back to the deck or patio. Try to give the patio or deck enough space to hold a table and chairs so there is room to dine and walk around the table and chairs (12 foot minimum).
Choosing the material for the patio or deck an important decision. Usually patios next to a home consist of flagstone or other stone, probably best set on concrete so the sand, pebbles, etc. are not tracked into the house. More casual patios, placed further away from the house are ideally flags or stone set on sand, so that they are water permeable.
Decks, especially if there is a drop from the doorstep to the garden make for a good entertaining space. You can either have the deck constructed with wood: redwood, cedar, or a hard wood like Ipe, or a composite like Trex or Timbertech. It will depend on the look you want, perhaps the architecture of the home and how much wear and tear and maintenance you want to put into the deck. I’ve used both and it is really a personal choice. A space saver is to build in benches, with backs, on the edges of the deck.
As I write this the weather has turned warmer: the lilacs, blueberries and crabapples are blooming, the fig tree is coming out of dormancy and the perennials are waking up too. Time to take the coverings off our outdoor furniture, sweep and rake up the last of the winter leaves, finish weeding the Oxalis, and invite a few neighbors over for brunch this coming Sunday!