How to create the perfect space for alfresco dining

It recently became too hot to cook inside, so many of us have been escaping to the outdoors. Be it to enjoy a quiet dinner with the kids or a glass of wine with friends. These spaces are essentially becoming outdoor dining rooms. To help us understand how best to utilise these spaces and how to create the perfect alfresco dining area we’ve partnered with Soto Gardens

Award-winning garden designer and Soto creative director, Will Williams, reveals his top five tips that will help you this summer. From those that feel at home with a pair of garden shears to our non-green-fingered readers out there, Will guides us through the plants to choose and the elements to consider. Discover his tips for creating your perfect alfresco dining environment. 


Soto designed garden
An extension of your home, build on your kitchen design to help guide your garden aesthetic.

1. Your garden is another room in your home

Your garden is an extension of your home; it should be another room where you can relax and entertain. Often, your outside space can be seen from the principal rooms so seasonal interest is key. I suggest looking to your interiors to help inspire your exterior aesthetic.  With my clients I always look at their kitchens, it's often an excellent indicator of the design direction. It will always help me narrow it down and answer the question -  is it sleek and modern or is it traditional and elegant? Once you have this information, it will help guide you on your plant selection, garden furniture and style of plant pots. 

2. Consider the amount of maintenance you would like to do

Would you prefer a glass of rosé or a trowel in your hand on a sunny weekend afternoon? If you’d rather be relaxing, try looking at adding shrubs to your outdoor space. Evergreens are a great option, low-maintenance but really impactful. I also suggest trying Dwarf Mountain Pines, Astrantia Shaggys and Japanese Forrest Grasses. The collections I've designed for Soto, are all about easy maintenance. We wanted them to be beautifully, laid back. 

3. Looking for instant impact?

With the bank holiday on the horizon, I often have customers looking to smarten up their garden for a gathering within the upcoming weekend. If you are looking for instant impact or a quick refresh, I do recommend considering potted plants. Keep in mind when the plant flowers and the size of the pot it arrives in. Whilst you want an instant look, plants that come back year after year are much better for the environment and are better value for money. Astrantias, Catmint and Mexican Feather Grass are great for adding instant ‘wow’ through the summer and return each year.


Pots and plants from Soto Gardens

Varying sizes of garden pots can make a big impact

4. Season from your garden

Show your green-fingered credentials by adding to your salad herbs tended by you. A herb kitchen has many benefits. It can form an impressive kitchen garden, even in the smallest of spaces. I suggest trying to introduce as many herb pots as you can. Parsley, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Chives, Oregano, Lemon Thyme, Fennel and Sage are all wonderful. You can make the herbs the feature by displaying them in pots on a stand. These are particularly handy for balconies. 

5. Get the basics right.

Getting the basics right when planning your garden means a healthy foundation for the other design ideas. Ensure your plant choices can tolerate the soil in your garden and improve drainage and soil structure with grit and mulch. Watering correctly when planting, whilst sounding simple can make all the difference to your plants' robustness.

The amount of light your garden gets will affect your planting choices. South-facing gardens should contain plants which do well in the hot sun, whereas north-facing gardens will require shade-loving plants. Our Masterclass series will help guide you through these decisions. 

The Soto Gardens story began in 2022, with the mission for everyone to have the garden designer aesthetic they desire. Gardening can be overwhelming – often people know what they like but they have no idea how to get there. Soto provides planting collections and a curated selection of accessories that work together. Stylish garden looks delivered to your door, all tailored to your specific garden conditions. 

Now armed with these useful tips from Will, discover the food and wine pairings which are perfect for alfresco dining and the eto finish to complement your garden design.