Setting an outdoor table
Eating outside doesn't have to mean paper plates. To elevate your summer dining experience, use proper dishes. It doesn't have to be your best china—simple white will do. A mix-and-match approach also works; flea markets are a great source for bits and pieces of china. And your everyday cutlery is easier to use than buying plastic forks and knives. (Can those knives cut anything other than potato salad?) Use the money you saved to buy pretty paper napkins instead. Small Mason jars make great beverage holders. They're sturdier than regular glassware but much more attractive than plastic or paper cups.
To create a captivating display, prop a mirror on a table against a wall or fence. Place a row of flickering candles in front of the mirror, and watch the glow reflected back over the table.
Utilize the space under the dining table by purchasing a large wicker basket, for storing candles, rugs and pillows that need protection from the elements. In a pinch, the basket can double as a coffee table; just place a tray on top.
Lighting the way
Lighting sets the mood for an evening at the oasis, but different parts of the garden will require different types of lighting. Task lighting is needed for food and beverage areas; paths and stairways will need to be lit for safety.
Fill Mason jars about five centimetres full of sand, then drop in a tea light for a pretty, affordable light that won't go out with the slightest puff of wind. Place a row along the side of a path and on each stair.
Drape twinkle lights in shrubs and trees to light the garden's perimeter. Stake citronella torches or lanterns around the deck to keep away pests, but not too close to the food, as the smell can overpower flavours.
Cast a softer glow on the deck, dining and lounging areas with mini-chandeliers holding tea lights. You can also use floating candles in a bird bath to light up a dark corner.
Scents of the night
For fragrance that comes alive at night, plant a few of these annuals on a trellis around your patio or in containers.
MOONFLOWER (Ipomoea alba syn. Calonyction aculeatum): lemon-scented, large white blooms that, like their relatives, morning glories, are short-lived.
FOUR O`CLOCKS (Mirabilis jalapa): fragrant pink, magenta, yellow and white blooms appear late afternoon, as the name suggests.
TOBACCO PLANT (Nicotiana spp.): the white blooms of N. alata are said to have the strongest fragrance.
MIGNONETTE (Reseda odorata): produces fragrant, tiny, star-shaped flowers from summer to autumn.
NIGHT-SCENTED STOCK (Matthiola longipetala ssp. bicornis): soft pink or mauve flowers may not provide much in the way of colour, but the scent carries quite a punch.