As the days grow longer and summer beckons, anticipation for fun in the sun fills the air. From graduations to weddings, afternoon tea to evening cocktails, there are plenty of occasions just made for enjoying the great outdoors.
Summer is also the perfect time of year to host a family reunion, and your back yard – or front! – serves as the perfect stage to gather generations together for a time of celebration, laughter, conversation, games, and storytelling.
Incorporate these landscaping ideas to revitalize and transform your yard into a place where family bonds can grow and thrive right along with Mother Nature’s gardens.
Start With Seating
You might not think of seating as a starting point, but it is so vital to your outdoor experience that we wanted to include it up front. Seating is central to creating spaces for your family to relax, gather, and interact. Everything from enjoying a meal together to catching up on each other’s lives is facilitated by the right kind of seating.
Create multiple seating areas throughout your yard to accommodate different activities – dining with a group, sharing secrets with a favorite aunt, cuddling with a grandchild, telling stories or laughing with cousins you haven’t seen in ages.
Well-chosen outdoor seating not only serves a functional purpose but adds beauty and character to your backyard. Use benches in gardens for a respite during walks. Include firm chairs around tables for enjoying a meal. Gather plush, comfortable chairs around a central spot like a fire pit or patio space where conversation can flow.
Diversifying seating and choosing the right type for the right activity will go a long way toward setting the stage for an engaging and successful family reunion.
Summer may be a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the bounty of nature, but nobody wants to return from a family reunion with a sunburn!
The simple solution is to build shade and shelter into your landscape plan. Options like pergolas, gazebos, shade sails, umbrellas or awnings will protect your guests and add beauty and visual appeal to your landscape.
Shade structures like pergolas and gazebos can be wound with vines, intertwined with flowers, and even hung with soft, flowing fabrics for an elegant and stylish look, and can double as a private space for smaller groups to gather.
Patio umbrellas are a good choice for protecting diners and loungers. And natural elements like tall bamboo can offer a barrier to direct sun while also enhancing privacy and adding lovely natural beauty.
If you are fortunate to have old-growth trees, use them! Create a picnic area beneath one, hang a hammock beneath another, and make it a space where guests can get out of the sun for a bit.
Comfort is key to enjoying an extended time outdoors, and shade from a sunny day goes a long way to making time outdoors more comfortable for your family.
Bring Out The Kitchen
Food is central to just about every good gathering. It’s how families express love, show care, preserve tradition, and it’s the focal point around which families gather to share old memories and make new ones.
Whether you plan to serve simple hors d’oeuvres or a seven course meal (or something in between, like a great grilled burger!) an outdoor cooking area will help you do it.
Set up a dedicated space for cooking, with the key features you need for a successful meal. That may be as simple as a barbecue grill and small countertop, or as elaborate as a full cooking station with side burners, smoker and pizza oven.
The more convenient you can make preparing, cooking and serving food, the less time you’ll spend running in and out of the house, missing out on precious family time.
Other features, like storage for utensils, grilling tools, plates, and other cooking accessories will keep necessary items accessible when you need them. Refrigeration can keep beverages cold and at-hand whenever someone wants one. And running water can be useful for doing some after dinner cleanup, or serve as a washing station for kids (even the big ones) between play and meals.
With a well-stocked and convenient food prep area, you’ll be able to cook and serve guests all of the tasty treats they’ll remember for years to come. And you can do it right in the midst of the action.
Prepare For After Dark
The sun won’t last forever, and chances are you’re going to want your family time to extend past sunset. The way to do that is with great lighting.
Lighting serves a dual purpose. First, it will enhance safety after dark by illuminating pathways, walkways, and stairs to ensure safe movement throughout your yard. It can be used to delineate a pool or pond area, letting guests know exactly where those features are, or brighten cooking and seating areas for safer use.
Motion-activated lighting near entrances, garages or in dark corners can make spaces feel more secure and discourage unwanted visitors and wildlife.
Lighting also creates a warm and inviting ambiance, setting the tone for your gathering. String lights or fairy lights hung across trees, pergolas, or fencing can add a magical touch to the surroundings.
Spotlights and uplighting can be used to highlight key features of your backyard, such as a favorite shrub, water feature, or unique architectural element to add depth and dimension to your landscape.
From fire features to lanterns, choosing the right lighting can create whatever atmosphere you choose, from celebratory to subtle, creating a visually captivating backdrop for your family reunion.
Entertain The Kids (Even The Big Ones)
A beautiful landscape can also be a fantastic play space, offering kids opportunities to have fun and explore. Build kid-friendly beauty into your space with features like a a swing hanging from a big old tree branch, or a cluster of tree stumps turned into a seating area for games.
Instead of building a literal sandbox, create a natural one bordered with large, natural stones that blend seamlessly into the rest of the landscape. It can double as a play area for younger kids, and a soothing Zen garden for you.
Set up an art station around a beautiful feature with supplies like paints, brushes, markers, and paper. A pond, water fountain, butterfly garden, or unique piece of outdoor art make a great focal point for kids to explore their creativity and adults to enjoy the natural beauty around them.
Create a cozy outdoor movie area where the kids can hang out while the adults enjoy some grown-up time. Comfortable seating, blankets, cushions, or bean bags can be set up around an outdoor television or movie screen for evening viewing. If you’ve prepared your outdoor kitchen, you can stock the refrigerator with soda or juice, and make sure there’s a cabinet full of snacks.
If you have the space and desire, you can include other elements like a swimming pool, basketball hoop, lawn chess, or other area for active sports and games. But with a few small additions you can just as easily turn your yard into something both beautiful and entertaining for your family reunion – and for you in the long term.
Appeal To All The Senses
The best way to create a truly memorable experience is to engage as many senses as possible. Mouthwatering aromas coming from the grill, colorful flowers to enhance visual beauty, textural blankets and pillows for getting comfortable on sofas and beside fire pits, perhaps even an edible garden where guests can sneak a taste of a berry or mint leaf – all of these things combine to build and strengthen memories.
And that includes sound. Too often, auditory beauty is overlooked, especially amidst a lively gathering where voices rise above all. But setting the sound stage, so to speak, is just as important for evoking emotion and triggering memories.
Songs can transport people back to specific moments in their lives, evoking nostalgia and shared memories that can create a powerful connection between family members. Music is often an integral part of family tradition, and can create an ambiance that reflects the spirit of your gathering.
The best way to share music, whether to serve as a backdrop for conversations and meals, to enhance games and activities, or to inspire spontaneous singalongs, is with an outdoor audio system.
Outdoor speakers let you choose not just the music, but the volume and location so you have creative control over the total experience. Play different music in a pool area than in a quite garden, for example. And adjust the volume so that it can be enjoyed without overwhelming.
Rather than music becoming a nuisance – too loud in some spots, too quiet elsewhere – it will be delivered with a smooth an even ease that guests can enjoy the same way no matter where they are in your yard.
Create a wholly immersive and unforgettable experience for your guests by appealing to all of their senses, with music as the backdrop and the wrapper all in one.
The most important part of a family reunion is spending quality time with the ones you love. And the welcoming, comfortable, and enjoyable environment you’ve created will build the shared experiences and lasting moments that you can recollect together at family reunions long into the future.
If you’re planning a family reunion, or if you want a yard that will encourage the type of family togetherness and shared joy that will be the foundation for special memories every day, contact us for a consultation. We’ll work with you to design the perfect space to serve as the backdrop for some of your most memorable family times together.