Buffalo Garden Tip

Garden gathering spaces

Since we can't gather right now

Self employed and self isolating since 2000. Socially distant since 1962…

One of the sitting areas in my own garden. An inlaid granite and marble carpet is centered in the brick patio. Mirrors on the fence make it feel more “indoors-like”. The bench I made from my mother in law’s childhood bed headboard. The arbor with vines creates a wall, raised-bed gardens on two sides enclose the space. Adirondack chairs have ample arm space for holding a gin & tonic.

But I do like to get together with friends in the garden. I have a couple spots where people tend to gather. And they tend to gather where the chairs are. And around tables. I am suspicious of gardens that don’t have sitting areas. Where do you set a cocktail down?

Now that we can’t gather together, seems like a good time to hark back – or look forward to – the times that we could and can again.

How to attract a crowd

It takes more than a bench, chair, or table to draw people to spot. Defining the space to be comfortable comes first. Below you’ll see:

  • Fire pits
  • Movie screens
  • Shady spots
  • Accessible cold drinks
  • Bars
  • Enclosure through outdoor “walls”
  • Outdoor carpeting
  • Side tables
  • Tents
  • Awnings
  • Draperies
  • Pergolas
  • A change in floor surface (be it gravel, brick, wood, stone, or concrete)
  • A change in floor elevation (a step or two up or down to help define the space)
The gathering spot for friends in our garden. There’s an umbrella table for intimate dinners with just my wife and daughter. And the 10′ picnic table (in the back) for larger crowds.

There’s a couple spots in our garden where people gather. I built a 10′ long picnic table about 18 years ago because I always hated conventional attached-bench picnic tables and they were never long enough. I found some plans on the internet and adjusted them to 10′. We can easily fit ten for dinner, 12 if we get cozy. It has separate sturdy benches (in another few years I’ll be too weak to lift them!). It also sides up to a bar that has a built-in wine/beer ice bucket, and the grill. One side is an arbor with climbing vines of wisteria, porcelain berry, and clematis. The other side is the garage wall, masked in a diamond-shaped dwarf pear tree espalier. But it’s really the food, drink, and conversation that keeps the gathering going.

In the lead photo, and above, are just some of the people that often gather around the extra-long table. And they are some of the people I’m missing the most right now. You can’t Zoom a dinner party.

Are there any garden features I can find for you?

A reader asked, “Do you have any unique pictures I can use to try to make me a sitting area in the corner of my ordinary privacy fence in a very small town of Cambridge, OH? I have looked at lots of photos but they all seem the same.” I hope this post helps with this request.

Whatever it is, I may have it in my 70,000+ photos! Let me know – leave a comment. I have some ideas from readers already – how to complement a picket fence, a reading and painting corner, and community gardens, Here are other garden features I’ve assembled from my photo collection.

Here’s a collection of photos of gathering spaces in gardens I’ve amassed over the years.

A Kenmore/Tonawanda garden built around family gatherings. At the top of the photo is a movie screen for projected entertainment. The round sofa circles a gas-fed firepit. There’s a hot tub off in the left corner. An ice bucket of drinks is lower right. What you don’t see? A 10′ long dining table under a shelter and a full bar in an opening in the side of the garage. To see more of this garden, visit A garden that is a pub, or a pub that is a garden.
Vintage vantage point in this Manchester Street garden in Buffalo.
A great bench for gathering surrounding this penny-topped table in a Cheektowaga, NY garden.
Luxurious spot for gathering in a Johnson Park neighborhood in Buffalo
Circle-themed sitting area in this Williamsville, NY garden.
Put a bar in the garden. Boom! Instant gathering spot. See more at Gardeners should be behind bars.
A neighborhood gathering spot in a secluded area in front of three hidden cottages in Buffalo’s Cottage District.
A gathering can be two people. Like this sitting area to study the garden on Lancaster Avenue in Buffalo.
A quiet corner in a Parkside (Buffalo) garden.
CIMG2395 2
Bringing the indoors out with side table, coffee table and lamp in this popular Garden Walk Buffalo garden on Sixteenth Street.
Comfy corner in this Norwood Avenue garden in Buffalo.
You can be sure some good times were spent with family and friends in this Enore, NY garden.
A cozy corner for cocktails in this Black Rock garden in Buffalo.
Another cozy spot to gather with cats – that wooden structure in the back of the photo is a catio where the cats have their own entrance from indoors.
A gathering spot for sure – on the right is a bar counter that looks over this mini pool in this Buffalo gardens.
This Lewiston, NY garden is sure to have seen some fun fires with family and friends.
A restful spot made in the shade in this Hamburg, NY garden.
A deck at Smug Creek Gardens overlooking a creek in the Boston Hills of Hamburg, NY.
Not sure if many gatherings happen here, it’s in the wayback of a garden in Snyder, NY. But it looks inviting!
A secluded spot between two garages in a small urban yard on Garden Walk Buffalo.
Photographer: Jim Charlier
One of Buffalo’s popular garden gathering spots on Bird Avenue.
Found and repurposed items give this Parkside garden a laid back, beachy vibe.
More formal, no less fun. A modern dining area under a pergola found in an Austin, TX garden.
Photographer: Jim Charlier
A tables setting just large enough for two people and one bottle of wine in this Johnson Park neighborhood in Buffalo.
Contemporary comfortable concrete chairs in this Austin, TX garden.
Colorful and campy in Austin, TX.
Another Austin garden – for poolside gatherings.
Don’t you just want to plop down here and read a book with a glass of iced tea? No need for a gathering. Found in an Austin, TX garden.
A Kenmore, NY garden with what looks like a telescoping deck offers spaces for gatherings of different sizes.
Flexible gathering space. These children’s chairs in this Austin garden come off the wall when little visitors are around.
I’d drink a craft brew here. Found in a Parkside area garden in Buffalo.
Austin, TX again. Colorful –  even empty it still looks like a party is going on.
I’d take this. Found in an Atlanta, GA garden.
JLC_0811 2
A Hamburg, NY multi-level back yard features a gathering spot half way up the “hill” – you know, in case you lose energy climbing the eight steps.
Photographer: Jim Charlier
See this Linwood Avenue garden on Garden Walk Buffalo.


Elizabeth & Alan’s garden in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood. Many a drink has been had around this table. Elizabeth is a contributing writer to GardenRant.com.
All you need really is a picnic table for instant gathering. Found in a Ketcham Street garden on Garden Walk Buffalo.
A great deck (me and my wife built it!) at our first house, now (and then) a stop on Garden Walk Buffalo on Sixteenth Street.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

2 comments on “Garden gathering spaces

  1. Kathy Guest shadrack

    Fabulous……thank you, Jim. I’m thinking we should organize a garden cocktail crawl.


  2. Joan Mariea, CNLP

    Love how everyone creatively interprets their own idea and functionality of their own personal gathering space. So fun to see such variety!


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