I imagine I’m not alone in longing for a late return of the sun. After such a wonderful spring much of the summer has seemed wet and disappointing. Is it just me or is the weather settling into a new pattern? We seem over the last decade or so to be getting lovely early summers, not so good high summers and then a glorious warm stretch lasting from September through to even as late as November – the classic Indian Summer.
Over the first weeks of the lockdown we learnt to slow down, and fell in love again, or for the first time, with our gardens*. Now many of us are back at work again that can seem like a dream time, especially with the current poor weather. But we’ve got one last chance coming up. So let’s grab it.
How to get the most out of an Indian Summer evening
1/ Be outside.
As much as possible. All the time. It’s what we evolved to do and what modern life takes from us. In those first sun drenched weeks of lockdown I spent nearly all the daylight hours in my garden. It has never had so much attention. Scared it silly. And I felt so good. So let’s reprise that wonderful feeling and make sure we can spend as much of the late summer evenings outside as possible.
2/ Be warm.
Even if we’re blessed with an Indian Summer the sun won’t hold the warmth of the high summer sun, and evenings will be drawing in. But if there’s one thing we are evolved to do as much as be outside it’s to have fires! But we are eco-aware and often have close neighbours, so roaring woodfires 6 feet high are not going to cut it. We’re talking fire pits and their older cousins – chimineas. There is a bit of a split over these two but truth is they are both wonderful, it comes down to your preference, but get one and you’ll double your time outdoors and enjoy long and cosy evenings. You won’t regret it. Just one thing. Patio heaters. No.
3/ Be warm again.
Sometimes you don’t need or just don’t feel like setting up a fire. So it’s good to have a stock of blankets ready for everyone. Keep them near the door in a lovely blanket box and make sure they are soft and comfortable; you don’t want scratchy itchy fabric. And make sure they actually warm you. That doesn’t mean they have to be heavy and thick. A cashmere shawl is very warming. So is silk. Bright colours work well in the gloaming of an Indian summer evening.
3/ Have light.
Whilst we’re returning to our evolutionary roots there’s another thing – we don’t like the dark. So let’s bring on the light. There are all sorts of wonderful lanterns available. We’re not a shopping channel so won’t recommend one or another. But set aside an hour or two on a rainy day to browse. If you’re getting your whole outdoor area sorted then think about how all these elements will work together, your fire source, lanterns, blankets can all join together to make this a very special place. Sensible alert: if you are thinking of adding electric lights outside this is a ‘notifiable job’ (Part P building regs) and is definitely best done by a qualified electrician.
4/ Be in the right place.
Get as much of the evening sun as you can. Try to sort an outside area that’s facing west and not shaded so the sun falls on you until the last moment. It’s good to be near the house so you can slip in and out with drinks, books and snacks. Also if you can face the setting sun with the house close behind you then the warmth radiating off the walls will extend your evening that bit more. Shelter from any prevailing winds is a great help as so much of this is about keeping warm. It’s great if you have any potted herbs nearby to pick and add to drinks and food. Comfy chairs and tables are a great help but you can simply sit on a warm wall if that’s what you’ve got.
Think ahead and get your area sorted before you start using it. The ideal is somewhere sheltered, close to the house and facing west to harvest those final sun beams. It should have flat, ideally paved, ground and room for chairs, a table and some heating. Light is a great boon, electric, solar or even candle lanterns all have their part to play.
Some ideas on furniture can be found here
We hope you get a lovely Indian Summer and enjoy many warm, happy evenings in your garden. If this has inspired you to take matters firmly in hand we’re of course happy to draw up plans for your evening area, and can arrange installation as well. After all… it’s our job!
And in case you still want to eat outside see our ideas on seating and eating
*Everyone has had a different time over the last few months. We understand that some of you don’t have gardens, you may have lost your job, been sick, or have worried or grieved over a loved one. We don’t want to cause any distress so please forgive us if this blog upsets you. At heart we’re saying that we all need to find a time and place where we can find some respite. Sometimes that’s a phone call with someone close, a few quiet minutes with a cup of tea, or maybe watching some daft TV, or simply an early evening in bed. Look after yourself, everyone.