6+ Ways to Elevate Your Outdoor Cooking Space

  • 4 min read

Nothing says outdoor oasis like a well-designed, relaxing retreat. You’ve taken the time to plan an outdoor cooking space where you can entertain friends and family. Now, consider how creative landscaping built on quality soil will make that space shine. 

Read on for ideas and tips to elevate your outdoor cooking space with beautiful, creative landscaping. 

Create Your Blueprint

Every successful project needs a plan to start it off. 

If you’re out of your comfort zone, hire a landscape designer to create a plan for you. Or, if you’re ready to tackle it on your own, check out online inspiration for ideas. Make sure you know the measurements of your space, what kind of sun the area gets, and whether or not you’ll be dealing with overly dry or overly wet conditions. All of these factors will influence what you plant. 

Once you know the conditions of your proposed landscape, it’s time to think about more detail. How do you want to use this space? Will your design showcase unique and rare specimen plants, or do you want your plants to be a neutral backdrop for your cooking space? What colors are you drawn to? Do you want a riot of flowers or something more subdued? 

Finally, how much upkeep are you willing to take on? Some plants are more high maintenance than others, requiring regular deadheading of flowers throughout the growing season or staking and pruning. Other plants are happiest when allowed to grow with minimal effort. 

Build The Perfect Foundation

It’s one of the least glamorous elements in successful landscape design, but quality soil can make or break your project. 

Soil is the literal foundation of a healthy, thriving landscape. Almost every new landscaping project needs topsoil before planting. Home construction strips off the nutrient-dense topsoil layer, and it can take many decades to replenish those nutrients. 

Speed up the process and establish the best possible foundation for your plants with high-quality, nutrient-rich topsoil. But don’t dial up a bunch of the bagged stuff from the big-box stores. Take a tip from the pros and source topsoil delivery from a local, reliable supplier. Add quality hardwood mulch to your order to save even more money and immediately protect your new plantings when you’re done!

Install The Bones

Once you’ve prepped your foundation with soil, it’s time to add the bones of your landscaping: trees and shrubs. 

Consider using a combination of evergreen and deciduous shrubs for year-round interest. Evergreen shrubs such as boxwoods, dwarf nandina, or junipers will keep their foliage through the winter. Deciduous shrubs like spirea, dwarf lilacs, and hydrangeas provide seasonal blooms despite dropping leaves in colder months. 

Add height and interest among the shrubs with ornamental trees.  Smaller flowering trees make excellent specimens in creative landscaping close to outdoor seating areas. They’re easy to maintain at smaller sizes and don’t have extensive root systems like much larger trees. 

For early spring color, plant a dogwood, redbud, or ornamental cherry. If you’d prefer something that blooms closer to the summer months look into crape myrtles and magnolias. Japanese maples are another popular choice for specimen trees. Although they don’t have showy flowers, their foliage more than makes up for it!

Fill In With Perennials

Perennials come back every spring to add color, texture, and visual interest in empty spaces between trees and shrubs. Keep your design simple with two or three different kinds repeated throughout. 

For a sunny area, plant several clusters of Echinacea with big, bright blooms and surround them with drifts of cheerful yellow Coreopsis. Punctuate your design with the height and texture of ornamental grasses.

If you’re filling in shaded areas you can always go with the tried-and-true hostas – there are so many varieties, you’re sure to find one you love. Or, if you’re interested in something more unique, consider one or two of the many types of heuchera, commonly called coral bells. Like the Japanese maples, the color comes from the vibrant foliage more than the flowers. 

Accent With Annuals

Annuals are like throw pillows in your outdoor room: they add detail and drama wherever you want them but are easily and inexpensively switched out when they die off for the season. 

If you don’t want to plant annuals directly in the ground of your landscape, install outdoor planter boxes around your patio where you can enjoy the bright colors up close. The true beauty of annuals is their pop of color that elevates a basic landscape design. 

Tuck In Some Surprises

Unique boulders, water features, garden statues, and unusual outdoor sculptures insert a new level of interest and intrigue into your outdoor space. 

Show off your taste with a feature that speaks to you. Have you always wanted a koi pond? This can be as simple as a large bucket submerged in the ground, or as complex as a built-in structure complete with a waterfall. 

Finally, add strategically placed landscape lighting to highlight your hard work. Enjoy the ambiance while cooking your specialty wood-fired pizza or grilling your famous steaks for friends and family. 

Design Your Unique Oasis

An outdoor kitchen is just the beginning. Adding creative landscaping, built on a foundation of quality soil, will elevate your outdoor area from a fun space to a true retreat. 

To begin, don’t overthink it. Find inspiration online and in real life, and start planning your design. Creative landscaping doesn’t have to be complicated. It should reflect your level of time, interest, and ability for maintenance. And who knows – you might spend all your free time outdoors once you’ve created your perfect escape!