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Integrating fire can be a great way to add a little nightlife to our favorite, at-home garden spaces. But, before you get started, there are a number of things to consider.
First, is it even legal to have an outdoor fire element in your area? Be sure to check local codes. In some locations, fires in the garden simply are not legal – even if you can buy a fire pit at the local hardware store. In other areas, you may need to watch for burn bans and occasionally forego the evening summer fire for safety’s sake. And, in some locations, only certain kinds of fireplaces are legal. Check your ordinances before you decide on your preferred fire element.
Next, decide what style of fireplace makes sense for you.
Do you want a style that is always present in the garden? For instance, do you prefer the look of a built-in fireplace or a permanent stone structure in the middle of your patio or even a wood fired pizza oven? All of the aforementioned types take up permanent space in the garden and may require a professional to help you design, permit and build them. Once they’re in place, they do not move. Since many home gardens are smaller, necessitating that spaces be multi-functional, be sure you take this into account before you choose to put a built-in structure in your patio. If you do want a permanent structure, there are ways to make it do double-duty. Consider designing it with a removable top, which allow you to use the walls of the fireplace as the base of a table (when the fire isn’t lit).
If a permanent structure doesn’t fit your style (or possibly your budget) consider buying a prefabricated model. These are available from hardware and other stores at prices that fit with just about any wallet size. Plus, they’re designed to be cleaned up and put away when not in use – giving you more room in your garden when you need it.
Don’t forget to consider the source of your fire. Do you want the convenience of a gas-burning fireplace? Or, do you want a traditional wood burning container? Whether you build in something fancy or buy a pre-built model, you’ll have the option to choose propane kits, plumbed gas lines or a simple kindling and wood burning design.
When choosing where to site your fire pit, be sure to always put safety first. Unless the fireplace has been built as an integral part of your home, it should always be placed far from any structures to avoid fire. On the same note, resist the urge to build your fire under low-hanging trees or over any burnable surface. And, be sure pets, children -- and everyone for that matter -- is aware of the risk of getting burned. And, never leave your fire burning unattended.
Once you have decided on your nighttime garden entertainment area, consider planting a few night-blooming plants to delight your evening crowds. Moonflower is both fragrant and only open at night. As well, there are fragrant Nicotiana, cacti, Datura and other bloomers perfect for your outdoor nocturnal fireplace garden.
(Pizza Oven photograph courtesy of Don Hogeland of woodfiredkitchen.com)