Make your next get-together with family and friends a little more special.
burning candle in glass vase on wooden backyard table
Credit: Chris Churchill

Any fun summer celebration starts with your nearest and dearest. Setting the scene for an even more memorable get-together means serving bite-size snacks, arranging décor outdoors, and—last, but certainly not least—scentscaping the area. While most people achieve the latter inside their homes, a signature scent is just as important outdoors, Joanna Buchanan, a home accessory designer and entertaining expert, says. In fact, establishing a signature scent during your al fresco summer gathering can set the tone for a good time they will never forget, since memories are often linked to distinct smells.

"Everyone has cherished memories of summer celebrations, and scents can transport us right back to these moments," Eirini Kalafatides, the creative director and president of Skeem Design, says. "I think of beach day get-togethers where sunny skies mix with cool breezes and the smell of salty ocean air, or the scent of potted herbs and candles glowing at a backyard barbecue with friends." Ahead, learn how to scentscape your own backyard to create an unforgettable experience.

Use natural elements.

"When hosting an outdoor summer celebration, I'm a big believer in letting nature lead the way," Kalafatides says. "Whether you're hosting at the beach or in the backyard, salty air, garden flowers, or potted herbs are sometimes all that you need to add ambience to an outdoor gathering." However, if you want to get more granular, she explains that fresh, light, and breezy notes are best for this season. "Florals are refreshing and sophisticated, while fruity, citrusy scents add brightness," she explains. "Beachy scents, like sea salt, feel clean and inviting without being too overpowering."

Light outdoor candles.

When adding a signature scent to your backyard, Buchanan explains that strategically placing candles that enhance the existing locale in areas like your entryway and the doors near your deck or patio will create a calm vibe; guests should be able to breath in these fragrances as they make their way to your backyard. "Anything you do needs to enhance that natural scent," she says. "I love our sapphire candle ($88, for burning near the ocean—it smells of sand and mint!"

If you live in a woodsy or coastal area, consider a candle that pulls double duty. "When adding outdoor candles, multi-tasking, all-natural citronella—when blended with fine fragrances—smells lovely and also keeps pesky bugs at bay," Kalafatides says. "Citronella tea lights or votives strewn across a table look especially enchanting. Or try a citronella lantern hanging from a tree." Outdoor incense, like Skeem Design Palo Santo Citronella Outdoor Incense ($29,, also work nicely for scentscaping. "A stick tucked into a planter or pot works well—especially with a bit of a breeze," she adds.

Fill your backyard with flowers.

Similarly to candles, flowers should be an accent to your backyard. Kalafatides recommends working sunflowers in your outdoor space, as they are festive, fragrant, and easily found in most farmers' markets during the summer. Also consider freshly mixed arrangements, which are an easy way to add beauty and scent at the same time. "For gatherings in the garden, I love to use fresh, scented flowers on tables that are not primarily for dining—think freesia and peonies and even fresh mint and other summer herbs near the bar that create just the right amount of fragrance," Buchanan suggests. "And don't just think about what's cut on the table, but what is around you growing in the garden. There's nothing more lovely than a glass of rosé in the rose garden on a summer evening." With that being said, coordinate your festivities so they take place in the most fragrant spots in your backyard—and keep florals placed on dining tables mild. "Beware of anything too overpowering near food as that can certainly affect the taste of what you are eating," she adds. "Keep the perfumed flowers for the reception areas."


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