A fire pit is just a backyard version of a campfire. Fire pits and torch lights can be both decorative and functional. They allow us to remain in the garden well into the night. Some of my fondest memories involve sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. A burning fire engages all of our senses: comforting warmth, crackling pops and hisses and a pleasant smell that you can almost taste. Fire features add a unique ambiance to your garden. Unlike electric lights, smoke and flames keep the bugs away.  

There are many ways to bring the element of fire to your backyard. The simplest and least expensive fire pit consists of a metal bowl on a stand with a spark cover. They can be as simple or fancy as your budget dictates. A fire pit provides a place for family and friends to eat, drink and share stories.      

A chimenea is a type of front-loading, portable fireplace with an upright chimney. They’ve been used in Spain and Mexico for hundreds of years. Traditionally, chimeneas were made of unglazed terracotta and were used for cooking and heating inside of the home. Modern versions are meant for outdoor entertaining. The design draws smoke up and away from the front of the vessel, similar to a potbellied stove. Sand or pea gravel in the bottom of a chimenea makes it easier to clean. They make a warm and attractive addition to any outdoor setting. Most fire woods can be used to fuel a chimenea, but charcoal burns too hot for a clay container. A cast iron chimenea can handle any fuel source. Rachel and I like to use artificial fire logs. They’re made out of compressed sawdust and paraffin, a modified candle. They’re inexpensive, easy to light and burn for several hours. They come in two-, three- or four-hour burn times. When they’re done, there’s hardly anything left to clean up.    

When you visit our garden in the evening, the first thing you’ll notice are the torch lights. Spaced out at six-foot intervals, they illuminate our entire backyard. You no longer have to settle for the kitschy bamboo style. Tiki torches come in cast aluminum, brass or even copper. They also make tabletop versions. Rachel and I mount our torches in plastic flower pots filled with quick-setting concrete. We don’t have to worry about them blowing over, and they’re still easy to move around the yard. Save on torch fuel by purchasing it in bulk. A full canister of fuel will burn for at least eight hours. Fire features are an inexpensive way to enhance your backyard garden.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com