In the height of summer these events require nothing more than good food and good company, but outside of the main summer months and even during the cooler summer evenings, most garden get-togethers will benefit from the addition of some extra heat.
The best source for this boost of warmth is some form of garden heater and there are a number of options to choose from, some portable, some temporary and some fixed.
The main option starts with the popular tower heaters that use gas bottles or cylinders and deflect the heat with a large metal cap. These come in both large self supporting formats, or smaller table standing varieties.
Next there are the infrared heaters which again can be freestanding or, more often than not, are fixed to a wall or building. They are directed, like lamps, towards the populated Party zone. When switched on they look like reddish orange lights and they heat through radiation rather than convection.
After this you have the chimeneas. These take the form of terracotta or cast iron ovens equipped with cylindrical chimneys that burn wood and can also be used to cook or heat food. They are attractive, whether in use or not, and they make a pleasant addition to any patio area.
Finally, and probably most impressively of all, there are the fire pits and these come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are portable metal contraptions, however the true fire pits are excavated into the ground and bordered with a masonry wall. These pits can burn anything that is flammable from wood and coal to household waste and they produce a real fire with leaping flames. They can also double up as open hearths or barbecues and many gardens have a complete patio area equipped with seating and tables built around them. Building one also makes a great home improvement (DIY) project.
Not surprisingly, a feature like a fire pit is not everyone's choice when it comes to providing the occasional boost of garden heat. They are large, permanent and remain outdoors throughout the year, They also require cleaning and they take up space.
For those, and this is most people, who do not want a fire pit, tower heaters and chimeneas are excellent and highly portable alternatives that not only produce warmth, but also make a great visual statement.
The tower heater tends to make a very good focal point and, by also providing some light, it nearly always becomes a central gathering and socialising point. Many of the larger versions of these heaters have a circular table encompassing them and they have highly controllable heat settings.
Chimeneas have a similar "people attracting" effect, but additionally they benefit from their highly visible fossil fuel fired natural flame. They are also entertaining because they eat wood greedily and require constant feeding. The larger chimeneas can be used to cook, but they do require some practice in order to become proficient in their use.
Which type of garden heater to choose can be a challenging dilemma. You can find detailed summaries outlining the benefits of each type of garden heater at [http://www.gardenheaters.net] and if you want to find out how to build your own fire pit take a look at this page, [http://www.gardenheaters.net/fire-pit.html]. Both fire pits and chimeneas can be left outside whilst gas fired tower heaters need to be stored indoors during periods of non use. Tower heaters can also be expensive to run with propane or butane refills.
Ultimately, fire pits and chimeneas may be slightly more versatile, but they do not have the mobility of the gas heaters and they are more difficult to clean.