Quick to install and convenient to use, an outdoor shower lets you leave the dirt where it belongs.

Southern summers are notoriously hot and humid; garden tasks turn into a full-body commitment within a few minutes. Before you know it, you're sweating and covered in dirt. Glamorous? Hardly. But there's a delightful way to beat the heat and clean up when you're through: an outdoor shower.

The Utilitarian Side
This simple water feature is a handy addition to any landscape. Tuck the shower into a private corner of your home's exterior or a secluded part of the garden.

Assistant Garden Editor Edwin Marty purchased a ready-made setup and had it assembled in an afternoon. The shower's water hookup fastens to an exterior faucet. The drawback is that it handles only cold water, but cooling off is the goal.

First, Edwin chose the location, making sure water would drain away from the house's foundation. Then he hinged together inexpensive shutters to create a movable wall. A rod and shower curtain provide additional privacy. He also mounted a plastic-coated wire window box on the house to serve as a towel rack. The plastic coating prevents rust on the wood surface and fabric. Potted palms, impatiens, and ferns placed around the shower base make the area feel like a spa. In the winter, simply disconnect the hose, and the unit is freeze-proof.

The Fun Side
Once the sun sets, the outdoor shower takes on a new persona. Here, more advanced plumbing is an asset, as hot water will be a welcome amenity. Design the structure roofless or so it opens to the sky. Rafters overhead become a moonflower trellis, and the stars turn into night-lights. Place votive candles along shelves, cut a bouquet of fresh herbs for aromatherapy, and enjoy.

"Cool off in Style" is from the Southern Living Garden Guide 2004.