"Take a seat"

A garden seat has much to offer!
Sunday, 06 March 2022     

An ageing teak bench in my garden

I've been thinking a bit about garden seats lately, and how important I believe they are. I have always had one or more wooden benches in my garden - they are now very grey and lichen encrusted, but I regard them as intrinsic to the scene, for various reasons. The most important seems to me to be that they allow you - welcome you, even - to be in your garden and enjoy it: not working in it or walking around it, but just sitting and looking. Sometimes I forget to really look at my garden as I am so busy running round and doing various jobs - but sitting on a bench enables me to relax and really take in my borders and savour the pleasure that they bring. I do usually get struck by things that need adjustment or deadheads that need to be removed or plants that need staking, plus ideas for improvements, but along with those thoughts, I can simply experience my garden as it is, engaging all the senses: the sounds of birds and insects; the warm touch of the sun or the cool brush of a breeze on the skin; the scents of flowers; along with the sights of the garden.

Siting a bench is an important consideration. If you have a gorgeous view (of your garden or beyond it), the seat can be placed to maximise your enjoyment of it. A bench can also provide a focal point in a garden if placed at the end of a vista, and can draw the eye (and the feet) onwards to explore the garden if placed at the end of a path or around a corner, so that it is only half-glimpsed at first. A seat can also provide a firm, structural element that can impose order in a rather wild garden, by giving a contrast to the softer forms of surrounding plantings. There can be many ways of creating contrast in a garden, but this is one I find very satisfying.

A painted bench or chair can also provide colour in a garden, especially if sited in a shady area where few plants will grow. This can be an ideal solution to a difficult garden area under a tree where tree roots make it almost impossible to plant anything. It also provides a shady place to sit and have a nice cup of tea or a G&T as you survey your domain. If it is possible to grow plants nearby to where a painted seat is placed, the hue of it can create exciting colour combinations with flowers or leaves, as illustrated above left. Potted plants can serve this purpose if the ground is inhospitable. The natural colour of a bench can alternatively reflect the bark of a nearby tree. I also once saw an aged, silvery bench underplanted with silver Dichondra argentea, which looked very effective.

A garden bench is also a way to lure us outside when we are simply fed up with being indoors and need a change of scenery and some fresh air. Just being in nature is therapeutic, as we gardeners all know. It gives us somewhere to sit and chat with a friend outdoors - as recommended in these times of COVID. It provides a place to read, relax, eat lunch, daydream or meditate, whilst getting some vitamin D at the same time! It is also a place to watch the moon at night, as I like to do sometimes, whilst listening to the eerie call of the resident Powerful Owl!

I also find that if I am feeling unmotivated about gardening, but just go outside and sit on a bench in the garden, I paradoxically get inspired again! Ideas seethe in my mind and before too long, I am pulling on my my gardening clothes and getting stuck in.

A seat can be very formal and decorative or simple and roughhewn. It can stand out as a distinct feature from its surroundings or meld into it, by the nature of its materials, colour and form. I've always preferred teak benches as they age to such a lovely silvery colour and start to resemble something growing in the garden after a number of years. Stone benches can be very attractive. I have also seen some elegant, vintage metal seats, though these may heat up on hot days if placed in a sunny spot in our climate. It's a very personal choice - but I implore every gardener to put a seat in their garden ... and sit on it regularly.

 Reader Comments

1/8  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 March 2022

I agree we gardeners tend to get so busy ' doing' we rarely sit back & relax our gardens. They are a great healing places when you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders.I've got 3 sitting areas, one with a hand painted dragonfly bench in the salvia bed similar to your photo! Sounds a lovely bench, Kerrie. Deirdre

2/8  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 March 2022

Just a bit confused about Virgina's plant sale. I'd be coming from the northern beaches so don't want a wasted trip.You say ' was' delayed. Does this mean it will be commencing on the 12th or the 19th now? Sorry - I can see it was confusing. Hopefully it is clarified in blog now - the actual start date is 12 March. Deirdre

3/8  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 March 2022

Absolutely, last count I had 12 garden seats and benches not including table & chairs in my garden. Sadly 1 stone bench was broken in the last storm.They are invaluable as a garden feature.I do notice people using them during my open gardens, probably more than me as I dont sit much. Im not a huge fan of the Hidcote blue seats as I find they overpower a garden scene, just my personal taste but when its dry again Im going to sit on my seat at the back of the pond and plan my next project!! Great to have so many seats. I think some hefty painted seats might look too overwhelming especially if not softened by surrounding plantings. Deirdre

4/8  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 March 2022

Silly me didnt check before I left home on Saturday, got almost to Penant Hills when a friend rang and told me the plant stall had been deferred til next week at least its supposed to be fine by then so I will be able to come home and plant my purchases, well fingers crossed. Hard to imagine a sunny day at the moment Deirdre. Sorry - it was changed at the last minute as the forecast was awful for the weekend. Let's hope it clears up as promised this coming weekend. We are all utterly over it, most especially those people in flood-affected areas. Deirdre

5/8  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 March 2022

I have a number of seats in my garden, a number of which i obtained from the buy-back section of the dump. Some are situated for summer shade, others for winter sun, some for morning conditions and others for the afternoon. Some I never use at all, but as Deirdre says, they act as a focal point, and people always comment on them. I also eat lunch on them, and it gives me a chance to study the garden from a dfferent aspect. I guess seats are the simplest form of garden sculpture and furniture.

6/8  Susan - 2430 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 March 2022

Last time we opened the garden we had an old outdoor table and chairs stashed under some trees awaiting the next council clean up and I noticed one family having a little picnic on it, which gladdened my heart. But I was a bit relieved when it did not collapse under them! Note to self: maintain the outdoor seats...

7/8  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 08 March 2022

Thanks Deirdre and others for the encouragement with garden seats. When the rain stops I will look for a position in our garden. They really do enhance the garden space, especially as shown in your photos. Like that idea from Bren about eating lunch on the garden seat. It'll have to be one I can lift and move to mow under.

8/8  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 09 March 2022

Like Susan, I had an outdoor set of benches, much used, but eventually they rotted, except for one, which I now use to display some plants. Would dearly love a seat or bench, but am rather restricted by space. I do have a bench on my front verandah, but will endeavour to buy and place one, in the garden. They are so useful, and it is delightful to just sit and enjoy the garden.

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