Be creative when you design garden seating - The Explorer: El Sol

Be creative when you design garden seating

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Posted: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Seating is important in any yard. If one entertains outdoors, ample and varied garden seating helps the party become a success.

Seating also provides rest, and rest is part of garden work. One needs to stop every so often and check progress. Last, but assuredly not least, a garden seat is a place to stop and metaphorically smell the roses — enjoy the plant and animal life around us.

As I consult on home landscapes, I often find that seating choices are limited to a single option — chairs around a patio table. The chairs focus inward around the table, relegating views of the garden to secondary, almost accidental. For outside dining, table and chairs are indeed best on a flat surface like a patio. For outside garden enjoyment, further seating is a must.

Garden seating can take may forms. Concrete benches are simple, weatherproof, and hard on the backside. Wood is nice, but can be a maintenance issue. Metal chairs can get uncomfortably toasty in the summer, while cushions for them get dusty. Plastic garden chairs are a good stop-gap measure, but decay and can break unexpectedly, depositing great-aunt Fanny on her fanny. So now that we see there are no ideal solutions, why not simply have some of each.

Adding much seating is difficult in today's smaller gardens, but it is still possible to do. Start by using the side yard. So often there is ample space in the side yard for some seating. It could make a lovely "secret" garden, instead of a boring utility "hallway" of rocks and a few shrubs.

Get creative. Tuck garden glider in that side yard. Put it under a bower of flowering vines, like the butterfly favorite, passionflower vine. Make the seating big enough that you can tuck your feet up and enjoy a good book. Perhaps add a small water feature that you turn on when you go back there. If you build it, and it is pleasant, you will find yourself using it — and thus expanding your home by another "room."

Find a sunset watching spot and add a seat. Since sunsets don't last that long, you could use a concrete bench. Consider using community easement areas near your yard. One woman won permission from her HOA, and now has a number of new friends she met while sitting on her sunset seat.

I have a number of metal chairs that migrate around the garden as the season changes and shade shifts. Most of the time they are bare of cushions and make a fine place to sit for five minutes while pondering the next garden chore. Before a party happens, they get their cushions, but the rest of the time the cushions live in the shed.

Seating around a fireplace or fire pit should be comfortable. There appears to be some primal instinct to gather around a fire. Seating would be in a large enough circle or include movable chairs in case the wind shifts smoke direction.

Smaller gardens, and gardens as we age, can include raised beds that are tall enough and sturdy enough to sit on. Thus you can easily sit on the edge while you garden in the bed, or simply sit and enjoy the garden.

A "raised bed" garden doesn't have to be a permanent structure. It could be some seating surrounded by tall pots to garden in. One assisted living residence I visit (doing horticulture therapy) has tall pots on casters that can be slid over to the seated, even wheelchair bound, gardener.

Seating in the garden allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and to just plain enjoy life. Be sure to add some seating to your garden — and then take the time to use it.

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