Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Garden Benches

– Posted in: Garden Design

Adirondack bench in courtyard Oct 09

I always feel a little sad when I hear a gardener say: “I don’t bother with benches in my garden. I have so much to do, I don’t have time to sit down.” Granted, I understand the sentiment, especially at this time of year. There’s pruning and planting and transplanting and dividing and weeding…and, and, and…everywhere you look. Even if you do end up near a bench by chance, you’re more likely to notice that it needs painting than to rest on it. But once the spring rush has slowed down, it’s a treat to have a place to plunk yourself down for at least a few minutes: to watch the bugs and birds, listen to the rustling grasses, and admire the results of all of your hard work.

Even if you’re not interested in sitting still to enjoy your garden, how about thinking about the comfort of your visitors? It can be hard to park kids on an ordinary bench, but scale one down to their size and it’s practically irresistible.

Mini picnic table in courtyard early July 05

A comfortable sitting area can be a good place for a bored spouse or significant other to hang out for a bit while you chatter with a fellow plant geek. And if you ever open your garden for tours, you can be sure that the benches will be much appreciated by weary walkers.

Beyond their practical benefits, benches provide interesting design opportunities. You could, for instance, use a decorative seat as a focal point.

White bench at Rocky Dale Nursery

Imagine this scene without the white bench. Yes, there are some interesting foliage textures, but without the bench catching my eye, I doubt I’d have bothered to do more than pause for a few moments, let alone grab my camera.

Rustic bench at Cady's Falls Nursery

A bench can reinforce the mood of the plantings around it, as this lichened old bench does in this shady spot.

Or, if color’s what you’re after, think of all the fun you could have with a couple of benches and a few cans of paint.

A bench can be a great excuse for creating a new garden area, too. For several years, I was stumped as to what to do with the corner of my front garden, which is pretty much dominated by the view of the road and the house across the way.

Front garden diagonal path from porch

Creating a mini-room from some excess divisions of ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum) made a perfect spot for a sitting area.

Diagonal path Aug 15 07

In just two years, they filled in to make a dense, noise-blocking screen. Now I have a reason to walk out there, turn around, and focus my attention back on my garden.

Diagonal path Oct 22 07

And by fall, it’s a cozy hiding place indeed.

Chair outside courtyard arbor early July 05

Benches also provide fun opportunities for container plantings, giving you a chance to see the details of even tiny plants up close.

Table and bench as Horsford Nursery

And then, some benches can be just plain fun. Forget about actually using them to sit on, and place them as ornaments instead.

Mini rocking chair in courtyard late August 05

Or, use extra-large or extra-small seats with plants that are opposite in scale to create a sense of whimsy.

Now it’s your turn to show and tell us your thoughts about garden benches: those in your own garden, or those you’ve seen and admired in the gardens of others. Most gardeners have some great stories to tell about how they acquired their favorite bench – as a flea-market find, perhaps, or as a gift from a loved one – so if your neat seat has a tale to tell, we’d love to hear it. Suggestions of your favorite plants to put around benches are most welcome too.

If you’d like to share your ideas for this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, write a post on anything related to garden benches on your own blog and give us the link below, or simply leave a comment if you don’t want to do a separate post. If you’ve written about the topic in the past, those links are equally welcome; it’s not necessary to create a new post to participate.

I’ll gather all of the links into one summary post for easy reference. It’ll go up on April 28th, so please try to get your links in by the 26th.

If you’re interested in checking out previous Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshops, you can find them here.

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Nancy J. Ondra

Nancy J. Ondra

Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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