I worked for a number of years at a public garden and it only had one bench in the whole garden. I told myself if I ever built a big garden I would make sure it was more inviting by adding plenty of seating. I think I accomplished that. I did a little seat count and I could have more than 50 people in the garden and they could all be sitting down somewhere. That’s not counting furniture for sale in the nursery which also gets used regularly.
The thing about a large garden is that you get a different perspective depending on how you view it. Sitting down gives you the opportunity to take it in slowly. Walking through it is nice but you can miss a lot. I notice that on our open days almost all the seating areas are used, some more than others but I do see people using all of them. I think if they see a chair they are inclined to take it for a test drive.
It is interesting to see what people like and find comfortable. Little kids seem drawn to the tiny benches or the ones with arms so they can climb on them. Many people like the benches that are tucked away in little corners. A lot of people use the chairs next to the fence to view the birds. I prefer to sit in the chairs out in the field for bird viewing. I also enjoy the chairs along our wrap-around porch because you can see a lot of the garden from there.
The patio is set up for dining so that’s a natural use of the space. I find myself using the same places to sit in the garden. I like the old wooden chairs out on the lawn. They are situated so they take advantage of the breeze that comes through that area regularly. With all the seating available Gary prefers sitting on the porch step. It’s referred to as Gary’s perch. I often use the chair next to the perch.
Chairs or benches can also be used as focal points in the garden. We have a small yellow bench that sits against a large boxwood hedge. The contrast in color from across the lawn makes the little bench really stand out. We have a concrete bench on the stone circle at the entry to the topiary garden. It anchors that spot and makes it feel more complete. Inside the topiary garden we have a log bench supported by piles of rock. It isn’t very practical but looks whimsical along with the topiaries. In another part of the garden is a blue bench tucked away.
In the woods out back, I have been developing a native woodland walk. It is very natural but I did add a bench about half way around the loop. It is a wire cage filled with rock and just old wood on top. It is by a clearing fill with Trilliums so it is a place I like to linger.
Not every bench or chair needs to be practical. Practicality is highly over rated. We use some old benches under the eves of the barn to display other garden art and old tools. In the nursery we use old metal chairs and an old lounge chair to display plants. Other chairs in the nursery are practical. It gives the customer a place to sit and wait while their friends continue to shop.
Just seeing a bench or chair is comforting. Even if you don’t use it, it looks like you could relax there. With all the chairs in the garden I rarely use most of them. It’s just nice to know I could if I wanted to. So can you.