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.

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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Elephant's Eye April 4, 2010, 4:36 pm

My little blue bench. It becomes almost an icon of our garden. It looks tiny because the trees have grown so well, but the two of us sit happily side by side, with our tea, and watch the birds and bugs at the pond.

Planted the trees in 2007

And how it looked before we attacked the so-called dwarf papyrus this week

PS I love this series of posts you are doing. Especially, because you pull it all together afterwards. Instead of leaving us with an indigestible list of links.

I appreciate your comment, Diana; I was wondering if maybe these workshops were getting boring. I’m so glad you shared the posts that include your bench. It’s neat to see the plants you grow, too, because they’re so different from what I’m familiar with (particularly the Salvia africana-lutea – wow).

Lona April 4, 2010, 6:21 pm

I think everyone should have a bench in the garden. I think it is a shame if we get too busy creating a garden that we do not take the time to then sit in it and enjoy it.

Thanks for reading, Lona, and for sharing your thoughts.

ESP April 5, 2010, 12:35 am

Just finished this Patch bench today, well almost… I still have a couple more layers of stain to administer!
So happy to see the fitting topic for this workshop!

A classic post, as always, ESP. And a great bench too!

Gail April 5, 2010, 8:06 pm

I didn’t realize how significant The Waiting Bench would be to me or the garden when I changed from an old uncomfortable one to it!…I do sit there and watch the sun set and the light play on the garden.

Your first photo is my favorite…I can imagine myself sitting there and soaking in the garden~listening to rustling grasses and the buzzing insects. gail

Here’s my post from March 2010

Ah, you beat us to the topic, Gail. I’m glad you shared the link to your post.

Melody April 6, 2010, 10:09 am

I need to get a bench. I have created a spot that I love to sit in, but I usually have a chair or sit on a stump. Here is *where* I like to sit, I need to work on the *what I sit on* part:

I wanted to leave a comment on your blog, Melody, but I couldn’t use either of your ID options. So, I’ll just say here that I too would like to sit and read in the cozy spot you created!

Frances April 7, 2010, 6:21 am

This is wonderful, Nan, a perfect excuse to go through those jump drives again looking for bench shots. I know there are several there, and a few benches out in the garden here that might be worthy of inclusion. Thanks for the inspiration!

Always happy to provide excuses, Frances!

Lois J de Vries April 11, 2010, 8:00 am

Hi Nan,
Garden seating is one of our most favorite things — to look at and sit on. My camera is on the fritz, or I would have run around snapping our multitude of benches. The most difficult decision of the day is always, “Where shall we sit?”

So here are some links: This one is on rustic benches

This blog was not so much about seating, but it shows off our latest bench addition, which was painted to match our front door.


Good to have you with us again this month, Lois. Thanks for contributing these links.

Frances April 12, 2010, 6:21 am

Hi Nan, Here is my post:

Benches-Garden Bloggers Design Workshop

You’re a peach, Frances – thanks for creating a post just for us!

healingmagichands April 12, 2010, 1:18 pm

I loved this tour de force through the world of benches. A year or so ago I put a new bench into the Stroll Garden as I was developing the second phase. I even wrote a post about it, amazingly enough. That post is here.

I also updated the information about that bench in today’s post.

The bench itself is beautiful, but seeing the setting you created for it is even more amazing. Thanks for the link!

Christine B. April 19, 2010, 12:58 pm

My first time participating in GBDW, but who can resist writing about benches? I lament the time not spent sitting on mine in my post. Thanks for a fun writing idea.

Christine in Alaska

We’re delighted to have you as a contributor this month, Christine. A fun post!

Mary Annq April 24, 2010, 1:07 pm

Nan and pals,
I LOVE garden benches. Been collecting pictures of my favorites for years so I pulled together a short post with a few photos.

Thanks, Mary Ann. Here’s a direct link to your post: Garden Benches I Wish I Owned

Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening April 25, 2010, 9:09 pm

I’m always looking for the right bench or seating area. I really like that table and chair of stone. Recently I found a good bench for the Secret Garden: and there is a bench in the Juneberry room: It’s not a great bench, but a great place for a bench.

I’m so glad you shared these links, Kathy. I think both benches are gorgeous!

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