It’s curious how many private gardens I have visited that have lovely plants and beautiful flowers—but nowhere to sit.

It’s as if we’re so busy “doing” in the garden that we can’t enjoy “being” in the garden.

dixon-house-and-gardens00805112007.jpg SEATING AT THE DIXON HOUSE AND GARDENS, MEMPHIS

I caught myself in this very trap a couple of years ago. I would spend hours and hours on the weekend planting, weeding, digging and then head indoors to sit down. But the realization that I wasn’t enjoying the beauty that I created coupled with my growing need to pace myself and rest from time to time during my work, made me incorporate more seating areas into the garden.

bumblebee-garden-seating.jpg GARDEN BENCH AT BUMBLEBEE

This year, I’m improving on the seating in the front of the house where we have a sweeping view of the hay field and will, I hope, be able to watch the aerial acrobatics of the purple martins. As I looked for ideas for the new seating area, I realized that I seem to have spent quite a lot of time taking pictures of garden seating in my travels. So I share them with you here along with ideas on some features of garden seating that I think make them successful.

Seating should be planned and incorporated into the garden. It’s just fine and dandy to drag out some lawn chairs when extra seating is needed. But if you need to do that whenever the mood strikes you to park your bottom and enjoy the view, it’s quite likely that you won’t sit down at all.

desert-botanical-garden-053.jpg TEA GARDEN AT THE DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN, PHOENIX

Create places away from the house as well as close to the house. A carefully chosen seating location can provide a focal point that draws your eye and invites you to explore further.

dixon-house-and-gardens03205112007.jpg SEATING AT THE DIXON HOUSE AND GARDENS, MEMPHIS

Seating should be sturdy and not tippy. It’s no fun to have to perch yourself on a tiny stool or spindly chair. Providing a base of pavers under the legs of your seating will give needed stability and also protect wood from the moist ground.

park-bench.jpg PARK BENCH

Seating should be weather proofed and easily cleaned. Hard surfaces such as concrete or wood are easily hosed down or even power washed in the spring or when needed. I also like the new all-weather wicker made from plastic-wrapped wire that is available from Restoration Hardware. Hardly anyone knows it’s not traditional wooden wicker. The cushions are from the Sunbrella fabric, so if I forget to bring them in during a rainstorm, there’s no harm done.

covered-bench.jpg COVERED BENCH

Whatever you choose should be appropriate to the garden setting. A Zen garden will call for a more streamlined design, while a rustic, bent wood bench would be more at home in a quirky garden or a more free-flowering English cottage garden.

sara-on-adirondack-chair.jpg ADIRONDACK CHAIRS AT BUMBLEBEE

Don’t feel like everything has to match. Different types of seating grouped together can be charming when chosen with a unity of theme in mind. We have different styles of Adirondack chairs grouped together. I have seen wonderfully charming groupings of antique wooden chairs with only the unifying theme of age to make the grouping successful.

dixon-house-and-gardens00405112007.jpg FORMAL SEATING AT THE DIXON HOUSE AND GARDENS, MEMPHIS

Include little tables or other features to hold a drink or small plate of food. Chinese stools, cut wooden logs or other re-purposed or found objects will be appreciated when you’re nursing a cold glass of tea and trying to read a book at the same time.

rose-garden-trellis.jpg COVERED WALK AT THE CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN

So take a seat and make time to enjoy all the work you do.

Resources to Try

Arthur Lauer – Previously known as Wood Classics. Benches, chairs, dining tables and outdoor accessories. An extensive line of quality teak products.

Walpole Woodworkers – In addition to a wide variety of garden seating, Walpole Woodworkers sells all types of garden accessories and fences. This is where I bought my white picket garden fence.

Restoration Hardware –  High quality outdoor seating, including all-weather wicker and iron. If you can wait until the end of summer, these products go on sale for about 20% off the listed price.

Country Casual –  Another excellent resource for teak outdoor furniture.

Summer Classics – All-weather wicker, cast aluminum and wood furniture.

And closer to home, don’t forget to look here:

Amish builders – Often very basic designs, but made with quality materials. And there are no shipping charges!

Garden centers – You may find some bargains, although you’ll likely find what everyone else has.

Antiques stores and thrift stores – No telling what you’ll find. Often, you can re-purpose old wood or iron furniture, particularly if it’ll be in a covered location.

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17 Comments

  • jodi says:

    I love the benches and other seating options, especially those that are weathered-looking–they look like they grew right there. It always surprises me when there’s no place to sit in a garden, too!

  • Yes, a good garden has more than one place to sit down and enjoy the surroundings. Great post.

  • Curtis says:

    Great post. A good excuse for me to buy another bench, to have a place to relax and take in all the hard work.

  • A garden isn’t complete without lots of places to said and admire your work. I love the covered seat.

  • Donna says:

    We live on the Pacific Coast of Northern BC and although we have a lot of rain and right now major, major snow, we have our photos of the garden in spring and summer that keep us sane through the winter. We have many places to sit amongst the garden growth and love it. Places where we take photos of our 8 grandchildren year after year. I’ve just discovered your blog and will add it to my reading. I do not have a blog but enjoy reading the many that have my interests. Thank you, Donna

  • cathie says:

    i love the benches and seating you’ve found. i love the idea of garden rooms too. fun post, great photos

  • Kate says:

    My husband is the gardener but I’ve always enjoyed adding flowers to his vegetable garden. He doesn’t believe in growing things we can’t eat! Which, to me, is ridiculous.
    Loved your post today, especially with this awful wind we’re having. How’s things on the other side of the bay?

  • kacey says:

    Just found your blog! Now I want it to turn warm and I want a bench out in my backyard…

    Loved your African violet post. My grandmother had them too. They hold a special place in my heart.

  • Jodi – I love the charm that a patina of age gives a bench too. I think a bit of age also helps the bench to blend in with the surroundings.

    Hi Carol and Curtis – Thanks for the note. It’s amazing how many garden photos I’ve collected. Besides a lot of bench photos, I seem to have a lot of weed photos. I wonder what that’s about?

    Crafty Gardener – Yes, admire the work. I also have a tendency to shake my head and criticize it. Need to work on that.

    Donna – Thanks for visiting and dropping a note. You bring up a good point–photos of people in a garden. There was some back-and-forth about that among the garden bloggers a while back. We need more people in the garden photos.

    Kate – Garden rooms, yes! I want a courtyard. Sadly, it seems to have no place out here where I live.

    Hi Kacey – Glad you found me. It seems that everyone’s grandmother had African violets!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Kylee says:

    Wonderful post, Robin! I recognize that bench and arbor from the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I need to make another trip there this summer!

    Hi Kylee,

    I spent quite a lot of time on this bench! I was exhausted and really had to restrain myself from stretching out and taking a nap!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Kim says:

    Robin, I hadn’t seen the new look before–I LOVE it!

    About this whole seating thing… when you put in more seating, did you find yourself actually using it more? I have a bench in the backyard, but whenever I sit down to rest, invariably something beckons me off of my hinder to get a closer look, and I end up putting even more… 🙂

    Hi Kim,

    Actually, I’ve been better about sitting down than I used to be. The little dogs need some attention, so I sit then. I also just need to catch my breath from time to time and drink some iced green tea. Still, you’re right. I could do with more sitting…and less self criticizing too.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Doug Seaburn says:

    When I am in a public park I am as interested in the benches, gazebos, ornaments, ect. as I am interested in the plants & flowers! I believe park & garden furniture are an overlooked aspect of such places! An article (post) on the design & history of clay (earthenware) pots & planters might be of equal interest!

    Hi Doug,

    Actually, I have been thinking quite a lot about clay pots. And I’m with you about the hardscaping. It’s what sets a good garden apart from a great one.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Nan says:

    I’ve just found your blog, and am so enjoying reading it. I like this entry on seating, and also believe it to be very important in the garden. I fear I may be more of a sitter than a weeder :<) , and I love watching my flowers grow from a comfortable bench or chair. I’ve found I can’t put anything under a tree or on a bird’s flight path because I end up having to clean it before sitting. :<)

  • […] to give you? It’s interesting that so many people are choosing hardscaping. And although I made my case for nice garden seating, as of this writing no one has chosen […]

  • Suzanne Kortus says:

    If someone hasn’t already told you…the name of the plant is Love in a mist…love your blog!!

  • ALmar Nota says:

    I like your blod , nice writeup

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