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The Garden Bench

Consider the garden bench, an (often overlooked) ornamental and versatile “ingredient of garden charm.”

Color, material, siting, and design, when used sensitively, can each enhance appreciation of a garden in a way previously unimagined.

Mirabel Osler‘s delightful little book, The Garden Bench (published some years ago in Simon & Schuster’s Library of Garden Detail series) literally fell out of the bookcase while I was dusting this morning — and that was an end to my spring cleaning spree!

So much nicer to sit in the sunny window nook and dream of gardens…


Photograph courtesy of John Evans:
Garden Bench
A place for quiet contemplation.
In a walled garden in the oldest almshouses in England
.

On a completely practical note, a bench can also offer much-needed temporary storage for garden tools and supplies.

For example, a storage box-bench combination on the patio, is a handy-dandy way to keep your BBQ tools close by, but out of sight between barbecues.

Or, if your place is too small to allow room for a garden shed, a storage bench can hide the garden hose and watering cans, keeping the garden area tidy (which can help to make the garden seem larger than it is, as we know!)…

For me, the garden bench storage option is about being lazy… er, economical with my time and energy!

See, I don’t want to set my gear down and misplace it while busy about my chores — but hiking back and forth to the shed or house for a forgotten item can be rather frustrating!

I’ve tucked a large wooden-slatted box into the edge of the woods at the far side of my property. It makes a shady seat for a mid-day break from pruning, mowing, or picking apples, while a waterproof tote inside the box holds my water jug and lunch bag, grafting wax and knife, etc. — whatever tools and supplies I’ll need for the day’s work.

Elsewhere, in the more visible parts of the garden, I do use more decorative benches of various sorts. And deeper in the woods, a bench may be a simple as a weathered granite boulder, left behind when the glaciers retreated from our region eons ago, or even a fallen log…

Canadian Gardening magazine coverCoincidentally, garden benches are featured in the current issue of Canadian Gardening magazine,too — a round-up of garden seats in styles from rustic to modern and minimalist — and one graceful carved concrete bench that’s aristocratic enough to grace the rose garden of a stately home.

Even a simple wooden bench, tucked into the curve of a garden path, can bring focus to a garden while it invites the visitor to pause and rest, meditate, enjoy…

After all, where but in a garden do form and function go together so very naturally?

4 comments… add one
  • domestika 2009/01/17, 8:05 pm

    Meredith, I think that depends on the garden, and how you plan to use the bench. I love the look of benches that wrap around a tree, for example, but you’d want to have quite a mature tree for the purpose – and a nice view in all directions. On the other hand, a nice simple bench placed under a tree at the head of a lawn or the end of a garden path, where you can settle in with a book in the shade, gives an anchor point, a destination for a garden stroll. Sometimes it can help to place a couple big cardboard boxes or lawnchairs in the place where you’re thinking about setting a bench, and just living with that for a couple of weeks to get a sense of how well it will work for you.

  • Meredith 2009/01/16, 1:31 am

    Lately, I am loving the look of wooden furnitures. So I am debating on what to get for my garden. I am confused of whether to buy a tree bench or just a simple redwood bench (http://www.oldgrowthagain.org/redwood_benches.html). It will be placed under a tree in the garden. What can you suggest?

  • domestika 2007/04/05, 12:37 pm

    Swings are wonderful in a garden – that smooth gentle movement! (Have you seen Fletcher & Myburgh’s garden swings?)

    I’m a big fan of the old-time classics (hammocks and Adirondack chairs) too, as I mentioned when Jack needed new garden furniture last summer, but there are so many other beautiful styles — maybe we need to go visiting from patio to patio, and give them all a good test drive!

    As for a storage bench… sturdy and waterproof can be done easily enough, but (as you’ll know from your bird-feeding experiences) squirrel-proof is the big challenge!

    You might line the bench box with 1/4-inch hardware cloth (stiff metal mesh)… but the squirrels would still smell the seeds and wreck your bench to try to get at it, don’t you think?

    I’d probably be inclined to put a metal locker-box inside the bench to hold the bird food, since wood and plastic and, well, anything but metal, won’t stop a greedy rodent!

  • Hummie 2007/04/05, 11:04 am

    Oh, I have three swings where I sit in my flower garden! I love the idea of using the bench to hide other things…great idea! I have been struggling with what to purchase for a storage area in my flower garden as I get tired of walking back to the shed for hand tools. I have not quite hit on the right thing to buy yet. I want it sturdy, water proof, and squirrel proof so I can put the bird food out there too.

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