State-by-State Gardening

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Outdoor Benches
by State-by-State Gardening    

Placing a bench in the garden is not a simple matter of carrying it from the delivery truck to the patio. To really incorporate it into the overall garden landscape, there are a few basic considerations.

First, you should determine whether or not you really intend to sit on the bench. Are you showcasing it for garden tours, or do you want the bench to serve as your own private retreat? Do you see it as place to exhibit containers, or a spot to write a letter to a friend? Answering these questions will help you determine appropriate size, design and materials.

Secondly, if you do plant to sit on it, you need to examine the light conditions during the times of day you intend to use it. For instance, when you sit down after lunch to read a couple chapters, you don’t want light glaring off the pages. You also don’t want to sit on a cast-iron bench that’s been baking in the midday sun. Ouch!

Lastly, you must consider its prominence in the landscape. Wherever you place the bench, it will more than likely serve as a focal point. You should look at it as seating for a photograph. Instead of surrounding it with a mass planting of ferns, for instance, choose an assortment of plants that provide interesting contrasts in texture and color.


Simple but Sophisticated

This gardener understands an unspoken rule in working with Japanese maples: never block their view! The gentle curves of the ironwork provide a worthy but modest accent. Through the back are the red leaves of a young Japanese maple tree; on the right of the bench is a dwarf laceleaf Japanese maple. False cypress or any shrub with a weeping form would be a nice alternative here.


A Gothic Nature 

With delphinium poking through the seat of this weathered, ornately carved bench, and alyssum, oleander and roses surrounding the area, it looks as if nature itself has reclaimed the corner of this garden. This scene proves that garden “furniture” does not always have to provide a place to sit. Kids’ imaginations will uncover ghost stories galore when they see this bench withering away in the backyard. When choosing plants for a similar scene, select ones with aggressive-looking habits. Make it look like nature is in control!


A Colorful Cove 

This retreat is bursting with texture and color. The limbs of a mature Japanese maple hang overhead, while the pale green foliage of wood ferns dance in the wind. This heavy, substantial bench sits at the end of a walkway, inviting you to take a five-minute break from the heat of summer. When the family comes home for the reunion, this will be the perfect place to take pictures of the grandchildren. Adding bright annuals to this setting might be a design mistake.


French Courtyard

Flanked by faux windows and resting on a brick patio, this purple iron bench is reminiscent of the colorful yet quaint courtyards you stumble upon on trips through France. Sitting here, you and a friend will be wrapped in the beauty of begonias, impatiens and English ivy. An afternoon of conversation will while away as you reminisce about overseas destinations. Don’t overplant or over-color this area. The purple accents and old bricks are just enough to give this spot an appeal of authenticity.



Photos by Patricia K. Ammon. This article appeared in a previous issue of State-by-State Gardening publication.        



Posted: 06/08/11   RSS | Print


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