Theory of Garden Seating

We read and hear all the time about how important it is to have a place to sit in the garden.

So we dutifully go out and get some outdoor chairs and benches for the garden.

We read further that the seating should be placed where someone is likely to want to sit and rest a bit, preferably in the shade and where there is a good view of the garden.

So we scurry about the garden going from corner to corner, from one end to the other, looking around at each place where there might be room for a bench or a few chairs, trying to decide “is this a good place to sit?”

Finally, we choose places that seem like good rest spots, set up our benches and chairs, and sit in them for a minute to make sure they really do offer good views of the garden.

Then we get up and proceed about the business of weeding, pruning, watering, etc., never to return and actually sit in those places again.

May I have a show of hands if this seems to remind you of anyone you know? Is this what you do in your garden?

My personal theory, based on years of observing my own behavior, is that most gardeners spend very little time actually sitting in their own gardens.

Or, if they do sit in their gardens, it is far from a relaxing experience. After all, if they are sitting where they have a good view of the garden, they are also sitting where they will notice all the weeding, pruning, and watering that needs to be done.

So after a jittery few minutes of sitting and looking at the garden, the urge becomes too overwhelming, and the gardener has to get up and pull that weed, prune back that errant branch or get some water for that plant that looks like it will surely die in the next five minutes if it doesn’t get some water!

Am I right? How much time do you spend sitting in your garden?

(Do you know when a gardener can relax in a garden?
When it isn’t their garden, of course. )


EAL said…
Well I must say my personal experience completely refutes this theory. I have plenty of seating and I use it on a daily basis in warm weather. Sometimes I sit on the steps too.

I can see what you mean though. A cunningly placed bench next to a shrub in a backyard garden most likely doesn't get used much.

I have a garden that really is built around seating.
Anne said…
Y'know, that's really a good observation... it applies to me... i think i'm going to sit quietly and read, or drink my coffee and observe, but off I go.

But when there's company, we do use the sitting areas.
Rick said…
Love that color on the bench! Someday I hope to have secret garden, and will get to sit in it all morning and read the paper and watch butterflies!
I sit in my swing to read and relax. It faces the patio and not the flower gardens, so I don't notice all the weeds and things that need to be done when I sit there. I can also be very good at ignoring things that need to be done.
Pam/Digging said…
I'll sit, but it's usually only to contemplate what I might change in the garden. Sit. Muse. Consider. Tilt my head. Consider. Get up. Drive to the nursery.
Louise said…
Now that you mention it, I rarely sit in my garden. If I do I usually just stare at my garden and thinking what I can improve on it.
Gail said…
I would love to sit in my garden...the mosquitoes are horrible here from spring until...well, they are still active as of today! So any sitting I do other then to contemplate a on the screened porch! is called cocktail hour...a party is the perfect opportunity to see where seating really makes sense....where do people want to congregate...where do you take the boots off that have a big wad of dog poop on them...and where do you sit for a morning cup of coffee...well placed seating is the same as taking time to smell the roses....a garden that has seating that makes sense is a well designed garden!
Annie in Austin said…
Another post to make us think, eh, Carol?

Philo and I sit at the patio table & chairs more than on the benches, but it's handy to have seats scattered around so I can sit to write something down, or sit and try to look invisible so a bird will come near my camera, or sit for a couple of minutes while watering during a long hot dry summer. A bench is a good place for a chat when there's a visitor.

But even when it's too hot or buggy to sit on them, seats and benches add structure and proportion, so it still looks like a garden made for human beings when seen through the windows from the air-conditioned house.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that benches are more likely to be used when they have something behind the back to give a sense of security - a building, a wall, a hedge or fence.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
Connie said…
How true it is....I put a bench in my garden last year and I think I have sat on it only once, and that was with my granddaughter when she came for a visit.
Karen said…
Yep, guilty. I always see something that needs doing! My mom has been wanting a bench for years but my dad won't get her one because he knows she'll never once sit in it, and he's right! I think it's nice to have seating if you entertain in your garden (we never seem to, but our noisy neighbors do!), though.
Leslie said…
I sit in my garden eat or read mostly. And I sit to take a break... but you're so right...when I'm doing that I'm planning my next move and pretty soon I'm up and going again.
beckie said…
An observant person you are Carol! mostly my seating gets used when I have company. But I love to go to others' garden and find a seat to see their beautiful blooms and plants. And used or not a bench or chair does seem to make he garden more inviting-a destintion of sorts.
Lori said…
I, too, suspect that gardeners in their own gardeners have to work harder to overcome the urge to get up and putter. I can overcome this urge by sitting in a comfy rocking chair on the back deck to observe the garden when I haven't had my coffee yet. I know from experience that trying to do ANYTHING before I've had at least one cup of coffee will lead to disaster, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about all the things that need doing!

I also theorize that extra-comfy seating would keep me from leaping up and puttering, like, say, a hammock under a sturdy vine-covered pergola, but so far insufficient funds have not allowed me to explore this theory, which needs rigorous, extended, scientific testing. ;)
Roses and stuff said…
You're absolutely right...every time I sit down, I notice some weeds and then I'm on my two feet again.
My favourite place to sit, is actually on the stairs.
ZoĆ« said…
My favourite place to sit is on a bench underneath the windows of my kitchen in the shade of a Lilac tree.

I have other benches in the garden too, one in a Bower and the other under a purple Cherry, and both get used too; my husband especially favours the one under the cherry, my 5 cats argue over the one in the Bower.

I am not so sure whether its about the right siting of a bench, as much as whether you are the kind of person that just likes to sit and rest a while and let the beauty around wash over. I am definitely a sitter and daydreamer type, and that needs a bench!
Carol as usual you have pretty much hit the nail on the head with this post. I have seats around the garden and I will do a post about them soon.

I have a little secret about how to be able to sit on one of those lovely benches...take your journal with you. I can actually sit there if I have my journal. That way I can make lists which makes me sit longer before I tackle the list.
My hand it up, Carol! I do use my one and only seat (it is a small garden) to stand on to prune the roses or as a convenient shelve. I thought thats what they were for!

Different climate, different advice - you are advised in the UK to put the seat in the sun. Perhaps one for morning sun and one for evening sun.

Best wishes Sylvia (England)
Les, Zone 8a said…
As for me and my small yard, there is no room in the garden for seating, unless you count sitting on ones haunches pulling weeds. We sit on the front porch, the back deck or on the steps - hopefully with cool beverage in hand at the end of a well-spent day.
Lancashire rose said…
When weather permits- Breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner- ah, the luxury of retirement. However, I always lament how quickly the time for sitting passes and it is time to get back to the dirt.
Sue said…
Our yard is too small to have seating in the flower beds, and too small to have many choices where to put seating. We have a bench and two chairs in the front which had lots of use this summer, as we have our grandson on Saturdays. He just turned 10 months old this month, and we really enjoyed our time together walking around looking at birds, butterflies, and Grandma's flowers, and then sitting on the bench just looking around. Our dog, Heidi, would come up and interact with us, too. I did make some mental notes of what I want to do in the garden when I get a chance.

I use the bench my husband made for me in the veggie garden to put pots on and under, but also will sit there to relax, pray, or hand water the garden.

I enjoyed this post and the replies.
Kathy said…
We have seating on the porch, and I go out there to eat lunch or breakfast. I don't see much of the garden there, but those meals are usually just brief breaks before going back to work, anyway. I got a hammock last year for my birthday, and several people in the family made extensive use of it--but I didn't.
Anonymous said…
Good question! When I had a garden...when I HAVE a garden, large enough to sit in, it's true -- it seems the work or improvements were never done and seldom do you take the time to sit and enjoy the view. On my former property, I had a swing close to a small pond, under a willow, and I used to spend short bursts of time there. But you're quite right -- the longer you sat, the more you noticed that needed to be done. I'd never thought of it before. Perhaps one day, we'll all have our gardens exactly as we want them and there will be no pressing chores to keep us from our benches. Yah, riiight! (LOVE your purple bench!)
Phillip said…
You are right. I have a lot of benches in my garden but I'm rarely sitting in them. There is always too much work to do.
Nicole said…
In our warm clime garden furniture gets used a lot! How timely, as I am this week choosing garden benches!
Ilona said…
Maybe it depends on the size of the garden and the age of the gardener!

My work dictates where I place my seating, and aside from that , sunny spots. I like to sit with a cold lemonade and view the work I've just done.... so I get lots of use from my garden seating.
MA said…
HHmmm, your next post should be "Embrace Garden Benches/Seating".

I have to say, I think placing seating in the garden is critical. I can't STAND IT when people put benches in places where they would never sit, i.e., in the hot sun.

One of my favorite seats is under a tree, in the middle of a garden, so you can watch all the birds and butterflies and bees being, all up close and personal. When done right, its magic!
Rusty in Miami said…
I have several areas in my garden where I sit; early in the morning with my trusted cup of coffee is my favorite time. You are right; most of that time is spend looking for things that need to be done.
Kim said…
You hit the nail on the head when it comes to my garden. When it's nice enough to sit in the garden, the mosquitoes are fierce. So we sit on the screened porch instead. But I DO have garden seating, just in case. I added it this year, and it was used once. Maybe next year before the mosquitoes become a problem . . . .
patientgardener said…
I agree wholeheartedly - you feel oblighed to have seating in order to have good design but like you I rarely sit in the garden. The seat I do sit in is the one by the back door where I take my garden shoes off and consider my garden and what I have done
The garden swing was here when I bought the property, so I never had to figure out where to put seating. I find it hard to sit out there & look at the garden, I'm always popping up to pull a weed or deadhead something. I used to sit in it a lot when the kids were babies & toddlers. When I get a quiet moment in the middle of summer I do actually sit on the swing & read a book for a bit. Once in a great while, my husband & I will enjoy sitting & swinging together for an hour, but that is a rare thing. Now we're more likely to sit on the patio near the table where we can eat & drink.
I spend zero time sitting in my garden...I'm one of those jittery types you mention who can't look at the garden without seeing a big TODO list.

BUT...I have discovered the pond has just the opposite effect. I can stare at the goldfish for hours. We have moved seats next to the pond and can actually sit there and read a book glancing up from time to time at the fish. As long as I don't extend my gaze to the larger garden, I have at last found a place of peace.
Frances said…
Hi Carol, what a beautiful color, way to strike out and be bold! ;-> I do sit on the bench in the knot garden but only briefly. Now the chairs in the shade where I can sit with the hose and water, plenty of time there. Watering and sitting, the best combo.
Anonymous said…
Guilty! I have several sitting areas in my garden and they all have perfect views of the work that needs to be done. lol
Jan said…
You are so right about never sitting in the garden. I rarely do that anymore. But, now that you have brought it to my attention, I am going to take a cup of tea outside right now and enjoy my garden.

Always Growing
garden girl said…
I sit. alot. I'm a lazy gardener.

I can most definitely relate though. It's just that I spend much more time sitting and enjoying.
Layanee said…
Much truth to this post....sitting on the bench by the fish pond resulted in a new garden there on the back side. Sitting on the porch swing means cleaning up the porch and sitting by the pool, well, I didn't have time to do that this year! Must sit more!
Martha said…
Hi -
We actually use the hammocks as much as the seating areas with tables.

From early spring until the heat of the summer brings too many bugs, we are in them every evening at the end of the gardening day.

And, always with wine. Often with friends and snacks.
I sit in the garden on a little stool from which I weed. Someday, when I morph into super gardener and everything is done, I will get a hammock and rest.
Blackswamp_Girl said…
I don't sit well anyway, much less in the garden where there's always something to do! But when I do sit, it's never in one of the seats... no, it's on the grass. And I'm probably stretched out, laying down, instead of actually just sitting--unless I'm weeding! :)