To many people, no garden is complete without a garden bench. You can spend days, weeks and months planting out flowerbeds, tending your lawns, and setting it all off with shrubs and foliage, and you believe it looks perfect. Yet, if you have nowhere to sit and enjoy its beauty, and to admire all that your hard work has achieved, how can all this really satisfy you?
Why Have a Garden Bench?
Some gardeners pour scorn on the idea of garden benches, pointing out that they never have time to sit down anyway. However, a garden has to be about more than work. There is really little point in creating a lovely garden, if you can’t just sit now and again and enjoy the peace and beauty, listen to the birds singing and the bees humming, and smell the flowers.
Whether you want to sit down or not, a garden bench is actually the perfect accessory for any garden area, as it can set off the floral or foliage arrangements in any way you desire. There are so many styles and materials to choose from, that your garden bench can be anything you want it to be. Whether you would like a focal point, whether you want the bench to be unobtrusive and blend in with its surroundings, or whether you want something to set off, or contrast with, a shrubbery or foliage area, it can do all these things and more. In fact, for many people, garden benches are not for sitting on at all, but rather to provide the perfect finishing touch to their garden display.
However, the fact is that garden benches were originally designed as seating, and they can present a perfect way for you to relax in your outdoor space. Few things are more delightful than to take a short break outside with your mid-morning coffee on a summer’s day, or to relax for a few minutes when you are showing friends round your garden. Garden benches are always there, unlike deck chairs which you have to take a special decision to put out — this largely cancels out the pleasure of a casual sit-down.
Once you have decided to buy a garden bench, the biggest decision to make is the type of material it will be made from. There is a wide range of materials, with wood, stone and metal being the most common, and plastic as another possibility. Your choice will depend on the setting where it will be placed, and the way you want to use it, as well as your budget.
The Wooden Bench
Wood is especially popular for garden benches, largely because it is a natural product and always looks right in a garden setting. It can also create a rustic ambiance, especially in a wilder or more informal garden. A wooden garden bench always stays cool to the touch when the sun is hot, unlike metal or stone which can get burning hot.
The main drawback of some types of wooden garden bench is they can rot, and also attract insects and garden pests. A very popular type of wood for garden benches is cedar, which is the most insect repellent and rot-proof, because of the resins in the wood. Cedar garden benches are also very light, so are easy to move around. However, cedar is a soft wood, so will not be as durable as a hardwood bench.
The first choice for many people is a teak garden bench, as teak is the most weather-resistant of any wood. It will last a lifetime, and will continue to look good with very little upkeep. The main drawbacks of a teak garden bench are the high price — it is by far the most expensive — and the environmental implications. It’s important to ensure that your teak bench comes with a certificate stating that the wood comes from a sustainable forest, or in UK look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo.
Pine and poplar are also used for garden benches, but if you want a native wood that is really weather resistant, an oak garden bench is an excellent choice. Oak blends beautifully into your garden, and requires very little maintenance. It’s very heavy, so is not easy to move around, but will certainly not be blown over by gales either.
A wooden garden bench needs to be placed on paving stones or a firm gravel bed, to ensure that the feet keep dry, and to prevent rot. Wooden benches work well if placed at the end of a pathway. This makes a statement, and enables you to take the fullest advantage of the garden’s views.
The Stone Bench
A stone garden bench can also look very rustic and attractive, and is obviously one of the most durable types of bench. It may be constructed from stone slabs, or from carved or cast stone. The main drawback with a stone garden bench is of course that it is not particularly comfortable to sit on — it makes little concession to the human anatomy — and stone garden benches are often more for effect than to be sat on for any length of time.
Of the different types of stone, benches of marble or granite will look very attractive, but will be expensive. A concrete garden bench will be cheaper, as it has slightly less appeal, but it still has many advantages. It can consist of a combination of various materials to blend in with the landscaping, it will last a lifetime, and will require minimal care.
A stone garden bench looks particularly good on a rough patio, or against an informal background of trees and foliage. A crazy paving path also complements it well. However, a stone bench can enhance any setting, because of its natural look.
The Metal Bench
Among the most admired types of outdoor furniture is the metal garden bench, which often looks particularly impressive in a more formal and ornate setting. Metal benches can be more expensive than other types, but are much in demand for their aesthetic appeal and decorative appearance. A metal garden bench often looks particularly impressive when placed against a wall, especially a wall of mellowed brick, perhaps covered with roses or some other climbing plant.
Metal benches can be made of aluminum, which is less expensive, but may sacrifice some of the decorative appeal. Especially in demand is the antique-look wrought iron garden bench, which often features elaborate patterns and designs, with intricate motifs and graceful curves. Wrought iron is extremely durable, and can be painted in any color.
A popular alternative is the cast iron garden bench, which is even more resistant to corrosion than wrought iron. To make these, the metal is cast into the mold for the complete bench, while still in its molten state. Much of the garden furniture at the White House is made of cast iron, to blend in with the building’s unique architecture.
One drawback of a metal garden bench is that it can feel less comfortable than wood, and in addition can get so hot in the sun that it will burn you. A wooden garden bench with metal arms and back is a popular solution. Otherwise, the problem can easily be overcome with garden bench cushions. You can purchase garden bench cushions made of vinyl and filled with foam, or other cushions can be treated with silicone spray or iron-on vinyl to make them waterproof — this means you can leave them on the bench all the time, whatever the weather.
The Plastic Bench
If you are on a budget and find all these varieties too expensive, you can always consider a plastic garden bench. A plastic garden bench actually has many advantages. It is comfortable, virtually maintenance free, and totally weatherproof. Contrary to what you might expect, plastic benches can look good too, as they can be made to look exactly like a wooden bench. A further benefit is that they are made of recycled plastic, so they are environmentally friendly.
Garden Benches that Save Space
You may of course love the idea of a garden bench, but only have a small yard or garden, and feel you cannot afford the space. Of course, if you only have a small area, you no doubt have limited space for storage as well, so a garden storage bench will solve both these problems. A garden bench with storage can enable you to keep your outdoor area tidy — or as tidy as you want it to be — by providing a place for you to keep garden tools and all sorts of miscellaneous items which would otherwise just be lying around, and providing extra seating at the same time. These benches are often very comfortable, and made in very attractive designs.
An alternative form of storage is a garden potting bench, which helps you to organize your space, but doesn’t usually include seating. A typical garden potting bench has a work surface at about waist height, with shelves underneath — a more elaborate one may have drawers and cupboards as well. The most common use for a potting bench is for planting or sorting seeds or transplanting seedlings, as well as storing garden tools and other equipment. However, you may like to use it on the patio as a display cabinet, with pots containing some of your beautiful flowers.
Garden benches in fact are so diverse that they truly offer something for everyone. Whether you want to sit on it, look at it, or simply use it to enhance a particular landscape, there is bound to be a garden bench for you. If you have been thinking there is something missing in your garden, now you know how to make it complete.
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