Furnishing a garden is an invitation to linger – it says that the garden is a place to relax and enjoy the surroundings – and not just somewhere requiring never-ending physical effort. That said, no matter how comfortable your outdoor seating, a devoted gardener will find it hard to stay seated for long and I am often astonished to find that my intention to sit back and do nothing has segued into dealing with a patch of weeds. I’m not aware of any piece of furniture that can detain a compulsive gardener for any length of time.
Whether you are a compulsive gardener or a happily indolent observer of the labour of others, there are ways to ensure that any time spent sitting in the garden is enjoyable.
• Try it before you buy it – no matter how fabulous a piece of furniture looks, if it isn’t comfortable you won’t spend much time sitting on it
• It needs to be weather proof – if it has to be hauled out of the shed each time you want to use it you won’t get much use out of it
• If cushions or padded seat covers are involved they should be stored somewhere convenient and close to hand
• Choose furniture that will fit into your sunniest and most sheltered corner – that way you will be tempted outdoors earlier and for longer
• Other locations that demand a bench or seat are: a great view, a scented border, a stream, a woodland glade and somewhere in the vegetable garden to admire your handiwork and rest your weary bones
As with most things in life, you generally get the quality that you are prepared to pay for, but if you are a whizz on Ebay there are bargains to be had. Just bear in mind that garden furniture is on the bulky side so delivery may add a fair chunk to the cost – but if you are a whizz on Ebay you will know that already. Another good source is local auctions where you can often pick up good quality tables, chairs and benches for a fraction of their original cost. If, like me, you prefer furniture that looks nicely weathered, this is a good place to look. Keep an eye on Freecycle too, people moving house can be desperate to find a home for furniture that won’t fit in their new garden.
In the past I have chosen a traditional wooden steamer chairs as my preferred furniture for relaxing, but having failed to put them undercover for the winter and having left the cushions out in the rain too often, I’ve found that they have had a somewhat limited life. Add to that a small grandson who could get fingers trapped in the various mechanisms and I currently looking for another solution.
There are some great new materials on the market, especially the woven ones that are indistinguishable from rattan and wicker, yet entirely weatherproof. I think that is the route I will take – it’s just a matter of finding the style I like at a price that I can afford. If and when I make my choice I will certainly blog about it.Finally, learn from my previous mistakes and ensure your wooden furniture has a long life. Once autumn has reached its wet and blustery phase, I do now fold up the garden chairs and tables and store them undercover for the winter. Then, on the first day when it’s warm enough to eat lunch outdoors I bring out a small table and two chairs so that we make good use of every fine day. Once the weather is consistently good, out comes the large table and six chairs for the duration of the summer. If you are short of storage space, weatherproof covers are available but they really do look unsightly, so unless you can move the furniture out of sight they should be avoided if at all possible. Invest in some weatherproof rattan or wicker and you won’t have this problem – and all you will need to do is put the cushions away and then hose the furniture down in the spring.