Don’t Forget Furniture When it Comes to Garden Design

It’s RHS Chelsea this week, and anyone who’s visited the stunning event will know that alongside the planting and show gardens, it’s also the chance to drool over the vast array of stunning furniture. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to gardening I’m normally so into the plants, I actually forget about seats, tables and benches. It’s a mistake on my part; after all, isn’t a garden an extension to the home, a place to sit and relax, somewhere to entertain guests and actually enjoy some outdoor living?

In this garden from RHS Hampton Court, two benches create the perfect retreat.

I’ve been thinking a lot on the subject of late. My last garden was miniscule and given over entirely to plants with a thin, curved path dissecting the space. Could I actually just be in the garden? Not really. There was a bench overcome by ferns and a prickly rose, and a cheap pair of IKEA chairs that rocked when they were sat on. It really wasn’t inducive to life outside. So, my garden was green, but many others are the complete opposite. A number of my friends’ gardens have minimal planting but they have taken a moment to include furniture. BUT, do you actually want to be outside by the brown lawn, wilting shrubs and ornamental flowers that were never deadheaded? It seems to be time to bring both planting and furniture together for us regular, non-Chelsea showgarden, folks.

© Geoff Wakeling 2012

This wooden plinth offers some formality to the cottage-esque planting.

I’m attempting to design the new garden with some functionality in mind. The Mediterranean retreat will have a proper seating area that faces a log burner. It’s right outside the kitchen, so along with the herbs, I want a space where it’s easy to dine alfresco-style. Meanwhile, the cutting garden is to have a garden bench so that you can actually sit amongst the flowers and enjoy them. It’ll be just visible from the connecting path in the hopes that it’ll draw people through the garden. I’m also using a lot of pots in various places around the garden; partly to create some staggered height, but also to house plants that I’m already ear-marking for another move in the future.

There’s also the fact that the choice of furniture can actually have a huge effect on a garden’s ambiance and feel. Terracotta pots and tiled tables give a nod to the Mediterranean. A concrete plinth or chunk of wood cut to precision can give a contemporary edge, whilst hardwood chairs and tree-surrounds like those at Britannic Garden Furniture create that quintessential English garden atmosphere. And, lest us not forget the choice of wicker for creating a natural and beautiful cottage feel.

I don’t think I’m ever going to naturally rush to furniture instead of plants, but it is important to remember that carefully selected pieces work with planting and hard landscaping to create an overall design. So, when you’re next pottering around your patch, take note of whether you might actually need a bench for guests – or, shock horror, even yourself, to take a moment and enjoy the oasis you’ve created.

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Hi,

I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.