Seating encourages enjoyment of Southwest gardens
by Jacqueline A. Soule
Don't overlook the importance of seating in any garden. If you entertain outdoors, ample and varied garden seating adds to a party's success. Also, seating provides rest - a vital part of garden work. You need to stop every so often and review your progress. But what you might not have considered just yet is how important seating becomes as we age. When endurance lessens, a place to rest and gather energy for the next garden task becomes important.
The variety of outdoor seating is all too often limited to a single option - chairs around a patio table. The chairs focus inward around the table, relegating views of the garden to secondary, almost accidental. For outside dining, table and chairs are indeed best on a flat surface like a patio. For full garden enjoyment, additional seating is a must.
Garden seating can take may forms. Concrete benches are simple, weatherproof, and hard on the backside. Wood is nice, but can be a maintenance issue. Metal chairs can get uncomfortably toasty in the summer. Plastic garden chairs are functional, but can decay under our Western sun and then break unexpectedly. Ultimately, there are no ideal solutions, so select what most appeals to you.
Rick Parish, owner of highly rated Decks Appeal in Dallas, is often hired to add seating areas to gardens. With nearly 25 years of experience, he has found seating solutions to the most difficult yards. Decks, arbors and gazebos are useful ways to add both seating and value to your landscape. When clients say they wish to age in place, he makes sure his constructions are wheelchair friendly.
Landscape designer Chris Lowry of highly rated Jasperose Landscaping in Scottsdale, Ariz., notes that adding seating can be difficult in today's smaller yards. He recommends using the side yard where there's often ample space for a charming reading bench. A flagstone path to the area is sensible as a design element, because it will draw the eye and imagination. A path will also help make the space readily accessible even if mobility wanes.
Troy Shimp, senior designer at highly rated Lifescape Associates Inc. in Denver, suggests that along with ample seating, one should consider installing hardscape surfaces that will not crack, shift or flake with time and create an uneven surface that might be a hazard. He feels that concrete pavers are good options as they don't crack like concrete. He points out that while concrete benches are hard, they have minimal maintenance. You can always add cushions, and change them as color trends change.
Seating in the garden allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labor and enjoy life. Be sure to add some seating to your garden - and then take the time to use it, and sit and smell the roses.
Jacqueline A. Soule has been gardening in the Southwest since an early age, and writing about gardening for almost three decades, with weekly and monthly columns in a number of Southwestern publications. She has degrees in Plant Sciences, Ecology & Environmental Biology and Botany, obtaining her Ph.D. from the University of Texas. She currently resides and gardens in Tucson, Ariz.