How to Plan Your Garden Design Around Your Seating
Turn your garden design on its head by starting with the seating areas and fitting the planting in around it
When thinking about how you plan to use your garden, you might find you want more than one seating area, even in a small plot, to allow you to enjoy it in the morning, afternoon and evening as the sun moves around the space.
Start by considering how many little perches and seating areas you might need. For example, a single chair angled to catch the morning sun may be enough for a quick cup of tea, while you might want to make more space for a dining table and chairs where the evening sun hits the garden.
Small benches incorporated into raised beds and borders, as shown in this garden by Neil Jones Design, can also offer a handy seat in a small garden.
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Working out which side of your garden gets the most hours of sunlight can really help when planning your seating layout. In this small garden by Kate Eyre Garden Design, a generous bench has been carefully positioned on the sunniest side, with the planting arranged around it.
A small rocking chair has also been placed on the patio near the house to allow the homeowner to soak up the sunshine at various times throughout the day.
To make sure you optimise the sunlight in your garden, make a map of how the light travels around it over the course of a day (and ideally at different times of the year) and use this as a starting point for planning where you’d like to design in any seating areas.
Creating a light map can also help you to identify any areas of shade if you also want to create a cooler spot. For example, if you’re likely to be using your outdoor dining area in the middle of the day, you might want to choose part of the garden that will offer some shade at this time, to ensure a comfortable meal.
Working out where this will be can set the design for the rest of the outdoor space, as in this beautiful garden, where the table and chairs are positioned in the dappled shade of a tree.
It can be temping to place a dining table and chairs on the patio near the house. However, if this area will be in the shade by the evening, it can make more sense to move it to the part of the garden that catches the evening rays, even in a small space.
In this scheme by The Bloomsbury Gardener, a secondary area of hard paving has been added to make space for a table and chairs at the far end of the garden, exactly where a pocket of sunlight falls.
Designing little areas for rest and contemplation around the garden can ensure you use your outdoor space to its full potential. Identifying where you want to stop and rest will then feed into your planting scheme.
By designing a small seating area in the centre of this outdoor space overlooking the lake, landscape architects Tectonic invite the visitor to stop and take a moment to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
This can also be done on a smaller scale, with seating placed near an area of interest, such as a little pond or a bed of wild planting.
Planning your seating before any soft landscaping can also allow you to maximise sensory planting near to where you’ll be sitting. Seating doesn’t have to mean a large bench or built-in furniture, either; just identifying where you’d like to place a single chair can help you to focus your planting scheme and create a restful spot.
By bringing scented and colourful planting right up to a seating area, as in this design by Amanda Broughton Garden, you can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy your garden to the maximum.
You might also enjoy How to Create a Spirit-lifting Sensory Garden.
Planning your seating before, or at the same time as, your planting scheme can also help you to create little pockets of immersive planting, like this by Emma Whitten Gardens. Here, the planting flows around and over the bench, tucking the seat into the design and creating leafy and scented shelter.
For something similar, ask your garden designer to help you create vertical planting with a pergola, screen or arch.
Another way to integrate your seating and planting plans is to design the space as one by creating an integrated bench and planter, so it feels like a seamless part of the garden, rather than a table and chairs that have been added later.
Here, the owners have created a leafy hideaway by surrounding the bench area with lush planting and adding a sun sail overhead. This type of seating area would be a lot tricker to plan in after the planting stage.
How have you designed seating into your outdoor space? Share your ideas and photos in the Comments.