Pew with a view
Because it is such a verdant year, with everything growing 10 to the dozen, the soil has remained moist. So a top up, together with warm sunshine, has meant it’s lusher than ever. There has been such a lot to do outdoors that sometimes you forget to look. And though gardening for itself is a wonderfully fulfilling activity, every so often you need to appreciate the fruits of your labour. And sitting in one place lets you drink it all in. Outside here at Glebe Cottage, there are ample opportunities to contemplate different parts of the garden. Some are provided by seats of different descriptions, deliberately sited to encompass a particular view. Others are just vantage points on which you perch and peruse. However small your garden, having somewhere to sit is vital – being in the midst of it makes you a part of it. Having limited space doesn’t mean options are few, it just means you must be imaginative. An alcove in a boundary hedge could house a rose arbour with a seat for two looking over a flower bed towards the house clothed in climbers. Or you could look out from the house with climbers behind you. Needless to say the “chairs round the edge of the hall” look, a lawn surrounded by narrow beds, limits the possibilities. With this traditional approach, there are few options (and not much to look at, anyway). But vistas can be created by dividing the space – perhaps with diagonals. The seats in our garden are mainly constructed of natural materials. Most are wood, varying f rom traditional wooden benches, some covered in lichen, to stacks of new timber sleepers – three of which, piled one on top of the other, make the ideal height and are long enough to seat several people. In two locations, there are simple seats made from old oak planks. We leave our wooden seats in their natural state but if you were adopting similar ideas in an urban garden, they could be painted to match the woodwork of the house. We also have a couple of iron seats – one is rather ancient but still very pretty. There are so many modern versions of such seats available, some with iron ends, others with lightweight aluminium. One slate seat on the shady side of the garden is simply the top of a low retaining wall. I built it for my mum to have a sit down on the way up the garden. It offers a lovely view, with narrow paths wending their way down towards big beeches. Seats can be made of anything from concrete to chamomile. The important thing is they are in keeping with the feel of the garden. They should never stick out like a sore thumb, although they can be a focal point. In show gardens, at the likes of Chelsea and Hampton Court, you sometimes get the feeling the garden has been built around the seat. But it is the plants that surround the seat that are the most important thing – its raison d’etre. It’s safe to assume that most seats get maximum use when it’s reasonably warm, so plants near them should be at their peak at the same time. Perhaps the most important quality is scent, because when you are sitting in a corner of your garden on a still summer’s evening, it is the scent of sweet rocket and perfume of honeysuckle mingling with the fragrance of roses that makes you stay, relax and enjoy.