The People's Friend

Notes from my garden

Alexandra Campbell looks forward to summer and the joys of entertaini­ng outdoors once more.

- Visit Alexandra’s blog online at www.themiddles­

AS we start entertaini­ng friends and family outdoors again, it’s worth checking your garden seating so that it’s comfortabl­e and pretty.

I’ve visited a number of gardens over the past few years and I love seeing the different things they do.

Former garden designer and “The Great British Bake Off” finalist Jane Beedle advises having more than one place to sit in the garden.

In her 50ft-garden, she has a café-style table and chairs just outside the back door, then a big table and sofa seating in the main part of the garden.

She says that lounging with a book, eating a meal with friends and perching with a cup of coffee are often best with different types of furniture.

Think about what view you’re looking at when you put a bench or table in the garden.

At Doddington Place Gardens in Kent, they had a forgotten area that overlooked beautiful countrysid­e, so they used some leftover stone pavers to create a long curved bench.

The pavers are stacked on top of each other in the style of a dry-stone wall.

Some friends of mine completely transforme­d a shady border by putting a small octagon of decking in the middle of it, with a table and four chairs. It gives a totally different view of the garden and adds colour to a dull area.

If you’re going to place seating permanentl­y on soil or lawn, you need to think about what it’s going to stand on.

You can pull a table outside on to the lawn for a single lunch or dinner – it feels very festive to be in a different part of the garden – but if the seating or table is going to be permanent, it’ll need some kind of structural support.

At Doddington Place

Gardens, they dug a trench below the stone seat and filled it with hardcore and rubble to create foundation­s for the layers of stone pavers.

If they hadn’t, the stones would have sunk and settled unevenly.

My friends who put the octagon of decking in a border cast four small concrete base legs for the decking to sit on.

This also meant they could level it out as it was on a slope. Then they added a weed suppressan­t mat and the decking.

If they’d laid the wood directly on the soil it would have rotted quickly.

Other friends have made good use of fallen trees.

One cut a bench seat directly into a huge log.

The other asked her tree surgeon to plane one surface of the tree flat and to cut several short lengths of trunk.

The main tree trunk sits on its little short legs to make a low natural bench. The seat isn’t entirely flat, but the addition of a few cushions makes it a good place to perch.

If you’re having a tree taken down, it costs money to have it removed – you could always spend that on having it cut into a seat.

Use paint to perk up a seating area in a garden.

Garden designer Posy Gentles likes flowers in a palette of soft pinks, peaches and plum colours in her garden.

She made her mismatched vintage furniture look very pretty by painting it all in a dark plum colour.

Brightly coloured furniture and accessorie­s really add zing to a shady area or garden!

A tip from garden designer Mark Lane is to have a variety of different heights of seats in the garden, some with arms and some without.

Taller people, children and those in wheelchair­s have different needs – and if you have a wheelchair user in the family, make sure that the height of the table works with the wheelchair. ■

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