Providing Places to Sit in A Garden

Seatin g is not only a desirable feature in gardens; but for people with disabilities, it may be a necessity.

Gardens are lovely to walk through, but no garden is complete without somewhere to sit down, linger a while and enjoy the atmosphere. No matter whether it's a big garden or small; you must make sure there are adequate places to rest the legs. All the best parts of the garden must have some place to sit.


WHERE TO PUT SITTING PLACES

"Sitting Places" should be ideally be located where the view is good; where there is protection from extreme heat or cold, and where the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing. For large gardens with sloped areas, then have somewhere to sit at the top of the sloped area, or for steep or long slopes then somewhere to sit part way up will generally get a lot of use.

A garden with lots of places to sit is a user friendly garden. "Sitting places" don't have to just be just seats. You can sit on top of a wall, a grassy slope, the edge of a pond, on garden steps, or even a large rock. Too many seats might make a garden look cluttered, but by providing these other "dual purpose" seats, you can both increase the seating capacity of your garden when you entertain, and provide a lot more choices of where to sit when you stroll through the garden.

Where to Put Seats:
Here are just some of the places where you should consider a seat:

Where you sit and talk to neighbours over the fence.

  • Beside a pool or spa.
  • Beside the bbq.
  • In outside eating and entertainment areas.
  • Where you sit and watch the kids play.
  • Beside the workshop or tool shed.
  • In the vegie garden or other work areas.
  • Under a shady trees.
  • Beneath a pergola or arbour.
  • Beside a creek


FURNITURE

When you buy garden furniture, be sure to check out what you are buying thoroughly.

Consider:

  • Durability       Will it last? Will it stand being outside in the weather or will it need to be brought inside when not in use? Will it need routine painting, staining or some other treatment? How many years is it likely to last?
  • Safety          Are there any sharp edges, splinters or protruding parts which people might get caught on or knock themselves on? Is there adequate clearance for the knees when sitting at a table? Is it well made or will it break easily when sat on.
  • Stains         Are there greasy spots, areas of rust, or anything else which might mark the skin or clothes. Furniture made from old or recycled materials in particular should be examined.
  • Weight         If you want to lift and move furniture around is it easy to do so. Heavy furniture however, can be more secure, particularly in front gardens, because it is difficult to move.
  • Style         Does the style fit with the gardens' style?  Lacework and carved timber can enhance the traditional style of a garden. Chunky, simple, timber furniture can fit well into a natural garden.
  • Colour        Seats which are dull, earthy tones will normally blend into a garden better than those made from lighter coloured plastics (eg. white, green etc)
  • Comfort         Try the old "Goldilocks and the tree bears test". Sit in a seat before you buy it, and make sure it fits your body.  Consider how the material might be under different weather conditions. Metal can get very cold or very hot, for instance, but wood tends to remain better insulated. Some smooth surfaces can get slippery if wet. Wood might grow a layer of slime over the surface. Other surfaces dry out, or can be wiped dry very easily after rain.
  • Price          The price of garden furniture can vary greatly. Cheaper items are often not built as well. They might not support heavier people, or they might rot, corrode or fall apart sooner. Imported furniture will probably cost more just because there is import duty to pay, so something Australian made in the same price range may be better value for money.

PROBLEMS WITH FURNITURE
Even after you have bought your garden furniture, that is rarely the end of the story.
Furniture can get dusty, collect bird droppings or be covered with leaves or seeds blown in from nearby plants. Seats which can easily be cleaned by hosing down are great, but you still might have to use hot water and elbow grease occasionally.
Insects and other bugs can also be a problem. Spiders make spider webs; cockroaches, wasps, ants and even poisonous spiders can nest in or under seats and tables. Furniture which isn't being used frequently is more prone to such problems, as most "bugs" prefer to nest in places where they are not disturbed very often. Nevertheless it may be wise to check underneath seats occasionally for rot, corrosion or undesirable pests.

 

WALLS, FENCES AND WINDBREAKS


These are things we use to define boundaries and stop people, or animals, going where they are not wanted. For most people, fencing is one of the first things we think about when we buy a property. Most of us want to "secure" our boundaries; but there are lots of ways to do this. Fences or walls can be built in many different ways, using many different types of materials. Windbreaks or hedges can be used to achieve the same affect.

Three steps to creating your barriers:

1.  Work out first why you need these barriers:

  • Keep animals in, or out, of your property.
  • Keep young children safe
  • Let people know where your boundary is
  • Provide privacy
  • Block undesirable views (close or distant)
  • Create mystery within the garden (provide corners you can't see round)
  • Separate different garden areas
  • Provide protection from wind, frost or sun.
  • Provide some degree of sound insulation (eg: from roads, railway lines, recreational  areas).

2. Work out where to put them?
The location of barriers depends upon what each barrier is to achieve. The location of boundary barriers is simple, but for others:

  • How large or small should the area be which is being enclosed?
  • Will the fence affect things around it (eg: block views, reduce light entering windows or reaching plants)?
  • Are there any obstacles in the way (eg: tree trunks or branches, rocks in soil).
  • Are there any council restrictions, or covenants on the property, affecting where fences can be placed?

3. Work out the best solution

  • What is the most appropriate way to construct the barrier?
  • What is in your price range?
  • How high or low should it be?
  • Should it be able to be seen through, or completely block the view?
  • Do you have the expertise to build the different types, or can you afford to have someone else do it for you?
  • Do you have the time, or patience, for living barriers (eg: hedges) to grow?
  • Do your neighbours approve (ie: for boundary fences)? Will they help you build it, or pay some of the costs?

 

ENCLOSED GARDENS AND WALLS

An enclosed garden provides protection for both plants, and for people who sit within. They are more popular in England and Europe than Australia, but done properly, they can add a lot of character and interest to any garden. The idea is very simple in essence. Create an outdoor room within a garden by either building a wall or growing a hedge above head height and provide "doorways" for access through gates or arches located at appropriate points around the perimeter. Once the enclosed area has been defined, it's centre can be developed in whatever character you like. Because it is visually separated from the rest of the garden, the enclosed garden doesn't need to fit in. You can choose a completely different garden style if you wish, and it can provide a completely different atmosphere to escape to. (eg. The walls might enclose a formal rose garden within a surrounding bush garden; or a Japanese courtyard while the outside garden is a more traditional English style).

Walled gardens also help to protect plants in harsh environments. They reduce the affect od strong winds (making them useful in coastal areas or on larger exposed properties); and places can be found within the walls which are protected from severe frosts, or shade from the summer sun. There can also be pitfalls though. In very hot gardens, plants in front of walls which are fully exposed to the sun might suffer from too much heat though, reflected off the wall.

Choose your Wall or Fence

Timber
Timber slats, woven, pickets, trellis

  • easily worked with
  • durable if treated with preservative and regularly maintained
  • solid timber fences good visual barrier and protection against weather.
  • moderate cost
  • different types can suit both formal or informal gardens.
  • variety of shapes, textures and colours.

Stone:   Cut or uncut
Huge variety of colours and textures. Long lasting if done right - can suit both formal and informal garden types depending on construction and material used. Can be cheap if collected yourself. Should only be done on private property with permission - not at all on public land. Some states prohibit removal of naturally occurring rocks even on private property. Purchased rocks can be moderate to very expensive depending on type chosen and your locality (transport costs).
Heavy material creating solid wall, mainly used for shorter walls. If used for taller ones then must be mortared, and should have strong stable base to prevent falling over.

Types of Fences and Walls

Brick
Concrete or clay brick walls are:

  • strong and durable
  • usually require cementing together
  • expensive
  • provide good protection from weather, and relatively good noise insulation
  • earthy colours which look natural in gardens

Wire Mesh
Wire mesh fences are:

  • see-through unless planted over
  • good for climbers
  • cheaper than most other types
  • not always as aesthetically pleasing as most other types
  • when covered by climbers they can encroach on garden space

Colour bond
Colour bond metal fencing is:

  • durable, especially if base not in contact with ground
  • available in a variety of colours (some merge well with garden)
  • can heat up in the sun
  • solid types provide a good barrier against weather
  • cost is moderate to high
  • comes in large sheets, easy to construct and has low framing requirements

Electric
For semi-rural and rural properties where larger grazing animals from neighbouring properties or paddocks can force their way into garden areas. These can be simply erected from kits obtained from specialist companies, or from rural produce suppliers. They can be either permanent or temporary in position. They can be powered by mains, by generator, from batteries, by solar power, or a combination.
They need to be regularly checked to ensure they are operating.
 
Wire Strand -barbed or not
Wire strand fences are:

  • a good barrier for larger animals
  • relatively cheap
  • provides little low protection against weather, unless covered with climbing plants
  • doesn't provide visual barrier, but doesn't block desirable views either
  • barbed wire can be a problem if children likely to climb through/over fence

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