Decorative garden chairs and benches

Creative ideas for garden seating that get you outdoors to enjoy the quiet pleasures of nature.

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    Does this colorful garden bench in the vegetable garden of Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania remind you of 'Alice in Wonderland'?
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    The decorative garden chairs at Pennsylvania's Chanticleer Garden are often colorful and always inviting.
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It’s almost the end of August. Summer is almost gone. I spent my summer running between weddings, graduations, anniversaries, and assorted other functions.

For gardeners, first, there was the nonstop rain of spring and early summer, then there was the record-breaking heat in much of the country that made it unbearable to be outside until after midnight.

The joy of sitting outdoors

One of my favorite things to do is to sit either in the garden or on the deck and just be quiet:

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Watching butterflies land on my zinnias, listening to the catbird’s mewing call because I was outside or, best of all, sitting in the darkness, watching lightning bugs, enjoying the sound of crickets, and the occasional owl hooting from his invisible perch.

I grew up in an old house that had a front and back porch with old-fashioned gliders on them. I would sit there for hours as a child, going back and forth as fast as I could go.Swinging was for my swing on the old cherry tree, which, miraculously enough, still stands at 100+ years old.

So, for me, sitting in the garden is a perfectly natural thing to do on a summer’s night.

Creative chairs and benches

I had forgotten many of these pleasures until I attended the annual symposium of the Garden Writers of America a few years ago. One of the evenings was spent at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pa.

A friend and I had wandered the estate all afternoon, photographing everything we could about this magical garden when we came upon what is known as the Ruin. Built to resemble ruins -- complete with a water table of black granite -- it makes you feel as though you have stumbled into a fairy hideaway.

Just beyond the Ruin is furniture. Not what you are expecting -- wood with cushions -- but rather Wissahickon schist and granite. There is a sofa and a chair complete with a remote control. Although the furniture was made of cold, hard stone, it actually was quite comfortable to sit on.

There is a smoothness of the stone that makes it seem welcoming. We sat there for a while, taking in the beauty of the garden valley below us. I’m convinced that the remote control is set for the different seasons and you can sit there for an eternity watching the ever-changing scenery.

Whimsical chairs in pairs were all over the garden. Some were bright colors, while others have designs on them.

A vegetable garden bench [first photo above] is, of course, in the vegetable garden. Images of pumpkin and beets form the back of the bench with arms of celery and legs of carrots. It's like something right out of "Alice in Wonderland," which is the way I feel when I am there.

We continued to wander the grounds as evening fell and found ourselves sitting in an enclosed arbor with a glider. It was quiet, and in front of us at the end of the garden were the steps up to the house, lit with tiny flickering votive candles on each step, lighting the way but reminding us that we in our own magical little world.

Yes, you can do this at home

I’ve kept that night in my memory, re-creating it at my home. Tiki torches and votive candles are strewn throughout the beds. There is an old garden bench under the magnolia tree and her dense shade; a concrete bench at the bottom of the yard, hidden behind a large hydrangea; and comfy chairs on the deck.

At night I sit and watch and listen. You can do the same with any chair you like. Remember to enjoy just sitting.

Editor's note: Four photographs of unusual garden seats at Chanticleer Garden accompany this post, two at the top and two at the left. To access the extra photos, click on the arrow at the base of the first photos.

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Denise Schreiber is the Mrs. Know It All of “The Organic Gardeners” on KDKA Radio and “Ask the Expert” for Pennsylvania Gardener magazine. Her new book is "Eat Your Roses." Click here to read her previous articles at Diggin' It.

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