Choosing a BenchThere is a seemingly endless range of styles for garden benches, from formal or traditional to funky and eccentric, as well as a wide array of materials. Before you try to select a bench, you should consider what role you want it to play in your garden. If your garden has a woodland style, you may want a bench that will blend with that setting, such as natural wood or faux bois concrete. In a traditional garden, a classically styled bench of wood or wrought iron will suit. Got a Bohemian garden? Then you can really push the boundaries and select a bench with color and flair.
Aside from consider the style of your garden, consider the size of the bench and the material. Choose something that can take the beating sun as well as rain or snow without breaking down, or something that will weather and age in a way you can live with. If you choose a wooden bench such as teak or redwood, decide whether you want to let it turn to its natural silvery gray hue over time, or do you want to treat it--with paint, stain, or a wood preservative--to keep it looking fresh and new. With metal benches, know whether you like the look of rust, or want to keep the piece painted or varathaned to prevent any kind of patina developing. Stone or concrete will of course be more durable but they can chip or crack. Decide in advance what kind of wear and tear you can live with and shop accordingly.
Finding the Perfect SiteEqually important to choosing the bench is the matter of picking a site for the bench. Choose a spot where the ground is even and drainage is good--you don't want to have the legs of your bench in standing puddles of water where wood can rot and metal can rust. A location with at least partial shade can give your visitors an escape from the heat of the sun, and also prolong the life of the bench. On the other hand, if you position the bench directly under a tree, you will have to deal with more than just the occasional bird dropping.
Remember, too, that in a garden a bench isn't simply a place to sit. It's an invitation to the garden visitor to stop, rest, and observe. It's a way of saying, "Stop here a while. You don't want to miss this view." So in choosing the site, you not only want to consider factors like accessibility and sun exposure; you also want to consider what the bench will overlook.
When I was a kid we lived in a house where the previous owner had built a hill about 4 feet tall and maybe 6 feet wide. It had a stone-inlaid streambed that ran down both sides and joined up in the middle before emptying into a fishpond that curved around the base of the hill. Under the shade of a large pine tree, it was a perfect environment for moss to cover the slope. And the hill had been piped to emit a mist that collected in the streambed to trickle down the hill and into the pond. It was a magical scene, and the previous owner was wise enough to set an old concrete bench in front and to the right of the setting. The bench placement told you that this was a place to stop for a while, that there would be something to see--whether it was the flow of the miniature stream, the sparkle of the mist drops on the mossy banks, the flashes of gold of the fish swimming in the pond, or the scurry of the salamanders that reigned supreme in and around the castle. Without the bench, you might have looked once and moved on, missing all the enchanting details.
And for some inspiration, here are a few examples I've come across that I've liked: