Until comparatively recent years, stone and wooden seats were the only furniture used in gardens—and these two materials are still the best for permanent features, but to-day wickerwork, steel, and fibre are becoming increasingly popular, as for the most part they provide more comfortable seating.
Stone and wood are yet the only materials suitable for seats which are part of a design, and may convert a collection of flowers and plants into a homely corner. Stone seats are never very comfortable, but this does not prevent their being employed to provide a stately formal atmosphere, or in parts of the garden near the house when this is of similar material. Many old mansions have wide terraces provided with formal stone seats which give the place an atmosphere no other material would provide. Often these seats have no sides or back, being merely benches.
The style of few modern houses admits of the use of stone seats, and they are very expensive; wood therefore provides the best medium. Oak or teak should never be painted or treated with preservatives, but deal requires such treatment.
It is very uncomfortable to sit with one’s feet in a pool of water, and a seat placed in a damp spot would be little used. Always place a seat, therefore, upon a paved platform sloping down a little towards the back, to prevent the wearing away of the lawn or gravel upon which it is placed and the making of unsightly holes beneath the legs.
Never place a seat in a position where no one would wish to sit, too near to a noisy main road or overlooking an unsightly view. Seats in the shade, for example, on the north side of a wall or hedge, are not always popular, for only in the very hottest weather does one wish to avoid all sun.
Among wooden seats some are suitable for formal parts of the garden and some for informal; a rustic seat might look very well in a wild garden, but it would be out of place in a sunken garden or near the house, unless this be wooden and thatched.
A seat placed in a wall recess is often best if raised upon a low platform, and such a seat should always be formal in character. A seat so placed has the advantage of being sheltered from cold winds and can be used early and late in the year when other seats are too exposed.
Painted white seats were much used at the beginning of this century, but they are less favoured to-day as they are glaring in appearance and not conducive to rest. Green paint is more suitable and tones well with the garden, while creosote and similar preservatives are excellent.
Occasional garden furniture is very popular to-day because it can be easily moved to meet the demands of the moment, and in no less degree because manufacturers are daily introducing new, well considered, and cheerful designs. Coloured umbrellas, steel chairs, fibre work, wheeled chairs, and swinging hammocks have a wide appeal, and moreover are very comfortable. Their portability enables them to be used in the loggia or sun-lounge during the winter and the design of the garden has not to be considered—comfort is the only consideration. Much of this furniture will fold and this facilitates storage in the garden house.