Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Nathaniel Hawthorne.
I often ponder the wise words of Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist, as I flit around my garden deadheading, cutting back and mowing frantically from dawn till dusk. And yet, it’s me who extols the virtues of ‘sitting down and enjoying your garden’ to numerous clients for whom I’ve designed gardens with seating areas in abundance.
Whether its lounging on a Lutyens bench or lazing wearily on a wicker chair the benefits of seating in any garden are numerous. Relax, rest and take time out to review the bounty of your gardening labours.
So where to sit? The options are aplenty, but consider nooks where the morning, afternoon and evening sun falls. Using different areas at varying times of the day provides a satisfying and refreshingly new perspective of your garden. Breakfasting sunny side up, nestled on a small terrace next to the lawn, lunching under the cool, dappled shade of a silver birch, before dining al-fresco bathed in the glorious rays of the setting, evening sun. What could be better?
If budgets or the contours of your plot allow, consider elevating your seating area to provide vistas across the garden. Conversely, a sunken seating area has a cosy, intimate feel, with the planting rising majestically above. It’s a fantastic way to observe flora and fauna in really close proximity and provides a completely different context.
And why settle for just one area. If room allows, there’s a whole garden out there waiting to be sat in. Place seating in quiet, secluded corners for moments of meditation; adjacent to a babbling water feature to renew and energise listless limbs. A distant borrowed view of cattle grazing, a church spire or perhaps a twisted and aged oak tree down the road might just provide the perfect outlook beyond the boundaries of your own oasis to sit and gaze at whilst pondering the meaning of life.
Planting, so often the most important ingredient in our gardens comes to the fore yet again. The scent of climbers such as honeysuckle, jasmine and roses scrabbling through a nearby shrub or small tree will pervade your seated seclusion. Lilac and Philadelphus underplanted with lavender or wig-wams of beautifully perfumed sweet peas will send your senses into a horticultural heaven.
On a practical note, ensure your seating area is generously proportioned. Better no seat at all than sitting crammed and uncomfortable on a petite patio. Allow for seats to be moved to catch the sun’s rays as they track across the space. A small table (large enough for a bottle, two glasses and a small bowl of olives) is perfect for those wine o’clock sojourns.
So sit. Sit comfortably and let the Butterfly of Happiness rest upon you awhile.