CO-Horts

CO-Horts

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the hunt for interesting garden paths and benches

Posted by Linda McMulkin, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
August 19, 2013

          I’ve been looking at gardens in a slightly different way lately.  Traditionally, my focus has been on the plants that inhabit a garden.  But my husband pointed out that many pretty gardens are missing two things that enhance the experience of touring gardens for him--paths and places to sit.


A meandering path that leads to a bench at SECWCD.
Photo by O. O'Callaghan
Mike’s point is valid, but I’m usually so distracted by plants that I rarely realized why some gardens feel more inviting than others.  I don’t mind standing on the edge of a flower bed and looking in, but winding through the flowers is even more fun.  And benches inside beds are always an invitation to sit and observe the details of the garden. Now I notice paths and benches in every garden I visit.
           In a 2011 article for our From the Ground Up newsletter, Elizabeth Catt, SE Colorado Water Conservancy District (SECWCD) garden manager, wrote, “Pathways can be an alluring hardscape feature, enticing you to move further into a garden either directly or indirectly. In a formal garden, a path can direct your view straight across a vista to bring your eye (and sometimes your feet) through it to another object: perhaps a fountain, a bench, an ornamental urn. At other times a winding path calls to your sense of curiosity; what can be around that next bend? 

The colorful pattern is repeated on the patio
and other terraces.

I’ve visited several private and public gardens recently and observed plant choices and maintenance practices, garden art and retaining walls, and the results of drought stress and crazy weather.  All of these observations have been done from a pathway and I’ve started noting construction materials and how the path itself fits into the garden design.  Does it tempt me to continue exploring or not?
One of my favorite garden paths is at a Pueblo home that was on the xeriscape tour in June.  The homeowner uses recycled materials and colored concrete to build paths to the many terraces on his property.  The paths are necessary and could have been just functional, but he has made them works of art.  Other pathways I’ve seen were less colorful but constructed in ways that invited the visitor into each garden.  My favorites are the paths that tempt me into an as-yet-unseen part of the garden or to a place to sit and relax for a moment.
 
          Places to sit in gardens can be constructed from any number of materials.  I’ve seen benches and chairs from local furniture stores, homemade seats, and recycled items.  I find that I admire any seating area that incorporates recycled materials, found items, or whimsy. 


A seating arrangement for everyone in the family. 
This photo was taken at Spring Creek Garden in
Fort Collins in 2009, perhaps the
 beginning of my fascination with benches.
An interesting, recycled seat in the same garden
 as the colorful path above.

 

 
This bench was constructed
by the homeowner,
a local artist.
This seating area was constructed with wood recycled
from the homeowners family farm. 
So I’ve ended up with a new garden obsession, one which Mike has been forced to share.  I’m on the lookout for the most tempting path and a seating area that is so inviting that I want to linger instead of rushing to the next view or bed.  Any suggestions on where I should visit next?

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