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Chairs in the Landscape?

When is a chair not a chair? When it is used as a plant stand or as a decorative object in the landscape. A chair is a good accent piece to incorporate, sometimes in a difficult area where hardly anything will grow, on a hardscape surface where some colour and interest are required or maybe even right within a flower border as a focal point. Whichever way you use a chair, it is sure to become a conversation piece for visitors to your garden. This year I have used chairs in my garden, and I will explain how I used them to illustrate what I mean.

I have a double-wide interlocking brick driveway that creates a large hardscape area. I do position containers of plants around its periphery to add colour and interest, but there is one corner where the driveway meets a concrete retaining wall adjacent to the garage. Although I have a planter there, it still seemed like an “empty” corner so I placed my willow chair there. The plants in the planter behind the chair are still visible but the chair serves to fill the space. For a bit of fun I often have a large, stuffed brown bear sitting in the chair.

Another hardscape area in my yard is a cement pad in front of the garden shed. Although I have used large terra cotta pots of plants on the pad, I began to think the look was too “cluttered.” This year I have only two large pots positioned on either side of the shed door and I placed a wooden chair on the pad. On the chair seat I placed an old cream separator bowl planted with bright-pink flowers and having golden creeping Jenny cascading down the front. I painted the old chair bright purple (it was obtained at a garage sale several years ago for $1) to create a colourful focal point, which it does.

A chair can be used in two different ways — as a bright focal point as my purple chair is, or simply as a stand for a container, with the container taking centre stage. In that case, the chair would be left a natural wood colour or painted a muted green to make it almost disappear into the background.

Another area in my garden where I use chairs is a corner that is beneath mature spruce trees and behind a perennial border. The area, covered with crushed limestone rock, can be reached by a short reclaimed brick path, which winds around the side of the flower border. I took two old metal patio chairs that are no longer used and painted them bright fire engine red. Since they are wrought iron, not solid, the effect is not overwhelming. I set an old log stump between them on which sits a bright-red enamel cup. In early summer the vignette is quite visible, but as the solidago, heliopsis and verbascum in the flower border grow, the chairs are hardly visible and can only be seen clearly by walking up the patch to view them.

A chair could also be used right within a flower border — perhaps holding a container or maybe having climbing plants twining through the chair back. Surrounding plants will make the chair look like it is “tucked in” and has been there for some time. Probably a wicker or willow chair or an old wooden one would work best in this instance. Yes, chairs can be useful in the overall design of a landscape.

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