After a long day in the garden, whether you’ve mowed the lawn, tidied up or deadheaded flowers, it’s very relaxing to flop onto a garden seat with a cuppa and admire your hard work.
Some gardeners incorporate planter boxes into their garden bench seats or design the seating as an integral part of the garden.
You can go for imaginative, rustic seating designs, including old, sawn-off tree branches, choose upcycled wood and plastic planter benches or opt for a sparkling metal design to add elegance to your outdoor space.
Whether you prefer a raised bed with a lounger bench seat or two planter boxes with a bench in between, keep reading for ideas to find one that best suits your space.
Before you start, consider:
1. What can you plant in a bench planter?
Obviously, this depends on the size of the planter but think nothing too tall unless you are going to use it to cast some shade intentionally.
Herbs are the perfect additions for a bench planter. Lavender is a good-sized shrub and casts perfume around the area to transform it into a relaxing haven, perfect for a siesta. Sweet-smelling wallflowers, followed by sweet peas will provide glorious scents all summer long.
The bench may be overly popular with adolescents for weekend snoozes but can double up as an area where parents and grandparents can have that afternoon nap (I mean, read the newspaper of course!). This brings me nicely to the next consideration…
2. Who is going to use the bench?
If the bench has mixed-aged users, it may need to withstand a lot of jumping and juggling, afternoon naps and lounging about playing on iPad moments… The bench needs to be comfortable and strong while the planter needs to be able to withstand sprawling legs, pets or snoozing adults. My advice is that the plants need to be fairly replaceable. Take cuttings!
Here Are Some Planter Seating Ideas to Get You Started!
1. British Recycled Plastics matching bench and planter box
No splinters, no splits and no rot mean this range of outdoor recycled plastic benches and seats is low maintenance, weatherproof, safe and designed to deal with the most demanding environment (like the British winter).
These designs have the added value of being recycled, they’re made in Britain and they have planters to match. Placed altogether in your garden, you can be sure that you are bringing true British style to your outdoor space.
Another alternative is two planters fixed to a bench. These can be bought in plastic or metal and you can just add small annuals to the planters for a great place to have your lunch.
2. Sawn-off tree branch seat and matching planter
If any of your larger trees require serious pruning, you may be able to make a very unique planter and seat from the logs. Make sure the branch sits securely on the ground and is large enough to hold people, or at least one person.
- Mark out the measurements of the area you want to sit on.
- With a saw, you can remove a section big enough to make a seating area. If the branch is big enough, make some back support by cutting out a further section vertically. This can look amazing when you add comfy cushions.
- If there is another branch, this can be fashioned into your planter. Because it is from the same tree, the planter bark will match the seat perfectly. A curling branch offers an extremely natural-looking planter or you can add some wire to place a plant pot in and make a very artistic shape.
This idea not only depends on the branches available but most importantly, your imagination. Read on for suggestions for what you can plant in your planter.
You can chop any smaller pieces of leftover wood to use as fuel for a wood-burning stove. Dry them undercover for 2 years before you burn them.
3. Square planter box with seats on each side
Make a striking installation on your lawn with a square planter box that doubles up as a seat.
Choose a sunny spot that plants will love. Think of the soil depth they will need and use the centre of the planter box as a direct soil planter, where you do not need a plastic liner. In this way, you can plant a small tree like an apple or cherry on rooted stock so that it doesn’t grow too tall.
Plan the size depending on available space. A 1-metre square is fine if space is tight but if you can fit a 2-5 metre square planter in, it’ll provide you with a fantastic seating area and a handy place to store tools.
Build your planter at least 3 planks tall and measure the length. Assemble 4 sets of your chosen length to make the 4 sides of the planter box. Use gloves and protective eyewear and have screws or nails handy. You may also want some wood glue to give a more secure binding for the plank seats.
Level off the area underneath the side walls and place guides at the 4 corners. Then assemble the planks ensuring you have a correct 90-degree angle at the corners. Continue to add planks sequentially until your planter is completed.
Make the seats with 2 supports for each plank, and nail these securely to the wall of the planter box. Then attach the seat plank and secure it in place with screws or nails and wood glue (if you decide to use that too). The seats can be sanded down and protected with varnish, oil or whatever method you choose.
If the centrepiece houses a tree, it’s best to add this first, see more below. If there is no tree, then it’s time for planting!
If you’re planting a tree in the centre, you’ll need to dig a hole deeper than the width and depth of the root ball of your tree and allow extra space for the roots to expand. Please consider adding manure and extra compost mixed with garden soil to nourish it well.
Water the tree in well for its first season and when you see new leaf growth, you know it’s beginning to feel comfortable. You can also mulch the topsoil to keep weeds and pests at bay. This will affect what you plant next.
Advice for plants to accompany a tree:
If you have decided to plant a tree in the centre, then you can use the surrounding soil to add life in different seasons. It’s probably best to have plants that will not fight for space with your tree, so small bulbs and seasonal annuals are fine.
Remember that your planter box has 4 sides so 2 sides will be very sunny for more of the day and the other 2 sides will tend to be shadier. Choose plants accordingly!
Plants for all seasons
You can plant bulbs for early spring, like grape hyacinths and snowdrops, followed by primroses, pansies and tulips for later in the spring. Make sure taller plants are in the middle.
- For any shady areas, you could add potted mint or lemon balm (keep these in pots because they are invasive). They’ll add a fabulous scent and you can use the leaves to make peppermint tea and add lemon flavour to salads.
Follow Spring bulbs with:
- Strawberries, sunflowers and sweet peas for summer colour. Make sure these won’t be competing with a tree if you have one in your planter, allow plenty of space around the tree’s trunk.
- Sunflowers will take a lot of nutrients so plant these when your young tree is growing or as a background for a few sunflowers when the tree is grown. Top up the soil fertility with manure when you plant seeds. If it’s only one year in every four or so, you should be fine. Sunflowers look fabulous with their yellow heads waving against a tree trunk, provided that there is enough goodness in the soil to sustain each plant.
- If there is a lot of space, you can also add some annual herbs, like basil, parsley or coriander on the sunny side.
- Make sure your dahlias can be planted in midsummer (or earlier) to give you excellent flowers for vases in late summer and autumn.
- Hebes provide colourful purples and this is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs.
Planters can look bare at this time of year so make sure there are a few:
- Cyclamens to provide a dash of pink in those gloomy wintry days.
- Forsythia and jasmine look good in winter too but they can grow very large so you may want to plant these in a border behind the planter so that when viewed from a distance, you can see a background of yellow blooms on dull days.
- Holly will give berry red splashes of colour as well as leaves for festive decorations.
- Sage plants also look very elegant but may need a separate pot because the herb exudes a chemical deterring growth in plants grown too close by.
So the planting is done. Now sit back and enjoy the view of your garden from different sides.
1. Upgrade an existing garden bench
Just add 2 vertical gardening planter boxes beside it! If the planters are a little unstable, attach them to your bench. This is worth doing if you have balls being thrown around, boisterous pets or younger gardeners.
- Use the back of your bench and attach your planters to both ends with a wire. You can then add a plank of wood over this to secure them in place.
2. Trellis the sides of your bench
If you have a couple of large planter boxes and a bench available, why not add some trellis support for climbers at either end so you can enjoy some climbing plants while sitting there?
- Buy tall, thin trellis to fit the width of the seat and secure it in the planter box and to each end of your bench. Use wire or string or plastic ties and make sure it is stable.
- You can also use bamboo canes and string. Just make sure the tips of the bamboo are not at a height where eyes can be jabbed! Allow space between the bamboo to allow plants to climb.
- Add some soil and then plant passion fruit, that you can harvest as they ripen! The gorgeous shades of blue and white in the exotic flower are a delight in any garden space and as these are soon followed by yellow-orange edible fruit, you can pick one of your 5 a day whilst relaxing!
- Other sweet-smelling climbers include sweet peas, roses or clematis.
- Some edible climbers include peas and beans but these are annuals and you will need to change the crop each year.
3. L-shaped corner bench with planter box
If you have a corner to fill this is a beautiful way to do it. Place two wooden benches in an L shape with a planter between them.
- This makes a peaceful seating area, especially if placed in the shade so that you can avoid the direct midday sun. The plant leaves could provide some extra shade too.
- This type of design also works really well in office buildings, to allow each person on the other seat some privacy. Whatever you plant here needs plenty of leafy foliage and some bright flowers.
How to build make a planter box seat/bench
Bricks, concrete, wood, pallets (and cushions) can all be used to make a comfortable outdoor seating area. There are lots of ideas in these links to help: