A front row seat to the garden

After I created our front yard pollinator garden, I realized it has one big problem — there’s no place to sit and watch the bees, birds, and butterflies. We have to stand on the driveway, or on the sidewalk a few feet from speeding traffic. I now recognize the value of seating in a garden.

Standing around

I’ve accepted that the pollinator garden is more for passing pedestrians to enjoy than for us. I think of it as a demonstration garden. As I continue to add native plants in other areas of our front and back yards, we have quieter, more private places to observe wildlife. We were still spending a lot of time standing around though. To remedy the problem, I added a few new seating areas closer to the gardens, and reshaped garden beds to bring plants closer to our existing seating area.

Tree-hugging hexagonal bench

For years, I’ve had trouble growing plants in the dry shade under our front Spruce tree. While decluttering old gardening magazines, I came across a Gardening Life article with plans for a hexagonal bench. (Sadly, this Canadian gardening magazine ceased publishing years ago.) This bench is the perfect solution; it fills the tricky, unused space with wrap-around seating and a circular pathway. My husband followed the magazine’s plans and built me a cedar bench for Mother’s Day in 2019. I can now enjoy sitting in the cool shade while I watch bees on flowers and birds at a feeder.

Our new hexagonal bench under the spruce tree in our front shade garden (August 6, 2019).

Nothing is perfect though. We’ve had a few minor, unexpected issues. First, the trunk of the spruce tree has two leaders, so it isn’t round. As a result, the gap between the bench and the tree trunk varies, so there are some spots where you can’t lean back against the tree. Second, sap occasionally drips onto the bench seat. If you’re wearing fancy clothes, you have to be careful where you sit so you don’t end up stuck in tree sap. Nevertheless, I love sitting on my new bench in this secluded spot.

Sitting stream-side

Once we finished creating the stream and pond, I added a small bistro table and chairs to the patio and barbeque station. It is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the gurgling water. For the birds though, this is too close for comfort; they won’t visit the stream when we sit here. We often end up moving the table and chairs further away when we use them. I’ll have to find a permanent home for this furniture further away from the stream.

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The bistro seating near the stream seemed like a great idea, but the birds won’t visit the stream when we sit here (June 4, 2019).

The centre of attention

Our main backyard seating area used to house a large, glass table and six chairs. We really didn’t use the table much, so we recently switched it for a couch and two armchairs. Being 25 feet or so from the stream and pond, the birds don’t mind us when we sit here. This is now our favourite place to sit because we can easily watch birds bathing and drinking from the stream. The couch is a handy napping spot too because the calming sound of the stream often makes us sleepy.

After we lost the nearby Ash trees to Emerald Ash Borers, this seating area became too hot and sunny for comfort. The Shademaster canopy (purchased at The Fireplace Centre and Patio Shop) is a perfect solution. We’ve had this canopy frame for years, but bought a new grey canopy so it would blend in with the colour of the house, making the garden the focal point. Like ‘painting something out’ to obscure it in home interiors, I wanted the house and furnishings to blend in, recede and help the garden be the centre of attention.

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Our favourite spot to sit and watch birds at the stream or elsewhere in the yard. I’ve started planting for pollinators around this seating area so we can also watch bees and butterflies from here. (June 4, 2019)

To ensure that there’s lot to see no matter where we’re sitting, I’m curving the old flower borders to surround the seating area on three sides. By including lots of native plants that are bumblebee, butterfly, and hummingbird favourites, I’m attracting them closer to us.

A mini-meadow destination

Our newest garden area is the pollinator mini-meadow. It sits two-thirds of the way down our backyard, in front of the vegetable garden and hedgerow. I tried to counter the messiness of this naturalistic planting with some formal elements. I placed rows of ‘Hidcote’ lavender on either side of the path, along with two ‘Rosthern’ columnar crabapple trees. Then, I placed our old bench, that used to sit under the front Spruce tree, beyond the mulched path.

The mini-meadow in late afternoon (September 12, 2019).

The mini-meadow has attracted tremendous numbers of insects and birds. The bench is the perfect place to sit and admire the flowers, and watch the wildlife.

Still standing around, probably

Most likely, I will still spend a lot of time standing around examining insects up close, or angling to get photos. If I do want to sit down, I now have lots of places to relax and enjoy the garden and its visitors.

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