Blue Daisy Garden Diary - June/July 22
Take A Seat by Nicki Jackson
We think the furniture we include in our garden is as much a design choice as every other aspect of our garden design so, with that in mind and in no particular order, here are our top 5 things to consider when choosing garden furniture:
The price range of garden furniture varies greatly; there will be an option to suit all budgets but the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ very often applies. The least expensive options often increase the ‘price’ to be paid in sustainability, style, functionality and durability. Plastic furniture for instance is one of the least expensive options on offer but unless it’s made from recycled materials (which tends to lift it above the cheapest bracket) it is the least environmentally sound, is often poorly constructed, lacks longevity, can’t be recycled and tends to blow over in a reasonably strong wind! So, if you wanted something to last or to see you through the winter too, the cheapest option probably isn’t the one for you.
Style, colour, size, materials all have a bearing on the look of garden furniture. It’s an obvious thing to say but it really helps to harmonise a garden if you can match the look of your garden furniture to the style of your garden and home. Complementing the colours of flowers with cushions and throws for instance, can help to anchor furniture in the space that surrounds it. Regardless of the type of furniture you’re seeking ensure the scale of it matches the scale of its intended surroundings too since mismatched proportions will create disharmony.
The main choices on offer in the UK for garden furniture tend to be wood, metal, rattan and plastic. Materials enhance the look and functionality of furniture, and all have an environmental impact. Price points tend to be relative to how materials perform in all other areas. Teak, for instance, a hard wood often dubbed the ‘King of Wood’, is expensive because of its durability, functionality and style but is difficult to come by sustainably. Hard wood is a better choice than soft wood for durability but is much more expensive and is much heavier too so if you needed to move your furniture around a lot it perhaps isn’t for you. Synthetic rattan is more durable, can be a cost-effective option (though the more expensive a product is the better quality it tends to be), requires little maintenance but essentially is still plastic with all the downsides that come with it in sustainability terms. Aluminium is a light but sturdy metal and is rust-resistant whilst steel is the cheapest metal option but is prone to corrosion, so you’ll often see this powder-coated; and wrought iron is a little more resistant to moisture but still needs protecting and is heavy! The downside to all metals is that they can get hot in hot weather.
The success of your choice is based upon how well the furniture suits your intended use. You might opt for sofa type furniture with cushions for instance, but outdoor cushions tend to be water repellent not waterproof so some sort of storage solution is likely to be needed which can be an annoyance to some. You might want to move furniture around to different areas of the garden so need something fairly lightweight. Too lightweight though like aluminium or plastic and it might slide when someone sits on it or blow over in windy conditions, too heavy like wrought iron or hard wood, and you won’t be able to move it around much.
Generally, wood and metal are better sustainable options than plastic and synthetic rattan (which is ultimately plastic). If plastic is your material of choice, however, consider furniture made from recycled plastic waste so that virgin materials aren’t being used and have been diverted from landfill (at least for a short time). If you opt for wood, choose FSC certified options which means the wood comes from responsibly managed sources. Where possible try to opt for locally sourced products to reduce the carbon impact of travel. Metal too can be a sustainable choice because it can be easily and efficiently recycled.
There’s too much to write for one article but hopefully it has given you a place to start if you are on the lookout for new garden furniture.
© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2022