After time spent tending your garden you'll need somewhere to take a load off. Justin Newcombe puts the finishing touches on a courtyard makeover. Part 4 of 4.
On the face of it, this garden makeover seemed to be based around moving from A to B, but to me it was much more than that. The main outdoor living area is on an exposed deck above the garden, so a patio below simply wouldn't get enough use. Also, I wanted to initiate some seclusion.
Some sort of seating in the main garden was required, but not a bench seat. These tend to be used for short stays and aren't appropriate for the long-haul weekend slacker (I've done some research here). Because of the other strong design elements, the garden seat needed to be compelling, or at least interesting in some way, and being positioned on a narrow piece of turf it needed to be long. There are many versions around but most are well outside my budget. Making my own turned out to be about 20 per cent of the cost of a bought one. With a sheet of ply and some fibreglass the process is easy.
Once I'd finished this summer makeover I had time to relax in the new boat seat.
I actually fell asleep it was that comfortable (I could have done with a pillow, though).
Using a strip of thin timber or plywood offcut, bend an even, sweeping curve lengthways onto a sheet of 5-ply. My curve has a depth of 280mm but you can make it more or less depending on your preference. Repeat 50mm above the first line, cut out and mark clearly as a template.
For subsequent sections, draw around the whole template each time and cut out. I cut out 20 sections but you could do more. The more sections you use the more the chair will flare in the middle, giving its distinctive spoon look.
Sand the edges of each piece then join all the pieces together with a clamp until they are uniform.
Draw a line across the clamped sections about 200mm in from each end. This marks how far in to glue each piece.
Separate the sections and coat with fibreglass resin, then allow to cure for a couple of days.
Use fibreglass resin again to glue both sides of each section to the mark drawn in step 4 (except the two extreme outer surfaces). Once every section at one end has been completed, line them up and clamp together. Repeat at the other end.
Mark the centre of the curve then mark lines 50mm on each side of it. Pre-cut spacers that are 100mm long and 20mm square.
Dip each each spacer into resin then separate the middle sections and insert a spacer so that it is flush with the bottom of the seat. Work your way out, inserting left to right.
Allow to dry, lightly sand, then varnish with a resin-compatible varnish.
This is an exercise on how to make an eminently practical object into something really useless. Actually that may be a bit harsh, the main function of this fine vessel is to look beautiful and we shouldn't forget that beauty is a function. Beauty brings benefits such as harmony, balance and a sense of wellbeing. If my concrete pot can offer all these functions, then isn't it doing an important job, the same as the path or a retaining wall?
Nowadays, the common name for an object of beauty in a garden is "ornamental". This is poor-man's beauty. Ornamental is beauty chopped off at the knees by cowards and naysayers, people who fear beauty. This is Tall Poppy beauty. What bride wants to look ornamental on her wedding day? When was the last time a hot move on the rugby field was described as "ornamental"? We go through our lives, day in, day out dealing with function, practicality and pragmatism but we are not automatons and we need beauty, be it old or new, fresh or decayed. The idea of this pot is just that, an idea. It's the wrong shape for any material planting. It's got a spout but it won't hold water and imagine trying to pour it, and into what? Of no practical consequence is this pot, and that's part of its charm.
Make a wire frame using a reasonably rigid mesh. To strengthen use two layers of mesh and tie together - you will need less plaster, making the pot lighter.
Cut the top of the mesh to form the spout, then use off-cuts to complete the front of the spout. Use three layers of wire so the plaster sticks to it.
Use pre-bagged plaster, mixing small amounts with a bucket and drill. I added nylon fibres and acrylic bonder to make the plaster more sticky. Mix your plaster to just wet. The stage before this, the plaster is damp but crumbly. A few drops of water with a sponge will get it just right. If it's too wet it's difficult to apply.
Place a pad of concrete on plastic sheeting about 15mm thick. Place your frame on top then apply 15mm of plaster over the top to sandwich the wire frame in place.
Work the plaster up the frame using your hand or a trowel on the inside as support and a trowel on the outside to form your shape. Because the pot was so tall I tied the inside trowel to a broom handle.
As the plaster begins to set it becomes easier to finish. I worked my way around the pot with a small grouting tool to create a textured pattern.
Once dry, paint and seal.
* Missed other parts of this courtyard makeover? Check them out here.