Natural Rock Garden Seating

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

20120805-144035.jpgNatural rock seating in the Rose and Perennial Garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

As I mentioned in my previous post on hydrangeas, I visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (CMBG) in July with Donna from Garden Walk Garden Talk. This wasn’t my first visit, and if you want to read my original post click here. This visit was more focused because I came with a mission. I am designing an island in a public road and was looking for ideas for natural rock seating.

CMBG Lerner Garden of the Five Senses

If you are looking for ways to incorporate boulders and rocks into your garden, there is no better place to get design ideas than CMBG. The whole garden is full of gorgeous stones, most of them from Maine quarries and some found on the site. Finding stones on site is easy when you are on the Maine coast—the ground has more rocks than soil. But to create such unusual and well integrated garden seating takes talent. I want to share my photographs with you in case you are looking to create natural seating in your own garden.


Seating in both public and private gardens should be sited in a way that directs visitors to an important view or encourages them to enjoy a new perspective while they sit. When choosing rock, I am partial to rounded boulders, fully integrated into the landscape to the point where you almost can’t see them. However, this approach would not be appropriate in a public botanical garden where you want tired visitors to be able to easily locate a resting spot. The following photos were all taken at the CMBG and show a variety of ways to use rock as garden seating:









20120808-150327.jpgThis simple bench provides an overlook of the Slater Forest Pond, which was full of frogs and dragonflies.

20120808-150522.jpgThis is a full couch and chairs positioned along the beautiful Shoreland Trail.

All the seating shown above is quite beautiful and appropriate to the site, but I wanted to save some of my favorite designs for last:

20120808-150914.jpgThis single boulder is so well integrated into its site both by the other rocks and the sedum growing around it.

20120808-151144.jpgAgain a boulder that looks like the designers built the other hardscape around it in the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses.



20120808-151700.jpgWhat a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the water view along the Shoreland Trail.


20120808-152328.jpgThe rocks look like they could have just fallen into place to create this obviously comfortable “couch” in the Giles Rhododendron Garden.

20120808-152633.jpgA natural chaise lounge near the Cleaver Event Lawn and Garden.

I came away from my visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens with some great ideas for my road design project and with renewed respect for this wonderful Maine garden treasure.


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54 Responses to “Natural Rock Garden Seating”

  1. Interestin post as usual your comments are right to the point, thank you. Christina

  2. I enjoyed our trip CMBG very much. Funny, but I only sat on one of the rocks! That guy lounging really was in the moment, but I cannot imagine being there as long as he was. This garden had many fine examples of masonry construction, all natural and well designed into the landscape.

  3. Hi Carolyn, I love these ideas – I wish I had the space. Gotta love that natural chaise lounge!!

  4. Carolyn I love natural rocks and little seating areas but these are outstanding examples. They beckon one to stretch right out and lay down on the cool rock and observe the surroundings from many vantage points….I adore the chaise in the last photo…that is my fav!

  5. Marvelous examples. This must be a fabulous place to see in person.

  6. Digging the chaise lounge. I’m planning on putting an enormous red sandstone slab for a bench in my garden. This gives me some good ideas. Thanks.

  7. All that chaise needs now is a cushion! I love rocks in my garden and wonders of wonders there aren’t any in mine-though that is a rarity here. They are not the nice granite from in Maine though. My favorite seating of these would have to be the couch with the backrest. I must have one of those even with rocks but that is probably difficult to design.

    • Tina, I wanted to get a better photo of the couch, but I make a point of not disturbing other garden visitors for the sake of my photos. If you go back to my first post on garden seating at Chanticleer you will see good photos of how a couch and chair like this are constructed. I will try to add a link to the post when I have better Internet service. Carolyn

  8. These are all lovely. I especially love the chaise lounge! I wonder if I could incorporate a few boulders in my garden. The problem is that would have to move them myself!

  9. These boulders make great benches. What’s not to love!

  10. What a great place to visit. I love all the different rock shapes and how they’re incorporated so well. Thanks for giving us a tour.

  11. Wonderful photos and descriptions of the benches at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The “chaise lounge” and a few others are new this year, and I’m sure there will be more to come. You’re a great ambassador for the Gardens. Thank you!

    • Barbara, I am so glad you liked the post. It is always nice when someone from the garden gives my article a seal of approval. I believe that gardeners really benefit from visiting other gardens, both public and private, to get ideas to incorporate into their own landscapes. CMBG is certainly an inspiring place to visit. Carolyn

  12. I love the look of natural stone in the garden, not to mention the complete lack of maintenance required once it’s installed (beyond sweeping a few fallen leaves from the seat). I’d love to add a few benches here, but our challenge is terrain. Even just adding a few boulders to the goat yard almost crippled us! However, if we had more accessible areas in the garden, I’d love to install something like the flat benches. They look especially good when positioned with groups of other rocks of similar scale. Then they just seem to become one with their surroundings.

  13. I love the chaise! Would love to relax there on a hot afternoon!

  14. I think those boulders are the perfect choice for seating. Some are so casually set into the landscape that they are very unassuming and yet, welcoming to the visitor to ‘take a load off’. Very nice.

  15. I love these and wish I had a natural stone bench in my own garden!

  16. These are beautiful design inspirations.

  17. They look like prehistoric furniture. Love it!

  18. I would have loved to do those installs!

  19. Looks like a nice place! It would be nice to sit down for a while there…

  20. We found several large granite boulders on our property during our various renovations but sadly none were ideal as a seat. I do love to see natural rock outcroppings used in that way. Great photos

  21. They did a great job of integrating stone seating into the environment. It must have been a fun project to work on.

  22. I love the big boulders! I regret not placing more big boulders in my garden at the beginning. Now it is to late.:(

  23. Some of the most beautiful stone work I’ve seen. It’s so nice to see stone that is integrated into the earth, as if it was always there. We see too much use of “token” rocks just plopped in a bed, in my opinion. CMBG is lovely in every way.

  24. Some great ideas there. Love those big rocks!

  25. wifemothergardener Says:

    Those are some great examples of using hard scape materials that are sympathetic to the gardens setting. Thanks for sharing them! If I ever have a woodland area, I would love to incorporate a stone seat of some sort.

    • wifemothergardener Says:

      And I hope your designing goes well! Looking forward to seeing pictures of it later!

      • Thanks, Julie. My project is going well. I showed all the stone seating shots to the person in charge. We picked out some nice boulders. Since I don’t driven the machines, the rest is up to them. I feel like they would listen better if I was being paid for my advice :-).

  26. Hi Carolyn, I like the way in which a stone bench fits seamlessly into the environment and does not seem as obtrusive or as man-made as a wooden bench. The last few shots are my favourites. The curved line of that chaise lounge is wonderful.

  27. Carolyn, how natural and eye catching are those stone benches. They would look good in our garden, need a cushion though. Thanks for checking out my blog on blotanical, my son in law has been sorting out a few things which I had messed up on my website, I think it is all sorted out now.

  28. As usual, I have taken away so many wonderful ideas from your post. I’ve been thinking about a rock garden for awhile now and some type of seating adjoining it. There’s some very interesting ideas in your photos, thanks for sharing.

  29. Wow, those are certainly incredible projects with rocks. I can’t imagine the man-hours involved in those rocks and boulders, I also haven’t seen rocks those big with those length. I can visualize the magnitude of this garden by combing your rock scenes and Donna’s. Thanks for the tour and the awesome photos.

    • Andrea, You are right those boulders are deceptively simple looking. As I am discovering now with my project, positioning them is a major undertaking. Carolyn

      • Yes, Andrea. It might look simple, except for the challenge of moving heavy stones; but one thing I’ve learned working at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and watching landscape architects and stone masons at work is that selecting and then placing stones takes an artist’s eye and a real sensitivity to the nature of both the stone and the landscape in which it will sit.

  30. Inspiring ideas, thank you for this post!

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