Gardening 101: Which outdoor furniture is best?

Put some thought into your summer lounging with these helpful tips.

The sort of outdoor furniture I like these days is so smart and stylish it cannot be lain on when you are covered in oil, grass clippings, tomato sauce or anything else.

I’ve figured this kind of furniture is only for looking at and any items I might select would have to suit the unsavoury hygiene habits of three cats, a dog and a hard-working landscaper.

So after two decades of unsuitable outdoor kit, I have learned the following lessons:

  • Unless you plan to replace your outdoor furniture annually, buy quality stuff that will last for several years.

  • Whether it’s dining chairs, a lounger or a wooden park bench, try before you buy. Sit on it and remember that in real life, you will likely be hot, sweaty and scantily clothed. Comfort is just as important outside as in.

  • Unless you have OCD (obsessive cleaning disorder), go for easy-care furniture. Check out forgiving materials such as metal, teak, cedar, concrete, stone and all-weather wicker. And if you want cushions, ask yourself whether you’re prepared to put them under cover every night, store them in winter and scrub them to get the mould off at the start of every summer.
  • Unless you live somewhere where it never rains, store your furniture in the garage or shed in the off season. Even teak and iron pieces last longer if they’re stored during rough weather.

If you’re in a quandary as to what materials to go for, these are some of the choices:


It’s sturdy and natural, and if the design is right and it has good cushions, it can be as comfortable as indoor furniture. It may need some maintenance such as oiling and UV protection. Weather-resistant woods such as teak and cedar are top choices.

Aluminium, plastic and PVC

Not my favourites but they are rustproof, lightweight, inexpensive and easy-care.

Steel and wrought iron

They have lasting qualities but will rust if not weatherproofed or wire-brushed and painted on occasion.

Rattan, wicker and natural grasses

These can be used outside and they look great in a garden setting, but chances are they won’t last forever unless you weatherproof them with some sort of finish. I like to buy cheap, second-hand wicker or cane chairs for the garden and toss them when they’re past it.

Synthetic rattan

Once we’d have eschewed this stuff as looking artificial, but it’s won a place due to its practicality and because good designers make it look smart. It’s resistant to splitting and cracking – you can leave it outside and it should last well. Some are better than others, so check the guarantee and specifications.

Finally, a tip. At the end of summer, even though my sun umbrellas are still fine, I go to somewhere like Briscoes or Bunnings and buy three more. They’re usually reduced from around the $100 mark to a more acceptable $19.95. I keep them in the shed until the beginning of next summer, and I don’t have to pay full price for new ones. Works for me.

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