Potting bench perfection

Over at Gardening Gone Wild, Debra Lee Baldwin (author of a couple of beautiful books on succulents) showed off a few examples of “potting area perfection”, including her own, and it got me thinking about the place where Gail and I spend so much time we sort of take it for granted.

The greenhouses’ headhouse was designed around the turn of the twentieth century as a proper potting shed – with cubbies for pots (and tulip bulbs, come summer), a “desk” with a hinged lid and drawers for storage, seed cupboard, shelve, closet, a dreamy soapstone sink (donated recently), and two benches, one of which is probably not ancestral and holds up the computer I’m working on now.

The other, in front of three beautiful, drafty old windows facing the Display Garden is our potting bench. It stands a good 37″ high, which just right for potting up little things, a little tall for the bigger pots; and is just as wide and long enough that 4 people can work side by side fairly comfortably. Bins for potting soil, peat packs and pots, and a mini-fridge fit underneath.

When I first started working here the bench was covered with a rapidly deteriorating sheet of Masonite and we always kept the soil in concrete mixing tubs like the one in the picture. When the greenhouses were restored in 2005, the bench was bestowed with a new polyurethaned plywood surface. We gleefully started mixing larger batches of potting soil right on it and now it has become cracked and pitted too.

We’ve been pipe dreaming about a new surface – stainless steel, marine-grade plywood – anything that might hold up to our use and abuse. And now after seeing other examples I have even more good ideas – it could have sides and a backsplash to keep us from clogging the electrical outlets…  A soil holding contraption could slide along the counter to make room for whatever else we are using the bench for today…

What is it about potting sheds and benches that invites wishful thinking? If I had to guess I’d say that it has to do with being specifically designed for its intended purpose. There’s a kind of beauty in that and it’s inspiring to see all the different ways there are of creating and using such a dedicated space. Ours might seem merely perfectly functional, often messy, and every-day to us but anyone peering in the windows might see something much lovelier.

What do you wish for at your potting bench?

3 thoughts on “Potting bench perfection

  1. Kris,

    Oh a potting bench wish list! What a delight to ponder this vision. I’d love one of those stylish faucets often found in commercial kitchens. You know the kind used to fill large soup pots with water. It would have both a spray and stream feature and would be positioned out of the wall above the potting bench. Also, the surface top could be soapstone with a sloped drainage feature. We can dream………Tricia

    Tricia – Hi!! I love your idea for the faucet but they’ve always looked a little dangerous to me. I can just see myself flooding the bench… That said, sometimes I do drag the hose over to ours. And soapstone. Yes. I’ve also been wondering about that fire slate stuff that’s used for lab tables… -kris

  2. I would wish just to have the bench, which I do not. I’m resigned to inglorious mixing on the concrete patio outside or in a large stainless wash tub. Honestly, I do most of my potting up between now and March and an outdoor bench while looking pretty would not be a good working space as most years it would be under snow. Potting shed is a better idea. One preferably with a window, light fixture, and a chair where I could sit while I stir my soil in the tub on the floor.

    Susan, I’m with you on the window – I’d rather look out while potting up just like I do at the kitchen sink. And to your list I’d only add a space heater for winter potting… -kris

  3. Hi, Kris — I’m so pleased to have been a source of inspiration to you! Your potting bench is indoors, which no doubt will engender sighs of jealousy from anyone who sees it. Windows and warmth sound wonderful!

    Debra, It’s true. Windows and warmth are pretty great. That bench is the best place to be on a rainy day… -kris

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