The dream of a potting bench runs rampant among real gardeners who long for a hidden retreat in their landscape, to not only add organization to their passion, but perform a little horticultural magic.

The past couple of years I have been able to see the difference between a real, or should I say really used potting bench, and those who had benches but whose dreams never materialized. I am certainly not poking fun at those who failed to see their dreams come to fruition. After all I too have used exercise equipment for a clothes rack. Maybe in similar fashion you store cookbooks in the microwave.

The first thing that all of the successful benches had in common was a close proximity to the home. The further the walk to the work area it seemed the least like to be placed in proper use.

Think about it — one of the hoped for aspects of the bench is organization, a place where the Felco or Corona pruners as kept safe and secure. The gloves are right where you want them to be. The bench that is far away loses its purpose and the garden treasures start to end up in cubbies in the garage or the storage shed or the kitchen.

The second aspect of the most successful potting benches has been the proximity of water. To be honest, most had water incorporated to the overall design of the bench. Others definitely had a water hose with spray nozzle close at hand. The least successful, on the other hand, required dragging a hose the length of the yard or attempting to use a watering can.

Thirdly the benches were designed or constructed with the user in mind, just the right height to keep the gardener from bending, kneeling, and more bending that would otherwise make the gardener feel they had been in horticultural boot camp.

Fourth the benches provided adequate shelving and compartments for items like pots, soil, tools, fertilizer, rooting hormone, and more, one-stop shopping so to speak.

There were those that actually became gathering places. We have outdoor rooms for entertaining and relaxing but these work areas also became a gathering place but for gardeners to relax and even share cuttings.

One rustic bench that had everything I’ve described also had a large compost pile in very close proximity. This was great for recycling purposes but to also gather some of the material that had turned into black gold.

Then one gardener had dual potting benches. One was outside and very functional, while another was incorporated into a poolside cabana in an almost greenhouse atmosphere. There were large windows for sunlight and of course it provided protection from freezing temperatures during the winter.

Fall is a great time for dividing perennials, taking cuttings and rooting plants. It is also time to get tropicals ready to be repotted for moving indoors. A potting bench will make the tasks seem like horticultural fun versus a laborious job.