The dream of a potting bench runs rampant among real gardeners who long for a hidden retreat in their landscape.

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 benches whose owners’ 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.

The first thing that all successful benches have in common is a close proximity to the home. Think about it — one of the hoped for aspects of the bench is organization, a place where the Felco or Corona pruners are kept safe and secure. The gloves are right where you want them to be. The bench that is far away loses its purpose and 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 is proximity to water. To be honest, most have water incorporated to the overall design of the bench. Others have a water hose with spray nozzle close at hand.

The least successful, on the other hand, require dragging a hose the length of the yard or attempting to use a watering can.

Third, the best benches are designed with the user in mind, just the right height to keep the gardener from bending and kneeling.

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

Some of the best benches actually become gathering places. We have outdoor rooms for entertaining and relaxing, but these work areas also can be gathering places 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 also to gather some of the material that had turned into black gold.

One gardener I know has 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 ample protection from freezing temperatures during the winter months.

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.