A place to relax in the garden. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Can any gardener actually relax? While it may be hard to stop picking and tucking and weeding and fussing, relaxing in the garden you’ve created is the best part of the day. After hours of hard work, what better reward can there be than to flop into an overstuffed chair on the porch with a novel or laze in a soft cotton hammock, swaying gently in the breeze and counting clouds.

 The dictionary defines relax as “to slacken” and “to ease.” Although our culture tends to assign negative connotations, as if to do either shows lack of character or slovenliness, I’ll go against the grain and put relaxing in my garden at the forefront of my chore list. Now, to find the best place “to ease”.

One of my most precious possessions is a hammock. In fact, my idea of hedonistic paradise is to lie in my hammock and red in the shade. The minute the weather warms even the slightest bit in spring, out comes the hammock to be repaired if necessary and hung under the hickory. I’ve even dreamed of putting a mosquito netting to go around mine to keep out summer insects.

 My other best place is a front porch. I covet those grand farmhouses with the porch that wraps around the entire house, but in reality, how practical is that unless you have thirteen kids, each of whom needs a separate place to play checkers or brush the dog or giggle with a boyfriend? A smaller porch will do.

 My porch needs to be wide with an overhang to keep out the rain and lots of places to sit whether you’re dirty or not. I can be just a place for a moment’s respite from weeing and watering, hoeing and deadheading, or a spot to leave a pile of garden catalogs to thumb through on a water break. But it can also be a gracious room for elegant entertaining.

 A patio is nice, but it’s open and exposed to the elements threatening comfort. A proper porch needs a roof to make it intimate. Even though you are in full of anyone driving by, it still feels like you are in your own private pace, just outdoors.

 The porch of my dreams has wide scuffed boards and a traditional robin’s egg blue ceiling. It is appointed with a whitewashed willow settee, a glider or porch swing with a soft floral cushion and mismatched overstuffed, well-worn chairs.

 The with banister drips with old fashioned scented roses and a trellis is clad in cerulean blue morning glories, making a secret place to sit and read. You can hear what’s going on, but on one can see you – a true magical spot where the kids can’t see you from the yard,

 On a hot afternoon the porch contains all manner of kids lounging, reading, and playing checkers while others squeal as they run through the sprinkle. There’s a frost pitcher of lemonade on the rickety table, and the scents of mint, sunflowers and freshly mown grass waft through the air.

 Evening falls and you begin to hear Vivaldi playing softly in the background. The porch is full to groaning with family and close friends. Someone’s cranking the ice cream freezer, and out comes “porch chicken” and potato salad, to be eaten on paper plates in your lap, followed with bowls of homemade strawberry ice cream.

 Night descends and the citronella oil lanterns are lighted, casting a warm glow on sunburned faces. The fragrance of nicotiana, petunias and evening stocks drifts all around, and the cicadas begin to call as the stars appear. Someone softly strums a guitar and the night is filled with quiet conversation peppered with laughter.

 Perhaps I’ll hang my hammock on the porch and have the best of both worlds.