Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Garden decoration - Your great outdoors !!

Being the classic and almost stereotypical English antiques dealer for a good many years, when I think about garden decoration my mind immediately conjures up visions of ornate marble statues, large white painted plinthed urns and huge pairs of limestone lions laid guarding the lush grounds of large stately homes.
A Pair of Low Country Baroque Statues of Mars & Ceres, Belgium circa 1700. Offered by;

Fortunately there's a whole lot more to it than that, don't get me wrong I think classic garden decoration plays a very important role in garden design but unless you own a stately house or want a garden that resembles a graveyard, variety and colour is important. I really enjoying seeing classic pieces mixed with contemporary or colourful bright pieces both outside and in.
A Fine Pair of Italian Cobalt Blue Urns, circa 1880. Offered By

A Pair of English Late 19th century Majolica Garden Seats. Offered By;  

Once the English upper classes began travelling into Europe they became fascinated by the antique garden statuary & decoration especially the vast amount in Italy and wanted to have copies of the original examples reproduced for their estates in England. This in turn triggered  a flourishing trade in Italy producing reproductions carved in white marble.
A Life size Marble statue in Pre-Raphalite style circa 1870. Offered by 

Composition stone was another material used, this stone was first invented by the Romans but not used until the 19th century for garden ornaments. The technique involved moulding rather than carving and enabled many of the same copy to be produced. Once the figure is  established in a garden it becomes very difficult to spot that its not a carved original.

A Pair of 19th century French  Moulded Stone Finials. Offered by 

Probably one of the most common pieces of garden decoration today is the urn and the variety of antique examples is huge as is the materials their constructed from being anything from composite stone to marble and bronze. Traditionally urns were positioned in the gateways of grander houses and frequently depicted family coats-of-arms. Today urns are often planted out and form part of the decorative scheme of the garden. A similar decoration is a finial, also originally used to decorate gateways and often confused with an urn but the main difference was being solid these were purely decorative and are used today solely for their decorative qualities.
A French Large Copper Urn, circa 1860. Offered By; 

A Lathe 19th century American Painted Iron Planter, Offered By;

When it comes to garden d├ęcor I think colour and individuality is key. Its the perfect opportunity to let your imagination go into overdrive, try feeding it from your influences of travel, places you've visited, favourite colours etc. I also think finding pieces that may not necessarily have originated for the garden and using them is great fun and adds an interesting and an unexpected twist to your great outdoors.

A Late 19th century French Birdcage. No Birds ?? This would look great filled with plants.. Offered by
A Pair of Japanese Lacquered Hibachi (Braziers) fitted with the original copper liners that held hot coals. Offered By; 

Well I do hope you've enjoyed and maybe learnt a little during my series of garden postings, I do feel however though that I've only just scraped the surface of an enormous subject, so maybe one day I'll have another crack at it, but until then here's a few more pieces of decoration that I've come across and love...
A Wonderful Pair of Italian Lemon Pots circa 1890. Offered By

A Large 19th century Italian Garden Stone Frog, Offered By;
A Pair of French 19th century Terracotta Tree Pots, dated 1896. Offered By;

A Pair of 5" Garden Obelisks dating from the 1940's. Offered By;


Monday, April 18, 2011

Decorative Iron Garden Furniture

The use of furniture in garden design is in the antique sense quite a modern concept and even gardening as a leisure interest was pretty much unheard of until around the end of the 19th and into the early 20th centuries, not until the end of the first world war did the English middle class even consider tending their own grounds and this was only due to the lack of gardeners..
Large mid 19th century French painted iron garden bench, Offered by

Until the 18th century the only seating used would have been stone or marble or possibly a wooden bench that had been brought outside from the house. There are still a few examples of 16th & 17th century examples of stone and marble seating around today and occasionally they come onto the open market but command reasonably high prices.
The first wrought iron garden seats started to appear in the 18th century and at that stage were one off pieces made by local blacksmiths. These benches had a simple reeded strapwork design and curved pad feet to stop them sinking into soft ground.

A Rare 19th Century Georgian Strapwork Bench, Offered By;

This process continued until the mid 1800's when the large ironwork foundries realised there was money to be made and began to mass produce cast iron garden furniture. This proved an instant success with the middle classes as the cost was far less than the local blacksmith and far more decorative.
An English "Fern Pattern" Cast Iron Bench by Coalbrookdale, Offered by; 

 One of the major producers of this furniture was The Coalbrookdale Company who developed a wide range of good quality cast iron garden furniture. There is still a reasonable amount of Coalbrookdale furniture around due to its production continuing up until 1929, and obviously also due to its hard wearing nature. Although like all antique garden furniture it generally makes quite high prices at sales, however compared to the price and quality of modern garden furniture it will work out as a good long term investment, its been around 100 plus years so you already know its going to stand the test of time.

The Coalbrookdale Factory

A Victorian Coalbrookdale "Nasturtium" Garden Bench, Picture courtesy of,

Similar to the British the French during the mid 18oo's also produced wrought iron garden furniture but the aesthetics of it was in my opinion ageless and simple. The style of metal outdoor furniture used today in France has not really changed a great deal from the original designs of the 19th century. The round iron framework of rusted painted tables & chairs enjoyed on patios and in gardens today almost cry out “Bonjour” they're so recognisably French..

Pair of late 19th century French wrought iron garden chairs, Offered by; 

An Ornate French Iron Garden Table circa 1870, Offered By;

Across Europe styles similar in wrought iron were produced with the Italians leading the field in decorating their ornate ironwork with colourful mosaic and upholstered cushions.

One of a Pair late 19th century Italian forged iron benches, Offered by Holmes-Samsel Antiques
Worldwide during the 19th and early 2oth centuries iron furniture became increasingly popular with the the middle classes and although the styles were predominately modelled on the European designs some good examples were produced. I have added pictures of a couple that caught my eye..
A 19th Century Cast Iron Garden Set by Peter Timmes' Son Company, Brooklyn NY. Offered by;
An Argentinian 19th century Iron Garden Table &Chairs set. Offered by

Monday, April 11, 2011

Architectural Salvage in the Garden

A huge amount of architectural salvaged items are suitable for decoration in a garden. When older buildings are demolished some of best the features from them come onto the market via salvage yards and local antique dealers.

Antique Reclaimed Stone Balustrade, Offered by;  

For me there is a huge amount of fun and satisfaction getting down and dirty rummaging around salvage yards, markets and farm sales looking for interesting items suitable for both garden & interior decoration and really letting my imagination run wild. I must admit to receiving more than the occasional strange glance or comment as I've been carrying & loading my bounty of treasures from various yards, markets and sales over the years.

Picture courtesy of Robin Stott

Like all antiques and vintage items the prices vary enormously depending on age, provenance, size etc. However the more modern pieces such as early 20th century items are more readily available and still reasonably affordable.
Large quantities of European architectural salvaged items are now regularly imported into North America and available in the majority of our cities.

A huge assortment of items waiting to be reclaimed... Offered by;

 One of the more popular items are Saddle Stones, originally used in Britain from around the middle ages to support and to lift storage buildings such as granaries off the ground protecting them from rodents and water. These were until fairly recently pretty much unheard off in the US but now feature in a great deal of period garden design simply due to their great aesthetics and their ease of use in edging a pathway or creating a feature.
Three 19th century Saddle stones recently sold in London by 

 It can be reasonably easy to accommodate a salvaged piece into the garden and like I said it just takes imagination and some lateral thinking, for example I think the antique limestone window frame pictured below would make a wonderful and very elaborate surround for a garden pond or how about the English Staffordshire Chimney pot overflowing with your favourite colourful blossoms.

An ornate stone window frame.. Or could it the fabulous pond surround you'd been looking for ?? Offered by
An English Blue Staffordshire Chimney Pot, Offered by; 

 Old stone or iron feeding troughs are great for planting out and a small flight of salvaged stone steps would make a real feature leading down into the pond.

A Flight of Early Victorian Stone Steps, Recently Restored by John Mac Manus at

Picture courtesy of Lady Tara-Stock

Vintage agricultural or farm machinery makes an interesting country feature or try laying a pathway with old stone or terracotta floor tiles maybe topped with a row of olive jars to give a more Mediterranean feel.

Vintage Farm Implements can add Interesting Features to a Garden 

A Mediterranean Style Garden Design by
  Finally I couldn't end this post without adding the perfect example of British reclamation, not sure it would make a period garden setting but certainly a feature though..

A K6 Jubilee English Telephone Kiosk Fully Restored, Offered By;


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Period Garden

Whilst sat at my table pondering on what would be the subject for my next blog posting I realised spring has arrived and summer is fast approaching. Looking out of my window here in Edmonton its a little hard to believe, the record snowfall of the past few months is still very evident although slowly beginning to melt. However the sky is a beautiful blue which instantly led to my thinking about being outside and the precious summer months to come.
Over my next series of postings I want to try and discover more about antique garden structures, the furniture and decoration that come together to make up wonderful period gardens . This is a huge subject with lots of parts to the story so I thought it would be easier to break up and write about in sections.

The Orangery

An Orangery is a building that was likely to be found within the grounds of wealthy residences between the 17th and early 20th century. It was a glazed structure in similar style to a greenhouse only usually far more impressive and was designed to hold young citrus trees in the winter protecting them from frosts and harsh winter weather.
Originating from Italy as long ago as 1545 they were at first not that well planned being often quite draughty and sometimes heated with a fire providing warmth to ensure the precious fruit plants survived.

The Orangery at St Audrie Park in England (Picture by courtesy of Bob Tinley)  

The building of these became most fashionable in Europe at the towards the end of 1648 after the end of the Eighty year war. The countries involved greatly in pushing this trend were the Netherlands, France & Germany as they were the largest importers of orange trees and other precious fruit plants at this time.
Eventually as glass making techniques improved and Orangeries became more insulated their owners found they were also the ideal place to relax and entertain.
Today the modern Orangery is used for many reasons such as kitchen extensions, home offices, dining areas as well entertaining and relaxing. Their original use is somewhat redundant today due to exotic fruits now being widely available. 

The Orangery at Hampton Court Palace, London.
The Folly
Dating back to the 16th & 17th centuries the Folly was a purely decorative element on large estates throughout Europe . Many of the older grander houses had derelict ruins in their grounds, in Britain & France it would have likely to been monastic house and through Italy derelict Roman Villas were often to be found. In grounds of houses that had no such ruins it was commonplace for such buildings to be constructed.
The Beacon folly at Staunton Country Park , England. (Picture  courtesy of Geni) 

In the 18th century the folly formed an important part of the English and French garden landscape. Many were built in this time with purpose such as a hunting tower or garden storage. Among many others some of the more common themes for follies were in the form of a Roman Villas, Egyptian pyramids or even Gothic ruins.
 In the early 19th century the themes became more exotic and included Chinese pagodas and Tatar tents.
The Temple of Modern Philosophy in Ermonville France circa 1765 (Picture courtesy of Parisette)

The remains of some follies can be seen today and there are even action groups throughout Europe trying to protect and preserve the historic values of these structures.

A Composition Stone & Faux Lead "Folly" Style Garden Temple, Offered by
The Gazebo
As a garden structure was usually a domed or pagoda shaped build occasionally it also came in different forms. It was used for both a decorative purpose and for light shelter. The Gazebo has been around one way or other for a few centuries first being mentioned in a poem by Cordban back in 1160. These were at their height of popularity in early Victorian times and were usually made of wrought iron and later in the 19th century wirework construction became the vogue.

An English Victorian Gazebo
A Reproduction Wire Gazebo, Offered by;  

The Summer House
This Structure is most certainly English by tradition, other countries have cabins or chalets & lodges. Sitting in the Summer House was a real British tradition and to some extents still is. Most of the original house date to around the beginning of the 20th century and due to the construction being almost entirely of wood few originals have survived. The most novel examples were built by a company called Boulton & Paul and revolved on a base so as to catch the sun at any time of day.

An Original English Summer House Outside & Interior