I know that last week I was waxing poetic on the subject of garden urns, but the most recent deliveries to the shop are about another point of view altogether. Rob’s winter shopping reflects his attraction to galvanized metal in just about any form. Galvanizing is a process by which iron or steel is coated with a thin layer of zinc. This protects the steel from rust and corrosion. Garbage cans, fencing, horse troughs, car frames, I-beams, farm buckets, baking pans, guard rails and gutters, mailboxes, ductwork, light poles-lots of every day objects are created from galvanized metal. I think Rob is especially interested in how a ubiquitous material can be transformed into an ornament great for a garden-such as this fanciful wire playhouse made from galvanized fencing.
Though a galvanized watering can is an iconic garden ornament, the same could not be said for these vintage industrial storage barrels. Tall and thin, they have a great shape and a beautifully weathered surface. I could see them planted with morning glories on a very tall tuteur-the blue flowers would be so beautiful with this blueish metal. A country garden would welcome a look like this. Alternately, planted with giant blue agaves, they might be just the thing for a contemporary garden.
Galvanized buckets and troughs have graced many a barn and farm garden. It’s no stretch to plant them with vegetables, flowers or herbs. My favorite pot compositions of Rob’s are his “roadside weed” plantings. Loose, grassy and verging on scraggly, they are charmingly natural and unstudied. A bucket is a perfect container. A sizeable pail can be an unexpectedly handsome home for a lotus. My brother had a garden party once (Petey most assuredly is not a gardener)-he used a number of large pails as burn buckets once the light started fading. I must admit it looked great-his casual grouping of fires in buckets.
This large galvanized steel cistern is English in origin. The pitted, highly textured surface is indicative of some age. A tomato garden with herbs would be smashing. It would be equally as attractive as a fountain. It is also the perfect height to accomodate a large thick stone top-a perfect dining table base for a contemporary garden. Galvanized metal is a chamaeleon garden material-it seems to adapt and make itself at home in a variety of settings.
I am not a watering can person. I am a fan of hoses right where I need them; I dislike carrying water from one place to another. I use my vintage watering can as a vase for lilacs, or whatever else seems to be blooming in my garden. I might plant it. Or I might collect them, and hang them on a wall. They are among the most friendly on the eyes of all essential garden tools-they look good, just being there.
Zinc itself is a bluish white metallic element-atomic number 30, should you care to know. It is a brittle metal at room temperature, but malleable when heated. Exterior ornament of all kinds has traditionally been made of zinc. Zinc work tops are prized in some kitchens. This piece which we outfitted with mirror could have been a decorative surround on a dormer window. Very old zinc pieces can have considerable damage, as it is a fragile material as metals go.
New galvanized metal is shiny and bright. This surface will rapidly weather once it is outdoors, but inside it is luminous, lovely, and yet sturdy looking. It is anything but reminiscent of your Mom’s sterling silver.
This old French water cart would be my nemesis-I cannot imagine filling it with water, and hauling it to the garden, many times over. But parked in one spot, I could come to appreciate its form, and its history. Not everyone loves classical garden sculpture; it’s a good thing they don’t need to. Though it would not be my choice, I have seen gardens where vintage tools are displayed as sculpture to beautiful effect.
Are you wondering what you are looking at here? So did I, when I first saw them. A number of very narrow panels of extruded metal, some of them 12 feet long, showed up here last week. He shrugged. Industrial metal shelving? Regardless of their origin, he sees them as objects with possibility. A narrow garden shelf attached to a brick wall? Trellissing on a wall, or free standing and in ground? Three or four lashed together might make a swell flat bridge over a stream bed.
This vintage flower bucket, and its companion biscuit tin make vases of a different sort on this table. Looking at objects sometimes is much more about our idea of the function of the object, than what is there to see. I am used to seeing galvanized metal ductwork; sheet metal window boxes take that idea one step further, to good effect. I have made them, and painted them. I have made them, left the surface as is, and installed them in this natural state with with black iron supports. They are a very smart looking and economical vehicle for a planting. A modest material that gives back plenty visually-this I like.