Near To The Last Of The Lead

I sold this lead fountain cistern 3 days ago.  Stunning-isn’t it?  I so clearly remember a constellation of feelings regarding its purchase, some years ago.  I was afraid to commit so hefty a chunk of my budget to one ornament.  I was equally afraid not to commit to it; I am in the business of making first class garden ornament available to my clients.  Some first class ornament involves only a great eye, and not so much money.  But lead garden ornament, both new and antique, is very expensive.  You may think that committing to a very expensive garden ornament takes nerve.  Truth be told, I would not describe myself as nervy.  I try to focus on what I cannot live without. Lead in the garden-this I would want.       

Lead in the garden has long history.  English lead ornament has a  long long history-this I respect.  Lead is poured into molds, and cooled. An artist takes the castings from a raw set of molds, and hammers and sculpts the lead into the finished ornament.  A large lead egg cup may take 60 hours of hand work to finish. The finished ornament is very heavy; lead is the densest of all the elements.  It is equally as soft. This makes it difficult to transport, and easy to damage.  Yet lead is the ideal material for a garden ornament; it is all but impervious to weather and maintenance-free.  

The English company known as Bulbeck produces very fine lead garden ornament.  Pots, sculptures, fountains and cisterns.  Hugo flew over, and paid a visit to us some years ago-he was so pleased that an American garden store was featuring his work. I have four of his lead egg cups available now.  They are based on pots from the National Trust garden Anglesey Abbey, and feature four medallions-pears, oak, roses and grapes.  I doubt I will be able to buy more, once these four egg cups are sold.  The cost of lead has increased so dramatically in the past few years, as has the cost of transport.     

 Eighteenth century lead ornament has inspired many of the pieces produced at the Bulkbeck foundry-and no wonder.  The production of lead garden ornament and architectural pieces was a flourishing business during that period.  Only a few companies deal in lead now; I hope their business stays strong.  It has been my pleasure to design and plant around lead ornament; to follow are a few pictures.   

 plain Bulbeck egg cup

lead tapers with grape garlands

lead fountain ornament

lead round from Kenneth Lynch

English lead box with lion medallions

English lead square with rose medallions

English lead square with contemporary zinc planters

Canadian lead egg cup

tapered English lead planter

This 17th century English lead cistern is near to the last of my lead.  I am looking here at the very best reason I have to find more lead ornament-there is nothing else quite like it.

Comments

  1. Rhonda Nikolaisen says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write about lead planters and lead ornaments in the garden. I so much enjoyed reading your thoughts about it. As a person who loves to create container plantings, as well as cares about the pots they go in, I of course loved this article and agree 100%. The container plantings in the photos were gorgeous!

  2. Chris Maciel says:

    Yes, it would be good to know the plants in these photos…they’re so inspiring one wants to imitate.
    The Rosemary is especially outstanding; mine is old and looks nothing like this, though I still love it and am growing more from cuttings.
    Great photos!
    Thanks.

  3. Wonderful post! Stunning photos! Could you identify the plants used the various containers? Thanks so much!

  4. I covet the lead so much….I hope to have one great piece some day. The rosemary topiary in the eggcup fills me full of so much envy, it makes me think I have a problem. Alas, there are more pressing garden priorities !!

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