zinc watering cans

Courtesy of Wikipedia, zinc is a metallic/chemical element-the 24th most abundant of all of the elements as detailed on the periodic table.  It is an essential element to human health.  But its largest use by far and away is as a coating on steel which resists corrosion.  These watering cans are made of sheet steel, which is them submerged in a bath of molten zinc.  That thin coating prevents the steel from rusting.  Should you have an old metal watering can, chances are good that the zinc has worn away in spots, and the steel has begun to rust. Galvanized metal is a garden material common in watering cans, cattle and chain link fencing, chicken wire, tools, wheelbarrows-the list is long.     

This is a reproduction of an old French cabinet with zinc drawers.  This zinc has a decidedly bluish cast.  The sheet steel from which the drawers are made is very thin, and therefore light weight.  The distressed white wood frame and zinc coated drawers makes for a cabinet that is very light, good looking, and utilitarian.  What would I store in this?  Seeds, twine, replacement blades for my pruners, garden gloves-you get the idea. 

Zinc coated steel is such a familiar material in the garden.  This vintage English sink is kept company by a vintage handled bucket, and an oval washtub.  To the very far right, a vintage French wash tub.  The material is common in many cultures, for useful objects for farm, home, and garden. 

This very tall flat backed galvanized basket was originally used to gather grapes.  There are faint signs of rust where the moldings are applied over the body of the basket.  Imagine zinc heated to 800 degrees, transforming it from a solid to a liquid state.  A steel object is slowly lowered into this bath, and then slowly raised out and drained.  The coating is very thin, but thick enough to prevent rust.  Just about every activity in a garden involves water.  From the sky, from the hose, from the soil, from sweat.  Galvanizing greatly improves the longevity of steel outdoors.  Vintage and antique galvanized metal objects for the garden invariably show signs of rust.  Steel and water make rust.

The window boxes at the shop, and the boxes on the roof are made from galvanized sheet steel.  This year, I need to replace them.  After 11 years in service, the zinc has worn through in many places.  The failure of the zinc means a degradation of the steel.  In a word-rust.  The bottoms of my boxes are rusting out.  I need new zinc coated boxes.  These perforated zinc buckets show signs of rust, but not enough to worry me.  They look like they have had some use.  That vintage rusty look is a good one.

This is another reproduction of a cabinet from a French original.  5 drawers, and 10 cubbies.  Vintage style is easy to speak for, and assimilate.  My old buckets and watering cans-I would not dream of giving them up.  They have that comfortably worn look that reminds me of a favorite pair of boots-as does this zinc cabinet.       

These galvanized steel finials are also reproductions.  They have a gently and convincingly degraded coat of paint.  The design is great-saucy.  The reproduction part means that a number of gardeners could have them.  I have no problem with reproduction pieces in the garden.  I only have a problem if they are not visually convincing.  This surface is entirely convincing.  The designer for this company-she understands how a piece should feel, and she works very hard to endow, and construct her pieces with that feeling. 

This sideboard is hers. The wood console has a zinc coated steel top, studded with rivets. The column legs are reminiscent of Moorish design to my eye, though her original is a French piece.  Spring at the shop will feature garden ornament in a wide range of styles and periods.  But it will have a decidedly French flavor.  Great French glazed terra cotta, and French antique sculptures, urns, and vintage French pieces.   These reproduction pieces appeal to my love of all things French, but they also appeal to my interest in a designer who has a passion she is willing to see through the construction.  Outdoors, the wood in this console would continue to degrade.  There are those gardeners who greatly prize what we call weathered.  So place this console in the garden, and deal with the consequences.  Indoors, or on a covered porch, this table would lastingly and clearly speak to the garden-with a French flavor.   

I did buy a number of zinc coated steel cabinets and cubbies from her, from the French originals.  I fell for the garden like look, the blue grey of the zinc, the vintage feel, and the possibilities.  What would you store in drawer number 7?  Old letters?  Embroidery floss?  Garden tools?  Votive candles?  Dog treats?  A flashlight?  You choose.     

This vintage English garden table with painted steel legs and a zinc top (yes, solid zinc is available in sheets) has some new company-8 new galvanized steel garden chairs.  These chairs just arrived. The wirework of the backs and legs is a great foil to the sheet steel zinc coated seats.  Steel, galvanized with molten zinc, in this case, would enable a seated dinner party in the garden.  I truly like this idea.  I even more like the idea that any ornament in the garden has a name, an idea, an aesthetic, a point of view.  Passionate gardeners, I belong to their group.

Sunday Opinion: Garden Making

I know have I made more than passing reference to how a great garden makes beautiful music.  There are those natural notes volunteered from the birds, the water running, the bees, the kids, the thunder, the conversations with friends, footsteps crunching on the gravel, a shovel sinking deep into the soil.  There is rhythm and beat supplied by the repetition of plants, materials, or shapes. There are individual melodies created by a specimen tree or gorgeous pot that come into play.  There is movement- from the grasses, the dogs, from the seasons, from the weather.  The wind is an expressive instrument creating sounds not so unlike the music from a clarinet empowered by the breath of an individual musician. There is a gardener in charge who writes the score, and plays.   

I cannot remember the exact moment that I became a gardener, but I am sure it was not a particularly momentous occasion.  My Mom giving me a package of seeds?  A salesperson who persuaded me that I could in fact grow orchids?  A painting? A memory?  Who knows. I find those moments that really changed or influenced my life are barely worth mentioning-beyond the fact that I was ready to hear.

How I garden is my take on a constellation of events created from my exposure to nature.  My exposure to people, places and events matters much.  My relationship with the soil-basic, and visceral.  Musical.

Water from the hose-I love the sound; I like the taste.  My hose is a lifeline that stretches between me, and my plants, and makes for a gardening life. I cannot really explain this, but Linsey Pollak can.     http://www.wimp.com/coolestmen/

I am afraid to try to grow vegetables.  The failure rate is high.  Vegetable gardens seem depressingly ugly and disease ridden.  Every bug on the planet would respond to the invitation to come to my yard.  But Linsey Pollak, he makes me want to try to grow carrots.  If for no other reason than to enable the music.  It is no mean accomplishment in this world-making something grow.  Linsey Pollack grows lots.  Put his info right next to your seed catalogues.  Be determined to make some music.     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWbj7FYEi3M

Still interested?   http://linseypollak.com/


At A Glance: Planted French Glazed Pots

planted 2005

planted 2007


cassia in a French pot, 2007















You may feel exhausted after looking at this many pictures of plantings in French terra pots, but it would be tough to exhaust the possibilities for planting them.

First Container From France

Our first container from Rob’s orders in France this past September today arrived this morning around 9.  Though we have imported close to 50 containers (a container being a steel box 40 feet long, by 10 feet wide, by 10 feet tall) over the past 15 years, I have yet to get over the thrill of that big truck pulling up.  A container arriving is exciting.

It took this driver 6 passes to back down our narrow driveway-fewer than most. There was a little ceremony regarding the cutting of the bolt.  Only I can OK the opening (unless US Customs decides to get involved).  This is a perfect moment that I have had the good fortune to experience multiple times.  What I imagine about Rob’s order is about to become a reality.

Rob shopped artisanal poteries in France this past September, with special orders in mind.  We engaged a European agent this time, for the first time, to oversea the making and the packing of those orders; Rob has known her for years.  He waved off all of my objections.  He wanted someone knowledgeable to look after the manufacture and packing of our order.  This proved to be a good decision.   

Some of the very large pots we ordered exploded in the kiln. Some pots cracked.  CM  saw to getting certain pots remade.  She advised us of possible substitutes.  She had ideas about what might fill the small spaces in the container.  An order in progress in Europe needs a European representative.  The work of offloading and unpacking was an easy exercise, by comparison.  The pots were expertly packed.  Every single pot survived the trip without so much as a scratch or chip.   



Artisanal poteries-we have a significant interest in them. They have a point of view, a style, and a way of making all their own.  The quality of the pots is excellent.  The large pots are incredibly heavy.  The drain holes in the bottom of the large pots reveal the clay is close to 2 inches thick.  Our idea is to make handmade and individually designed pots available to gardeners with a passion much like ours.   

This handmade French pot is of a size that commands attention.  Most of the pots Rob ordered are of a size that is neighborhood friendly.  But we have a few that are show stoppers.   

The green glazed French pots are very handsome.  This color comprises the bulk of our order.  Though I was disappointed not to have any pale blue pots, I understand Rob’s idea.  He likes a collection that has considerable depth, rather than breadth.  This specific glaze specified by Rob is closer to an eggshell finish than the traditional high gloss.  We really needed that spot where Howard chose to settle in, but he likes being close to the action.   

The face pots-I requested 4 of these. The glaze is shockingly beautiful in person.  I had never seen a glazed French pot with a white, grey, and black surface such as this.  As for the cherubic faces and grape garlands-I am charmed by them.     

We unpacked many pots today-all of them architectural, some just plain gorgeous, some with rustic and highly textural finishes.  Hidden in one of the pots, a thank you in the form of two bottles of French wine.   

I have a foursome of white glazed vases in the classic Anduze style in my possession.  These vases are better than 4 feet tall. The possibilities for planting them?  Just about limitless.  Not to mention that these pots would look equally great unplanted.  The best reason I can think of for investing in beautiful garden pots is how they persuade me to plant them, year after year.              

We had a substantial lot of pots delivered today.  The garage that was empty yesterday is stuffed with garden pots-handmade French garden pots today.  My 10,000 square foot building is bulging at the seams, and we still have another container, and all of our domestic spring orders to go.  Thia is as it should be-trying to find places for everything. 

These cream and yellow pots are elegant and graceful. 

The glaze on these pots-very rustic and markedly textured-is quite subtle.  The peach colored clay of the inside contrasts warmly with that muted grey finish.

At the end of this day, I was really tired.  It took the entire day to unpack.  I barely had time to admire them. 

Luckily I will have a little time to get to know them before the shop gets busy again.