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Garden History: Garden Antiques

Posted by ginger_nh z4 NH (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 18, 04 at 16:53

My sister just finished doing the Chicago Botanic Gardens Antiques and Garden Fair; she is an antiques dealer out of Maine; one of her specialities is garden antiques. She does the big shows and has a few high profile customers - like Bill Cosby, Martha, Barbara Streisand, and Bunny Williams. She called last night and asked if I wanted any of the multitude of plants that are being summarily dispatched for a song when the show is over this afternoon(!). Anyway, that led me to consider the fact that we have not had a thread on antique garden ornaments.

What are your favorites? Do you have any special ornaments, statuary, urns, ironwork, fences and gates, etc in your private gardens or in the gardens in which you are employed? (I am familiar with Dumbarton Oaks - there are beautiful pieces there . . .) Interesting stories about pieces? Family heirlooms? Old farm/ag equipment and tools? European pieces from fabulous estates? Everyday old items put to use in the garden as ornament or focal point?

Garden antiques - an unexplored part of garden history and restoration on the GR forum.

Here is the link to the show, although it is over today:

http://www.chicagobotanic.org/antiques/AntiqueSpeak.html

Ginger


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7, NC (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 18, 04 at 18:06

Well-- we brought back some really cool fossil stones--one of which I hope to turn into some sort of end table (the rest are going into the wall)--they are 450-490 MILLION years old...so I think they should qualify! I also have a piece of petrified wood my grandfather found down by the Licking River in Falmouth KY...it's got to be a couple of million years old, don't you think?

Seriously though, I love all sort of garden "antiquities"--just have never had the where-withall to invest in them. I'd love to have an old fountain or nice statue...someday!

melanie


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Ginger--

Interesting topic. There're always things around the farm to use. Please check out the two photos in "Gallery," named "Overlook garden, 2001," and "Overlook as seen from bath window." We used some old lengths of concrete fence to stack together a bench to sit on where the chicken house used to be near the top of the hill behind the house. There's almost always a nice breeze up there in the summertime. (The concrete pad foundation has my aunt's name written in the concrete, between 1913 and 1916.) I like the way the bench is parallel to the horizon, and as well to the interstate in the distance.

I resented the interstate's intrusion when I first took over in 1991. But I was just on the verge of dialing up the 800 number of Mussers to order up a row of trees as sound barrier, when I suddenly realized that I didn't want to cover up the view. I never realized it was a "view" before--we could never see it from the house all the while I was growing up on account of the huge trees that have since come down, plus the chicken house itself. Anyway, there's "nothing to look at"--just ask anybody from the East Coast.

Somewhere along the line I learned that my grandmother grew up on the farm just up on the next road (can be barely seen on horizon to the left of the tree trunk in the view from bath window). Why I never knew this before, I can't say. I guess it just never occurred to my folks that I *didn't* know.

Ironically, though my idea was to sit up there and look down at the house and the garden, what ended up happening was that, since my husband's family is totally into cars and trucks and things that go, we sit up there of an evening and "watch the interstate." And I've reconciled myself to the idea that we are in a great transportation artery of America. First it was the railroad, then it was the canal, and now it's the interstate, with carriers going from one coast to the other in endless streams. This is our time in history. Fifty years from now people will remember back to when the big 18-wheeler semi-trucks used to go streaming by on the interstate carrying goods from one end of the country to the other. And we were there.

Egyptianonion


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Timely AOL piece and pics on classical garden statuary - too funny!

http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20040410095709990001


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Ginger--
AOL won't let me get into the article since I'm not a member--would it be possible for you to copy and paste? Maybe they won't allow it. Thanks.
EO


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Can't cut and paste b/c of AOL and GW copyright laws, EO. I didn't realize only AOL members could read AOL news. . . But the piece was about a garden center in a small town in Tennessee. Some folks complained that the center was displaying nude garden statuary where the public could view it! In response, the garden center put dark red velvet bikinis on the statues; this caused customers to start peeking under the cloth to see what was being hidden--very strange, indeed! The accompanying photos were funny.

I like your acceptance of the interstate and notion of taking the long view(literally and figuratively)- one day we will look back on the tractor trailers as we now look back on horse and buggies.

Interesting idea to use the wagonwheels as bench anchors. I have 3 large wheels and years ago posted on the Garden Junk forum for ideas as to how to use them. No one came up with your solution. The green in the photos is so lush. Very peaceful and inviting.

I feel like I know you to some extent because of the family history that you've shared through your garden/home photos and stories. Your writing has a nice sense of immediacy. Thank you, EO.

Ginger


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Ginger, your description of the AOL story is too funny.

I have a few antique garden ornaments in my backyard.--A chimney pot used as a planter given to me by my husband as a combined birthday/Christmas present, a rescued-by-me circa 1930's concrete birdbath that is nothing more than a square with an indention in it (the texture of the concrete has character), and finally I have four pieces of antique terracotta edging put together as a planter of sorts.

I also suppose you could call my homemade garden ornament an "antique." I've made a suncatcher from the large pieces of purple glass and crockery collected on our property hung with wire from a small round ornate cast iron vent cover also found on the property. I know it may sound tacky, but it's actually quite nice.

I wish I had cherished family heirlooms to put in my garden or a connection with the land the way Egyptiononion does, but I think I'm making my own connections that hopefully my children will appreciate some day if they either inherit the house or decide to garden and use my ornaments.


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Thanks, Ginger--it's nice having someone receiving on the other end.
EO


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Redthistle, I'm sure your children and grandchildren will cherish the pieces that remind them of you. Please, for their sakes and for the sakes of the generations after them, write up little narratives once in awhile--little tidbits of interest for them to connect with you. Think of questions you would ask of your own departed predecesors if they were still around.
Egyptianonion


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7, NC (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 19, 04 at 11:53

EO and Ginger,

When my kids were little we lived on West Main Street in Carrboro, NC. We had a screened proch. When they were waiting for someone, and driving ME nuts asking "when will they be here?" I used to send them out onto the front porch to "count cars until your friend gets here." They finally figured out this was a diversionary tactic...and now when they want to get rid of me they'll say--"Hey Mom--why don't you go count cars?"

All this is a roundabout way of saying--I understand the joys of watching traffic. Mesmerizing...(sp?)

melanie


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

We have both antiques and family heirlooms all over our garden. And Mel, most of them have been inexpensive or free.

We have a very old iron garden gate that came from France that's used as a trellis, as well as several old window frames being used for the same purpose elsewhere in the garden. I remove the glass panes, paint the frames and muntins a cheery color, and hang them up on a wall or the side of the house for vines to climb. I begged a friend to rescue the beautiful set of 1920's pillars I spied in his apartment dumpster, which he did the nice man that he is. We plan to use them for the entrance of our greenhouse-to-be made up entirely of salvaged windows. I have the patio gate from my childhood home out in our sidewalk garden where it's used as a fence to keep folks from marching through the flowerbeds. And I have Mr. Goi's gravestone from 1910 in a prominent spot in the front garden (long story), and some of my mother's things out there as well. There's the lovely Portugese waterpitcher she cherished and some funny rocks she made my dad drag home from one or the other of their travels. But, then, my mother was the newlywed who rescued a roast beef, and nothing else, when my dad came to rescue her in the neighbor's rowboat during the great Osooyoos flood. She was a never ending source of delight and her things being close at hand remind me of how special she was.

I also have plants from my parent's garden and other loved one's gardens which mean a great deal to me now that they are gone. Most aren't exactly heirlooms but they have significance and history for us. My favorite is the wonderful, fragrant, purplish pink, old fashioned rose that came from the rose in front of the rental house where my husband and I got married on its' front porch. According to our landlady, Millie, it was planted by her father-in-law when he built the house for his new bride in 1927. We are carrying on the tradition and it's offspring now grows in front of our first house and we plan to give a cutting to each of our nieces and nephews when they marry. We also have Grandma Ruthie's irises in the garden that we smuggled (oops! did I say that?) back from Colorado and their offspring, with all the cuttings I've given away over the years, are now growing all over Los Angeles. We only just discovered that my husband's Aunt Donna never got any of her mom's plants and had no idea that we had some until a few weeks ago. So we're shipping a few back to her for her own garden. It's a lovely way to keep alive the memory of those who are no longer with us. In fact, when I give away pieces of those pale peach irises that smell like heaven I make sure to tell the recipient that it's name is "Grandma Ruthie". Well, as far as we know ;-)

Barbara


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7, NC (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 19, 04 at 18:32

Barbara--what a lovely thing to do! I wish I had some of the plants from my mother's perrennial garden--alas, she sold the house and failed to offer any of us flowers--never occurred to her.

Grandma Ruthie would be proud!

melanie (and I PROMISE not to tell the plant police about the irises....)


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Melanie,

As my husband and I prepare my parent's house for sale (the 700 mile weekend commute from Hades) I'm making sure to take pieces of whatever I can. The poet's jasmine is a bit of a thug but since it was my mother's absolute favorite I can't resist and I'm considering it for the naked fence...just because. I also brought home some crocosmia and nasturtiums - not my favorites colorwise so I set them out in the sidewalk garden which is a mishmash of leftover's, extras, donations, and the "not quite sure of what I'm to do with this" garden. For all it's haphazardnous those two beds look pretty amazing and I get loads of ooohs and aahs over them. Guess I also suffer from your inability to edit, especially when it comes to plants of sentiment.

Barbara


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Barbara, I just love the stories and the memories that go along with your ornaments and plants. I know I'd love your garden from the way you describe it.

Also, I think I read the in-depth version of the story behind Mr. Goi's gravestone in a post in another forum about a year ago titled, "What's the Oddest/Strangest Thing You have in Your Garden?"--If it's the same story I'm thinking about, it was the best of the bunch.


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Redthistle-

Thanks! Yes, Mr. Goi is strangest thing in my garden but as mentioned in that blurb I love having him watch over everything - my very own Japanese Gardener in "spirit". My Russian and Armenian neighbors always look a little puzzled when I stop just before going up the front steps, turn to his corner of the garden, put my palms together, bow, and give a reverential "O Goi sama" which is a Japanese greeting of respect. They have no clue as to what the heck I'm doing!

My digital camera is up at my dad's documenting the destruction and rebirth of what was a total disaster, but I'll bring it home this weekend and take a few photos of the garden. Even with our not being around much the garden surprizes me on how well it looks with so little care. I planned it to do just that but I really never thought it would work. Guess I did something right!

Barbara


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7, NC (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 20, 04 at 16:02

Barbara--would love to hear more about your dad's project--could you start a thread on it? Pretty please? I need distraction from the woes of homeownership--airconditioners--recalcitrant locks--etc. Not to mention the Great Wall of Chapel Hill! It's coming along--but I'm NOT convinced this project will EVER be finished.

melanie


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Oh Mel...are sure you want to get me started????? It's going to be LONG LONG LONG.

It would distract you from your woes .... this house is a doozy and you'll think you're rolling in clover in comparison. (A lot of this story may sound pretty sad but it really isn't - we've gotten past most of the sad bits and we're determined to get the job done and live happily ever after)

A little background on how the house got in such a state of disrepair. My parents bought the house in '63, in Carmel by the Sea, a pseudo rancher at the cutting edge of contemporary design. Not my forte but lots of folks would find it pretty cool. Just after I went off to college my parents moved to the middle east where my dad was Chief of Surgery in a hospital in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert for over 5 years - I spent an unbelievable 4 months out there but that's another story. While there they rented out the house which turned out to be a huge mistake. Upon their return the house was pretty trashed but my mom had just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and my dad spent every minute taking care of her rather than making repairs. My parents were in there 40's when they had my brother and me, so mother was in her early 60's when diagnosed but she had suffered a serious head injury in her 30's, so the Alzheimer's was not familial but due to the head injury - not uncommon. Mom took 11 years to die, and after that my dad wouldn't let any of us touch anything because it was the way my mother had had things. Really, it was very sweet on his part but it sure didn't help the house any. When ever one of us tried to do anything he quipped "it can wait until I'm dead".

Well, you can guess the next part. Actually, daddy died at the ripe old age of 85 and the way he wanted. It was just after my husband and I had spent a week with him that he decided it was time to go - so he went, by sheer will power on his part as far as we can determine, in his favorite chair with a good book in hand. After my mom's slow and horrible demise I have to credit my dad for passing as he did. He had been a trauma surgeon for over 35 years and would have loathed having tubes in every orifice and/or being on life support. Still doesn't make it any easier but I understand.

So then the house went into probate - dad still had my mom's name on the latest greatest will and the attorney's wouldn't let us touch a thing until recently. It will be two years in June since daddy died. Not only has that contributed to the problems but my brother, who is chronically ill with inoperable brain tumors (not malignant but needs regular chemo and radiation to keep them small) and now has Parkinson's (I KNOW - it sounds worse than any soap opera I know of but he still manages to work as an assistant golf pro) lived in the house keeping an eye on dad and continues to do so with a 160 lb Great Dane named Titus. Cleaning is NOT by brother's forte, so the house is not only falling apart - it's filthy.

Okay, now comes the commute, destruction, and process of reviving a house that should sell for close to a million. Have you heard of anything so OBSCENE??? The one good thing is after paying of the mortgages (dad quit work to take care of mom) and splitting the profits, my brother plans to move east and buy a house - cash upfront - and will put the rest in a trust. If we see this thing through to the end he'll have enough to be able to live comfortably and without much worry.

So how bad is the house?? I've been restoring beat up abused disgustingly dirty old houses since college and this one takes the cake. What's been a bright spot in all the despair is the tradespeople. Not only have they come to our rescue but charged us less because they knew my husband and I are doing most of the work ourselves. One corner of the foundation had collapsed and sunk almost a foot and the repair estimates initially came in at 75K to 36K. That kind of money would have been a huge chunk of our budget (I'm still paying dad's mortgages) and we would have had to sell the house pretty much as is. We then found Dave Potter, bless the man's soul, who not only raised and rebuilt the foundation but put in french drains all around the house to prevent any further damage, all for under 9K - 3K less than his lowest estimate. Same for our termite/structural contractor - he's letting us do as much as we can and will sign off on our work if it's done to code. Guess I must have done something right in a previous life.

And boy is there work! HUGE 4X6" floor joists that are swiss cheese, holes in vinyl (yuck!) flooring and the 1 1/4" subfloors, the cork flooring throughout has completely disintegrated despite being covered with carpet for 40+ years, a tub and half a bathroom that is that close to falling into the crawl space due to water damage, 1970's paint that needs to be primed and redone inside and out, termite damage to outer sheathing and ceiling beams, kitchen and both baths that need to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up, and a once beautiful garden that is nothing but weeds, except for a few diehard troopers, and now needs to be completely regraded and replanted. To make things even more difficult ...there's just so much of it. How's that for frightening? Feeling better?

It's not ALL bad for we are now making progress. I quickly taught myself how to install hardwood flooring, showed my husband, and the two of us working together are making good progress. We've been painting what seems like forever - big rooms and lots of them with 16' vaulted ceilings. The plumber is redoing all the piping and he too has been WONDERFUL. They will be hooking and unhooking things in phases without charging extra, and working around my brother's living in the house. We've one bathroom gutted and I may be able to start tiling as soon as this weekend. We completely destroyed the kitchen last weekend - unbelievably therapeutic despite the 20 mummified rats under the cabinets. I hate to admit it but I ran when I saw the first one and refused to participate until they were removed. But my husband's running commentary on rat removal would beat any Jay Leno monologue hands down! We try to laugh as much as possible,luckily I'm married to the funniest person I've ever met and he keeps me smiling - even through the tears. After a little more drywall removal we can start on the kitchen. Lowe's told me that since I'm acting as General Contractor they'll give us a break on all the cabinets and appliances, tile, etc. so that will help as well. We've been pulling weeds and trimming trees so even the yard, can't call it a garden yet, is looking better than it has in years. Even my brother, as ill as he is, is trying harder and things are a little cleaner.

All in all it will be worth it in the end. I get to use some of my creative skills outside the usual constrictions of restoration which is really exciting, and both my brother and I will be more financially secure. I'm sure daddy's smiling about that one, he really thought he was leaving us nothing.

Barbara


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Wow, Barbara, I thought I undertook a big project. Mine shrinks by comparison. How long is the commute? I know this is all Off-Topic (I'm sorry Ginger), but it's interesting.

Melanie is right, you should start another post and include pictures of your restoration. What plants have been survivors in your parent's garden? What kind of garden was there originally with the house?

Also, you are extremely lucky to have such good contractors. They're hard to come by.


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7, NC (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 21, 04 at 11:28

Hey, if we keep up with this, Spike may actually GRANT us our "conversations area." (You didn't hear that, Ginger!)

Barbara--you're right. Your dad sounds like he was a WONDERFUL man. Great Danes have poops the size of Texas--I dont even WANT to think about what that house/yard looked like! Carmel by the Sea is lovely...I bet you'll get over a million. As to Soap operas--honey, someday I'll tell y'all about my baby sister's wedding. People do NOT believe us when we tell the story! Perhaps this winter when we are all bored again...

melanie


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RE: Garden History: Garden Antiques

Melanie - my dad was very wonderful. Unbelievably brilliant (spoke 7 languages fluently on top of everything else) but very quiet about it and had the most wicked sense of humor which was rather unexpected for such an unpretentious man. Needless to say we adored him. And I'd love to hear you sister's wedding story!

RedThistle - The commute is 700 miles round trip - 6 hours after work on Friday and another 6 back on Sunday. Then I work all week too. Yep, I'm kinda tired.

I think I most regret the loss of the garden above all else. My mother was rather famous in this small community for the beauty of her little enclave. She had huge fuscias over 10 feet tall that were always in bloom and all the hummers you could imagine, cinnerarias (sic), hanging baskets of begonias, calla and canna lillies, poets jasmine, crocosmia and sparaxis every spring, and she had this thing about yellow daisies which were such eye candy on a foggy day. Her garden was cool, green, floriferous, moist and really really lovely. I remember tree frogs jumping out of hanging baskets when we watered, my very first very own veggie patch, and building forts behind the house beside a semi sort of creek - it was a child's paradise. Last weekend while pulling weeds Michael kept running in the house to bring me each and every salamander he found just so I could marvel at them, so the garden still has some life to it. What's puzzling me is that I have absolutely no idea how she did it...I have NEVER EVER seen worse soil in my entire life...well I guess I did but conveniently forgot. So much clay you could throw a pot with it. It's going to be a real challenge when we start rehabing the garden. Any suggestions would be appreciated especially considering we can't continually amend the soil.

We plan to go more with more structural plants for the rehab since the house is so contemporary as well as more drought tolerant plants since Carmel has much stricter water use laws than when I was a child. In the shady areas we plan to plant a variety of ferns, fuscias, and cinnerarias, we still have some callas out in front and I'm thinking of slipping in some hardy geraniums or something else for a dab of color. We are going to have less lawn than what was original and fill bigger beds with flax, mexican sage, hardy geraniums, other sages, Japanese iris, and of course a few yellow daisies for sentimental reasons. Michael and I wander around town looking at what grows best and what works well together but we're still a couple months away from really tackling that project.

I guess this part of the thread is in keeping with the restoration theme - do I make it just like it was or do I adapt it to newer plants, less water, etc. all within limited budget and time frames.

Barbara


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Clay soil...

Barbara, I hope this will help: Buy a big sack of alfalfa seed, and every time you get a patch of soil cleared, immediately sow alfalfa all over it. It will grow fast, and it's pretty much the best all-purpose amendment there is, high in both nitrogen and potash as well as "fiber" to loosen the soil.

Planting it in place will save you the trouble of hauling manure, compost, etc. -- and when you're ready to put landscape plants in, just add bone meal or superphosphate and turn the alfalfa under.

Of course, that won't be enough to keep the clay soil loose forever -- but it will help a great deal, enough to get your landscape plants growing well. By the time the soil needs amending again, the house will have new owners.

Love,

Claudia


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