Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day!  What better way to celebrate than to brighten your yard than with vintage decorations? Enjoy nature and add some fun elements to your flowers and greenery. 

Here are our Top 5 picks for garden collectibles: 

1. Gnomes: German iron gnomes are popular garden ornaments rumored to bring good luck. Originally gnomes were thought to provide protection, especially of buried treasure and minerals in the ground. They are still used today to watch over crops and livestock, often tucked into the rafters of a barn or placed in the garden. There are copies made of iron, cement or imitation stone. An artistic repaint following the design of the old paint adds to the value, and the gnome will sell more quickly and for at least 50 percent more.

Garden gnome holding stick, wood, carved, Black Forest, $630.
Photo: Morphy Auctions

2. Fountains: There is artwork on the walls of Egyptian tombs showing fountains in courtyards of homes. Live like royalty with a backyard fountain in ceramic or concrete. A water feature in your backyard, regardless if your area is large or small, can inspire peace and meditation. And there are plenty available, both vintage and reproduction, in all price ranges.

Garden fountain, bronze, figural, depicting a cherub blowing a horn while riding a fish on the crest of a wave. Sold for $2,600 in July 2019.
Photo: Case Antiques

3. Benches: After all the work planting and weeding your garden, you need a place to relax and enjoy your work – a bench. In early America, wood was the choice for outdoor seating. Windsor chairs were popular. They were light weight, sturdy and comfortable. From the late 18th century, wooden garden seating was often painted green to match the outdoors. Cast iron became popular after 1830.  An iron garden bench, if cleaned and repainted white, black or dark green, the colors most used in Victorian times, also goes up in price. Be sure to clean off any rust before you paint so the original metal shape and details show. 

Garden bench, winged griffin, cast iron, wooden slat seat, Colebrookdale, $281.
Photo: Kamelot Auctions

4. Sundials: The sundial can be a garden conversation piece — as well as tell the time! The earliest sundials were purportedly made in 1500 B.C. and variations were made in following centuries by Greeks, Chinese and Romans. Portable sundials carried on trips in the 18th century were needed only until railroads, not clocks, were popular. The sundial, if positioned and read properly, gives more accurate time than a clock. Pocket sundials were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America. A sundial must be anchored in a garden by someone who knows how to set the dial at the correct angle to tell accurate time. Placement is different for every location. You can learn how to “set” your sundial here

Sundial, silver, octagonal, Michael Butterfield, Paris , $3,198.
Photo: Skinner, Inc.

5. Bird Feeders: Feathered friends are perfect garden companions. (Terry has three!)  Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” published in 1845, is thought to have the first mention of bird feeding in the U.S. It talks about tossing scraps to visiting birds. The “little house” bird feeders hit the market around 1850. In 1953, the Kellogg Seed Company began selling a seed mix based on choice experiments conducted by the National Audubon Society, labeled the “Audubon Society Mixture.” The first bird feeder to be commercially made was for the hummingbird. 

Bird seed holder, painted cast iron, shaped like two cupped hands. Sold for $103 in June 2019 from Ye Olde Vermonter.
Photo: Ye Old Vermonter


Leave a Reply

Featured Articles