Antiques for your garden

PUBLISHED: 11:03 09 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:03 09 August 2016

Reclamation yards will have great vintage garden furniture - but be prepared to do some remedial work

Reclamation yards will have great vintage garden furniture - but be prepared to do some remedial work


It’s the room we will be sitting in more than any other this month (we hope) so why not fill your garden with antiques, asks Carol Burns

Collectables for the garden have moved on from hand-me-down garden gnomes (more on those later!) to a cornucopia of garden ephemera. From reclamation yard finds to old sundials, sculptures and wrought iron furniture, there is plenty to excite your vintage-loving tastebuds.

The first appearances of some form of outdoor furniture can be traced back to the Greek and Roman eras, where you would probably find yourself perching on somewhat uncomfortable stone benches and seats – some of the oldest surviving examples of garden furniture are in the gardens of Pompeii. Move forward many centuries and those in the 17th century began to see gardens as a way to show off their wealth, and so needing somewhere to sit and appreciate how you spent your money was required.

Most of the antique furniture we see will come from the Victorian era, using the techniques that were uncovered for large-scale cast iron production. These could be highly decorative and copies remain popular.

If you fancy something industrial start off at reclamation yards for ancient timber to edge your raised beds with the somewhat ubiquitous – but increasingly hard to find – railway sidings. These hunks of worn wood have served a vital service to our transport network and deserve to spend their retirement surrounded by flowers. Consider the length you need for your space, and ponder transport – these things are heavy!

Another option for the garden is old steel girders – these can be painted to prevent rust, or use metal paints in blue hues to sit against the greenery.

While you may discover full sets of garden furniture at an antiques fair, you can create an eclectic look with finds from a salvage yard. Be prepared to do a little work and you could create a real talking point.

Perhaps the oldest piece of garden ephemera you can get is probably a sun dial. Thought to have been created by Greek mathematician and astronomer Theodosius of Bithynia around 100BC, their design has changed very little in the preceding millennia. Again many collectables will come from the Victorian era and can cost several thousands of pounds – and are made from handcarved stone and a copper or brass dial – usually with a weathered patina (check out But as always if you are spending a lot of money, ensure it comes through a reputable dealer.

If you want to go 20th century vintage, it’s hard to resist the much maligned garden gnome. These little guys originating in Germany, who emigrated to Britain in the mid-19th century, are making a comeback – and the older cast iron generation are rare and becoming very collectable.

Why not go all-out vintage and create an English country garden feel using era-specific flowers and plants, certain shapes and layouts that ruled in the fashion-conscious green-fingered garden, from the formal to the wilder side.


Collectable wall hangings for your home - Antiques so often end up on our shelves and in cabinets, until we no longer really see them, except to dust or polish – so, Carol Burns asks why not adorn the walls with something collectable instead?

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