Gardening Season Is Upon Us

Collector Chats

May 19, 2023

Spring came early for most of us, and so at the time I am writing this column, the peonies are hours away from bursting forth in bloom. The year without a winter for the Mid-Atlantic has given us a glorious spring the likes of which we have not seen in ages.
As an inveterate gardener and follower of the English landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll, I have been busy working on my perennial border. That has not stopped me from flea market haunting to add treasures to the landscape. What has come home this season? A marvelous wrought-iron gate that is very tall and got placed just in back of my daffodil clumps to provide a really striking spring contrast.
Then there is the vintage concrete flower urn. Now first of all, before you all snicker, yes, I did say vintage concrete. For those of you unaware, there is a serious market in mossy worn concrete yard art. It has to have the right look and be of some quality for it to be valuable, but it is highly collected. The age is not anywhere near as important as the look. I recall sending to auction some very recent concrete pagodas that came from a roadside seller located on Route 30 west of Gettysburg. They were not old. But having kept them under the trees at our house in Mount Gretna for several seasons, they were definitely soft and mossy, and at least two bidders had to have them.
So vintage concrete is the happening thing, and my new flower urn is wandering around the yard (weighing a lot) as I try and think of a place for it. I have been keeping it at the end of a pathway I created around some outdoor Art Deco building tiles laid flat, but it just does not look right. I need to find a good plinth, and we will be off to the races.
Garden antiques are something that everyone should consider. You can go overboard like the house not far from us that has strung glass gazing balls in every tree around the house. A little goes a long way, and thoughtful use can make a meh yard into something really spectacular.
Vintage and antique garden art is treated differently than similar items for inside. I always encourage people, especially when buying cast-iron, to make sure that they are stable. A good wire brush cleaning and some protective paint is advised for sure. Concrete is usually pretty stable, but be wary of those statues where there are many cracks, as you may wake up some day after an extreme freeze and thaw to find you have a rock garden.
Hunting for garden art is an open field. One can find many specialist dealers who handle these materials. You can also certainly haunt the co-ops, particularly in spring when dealers tend to put such materials out. Finally, I love to look in the building salvage yards, as you can often find wonderful treasures that just need some creative adaptation!

"Born to collect" should be the motto of Peter Seibert's family. Raised in Central Pennsylvania, Seibert has been collecting and writing about antiques for more than three decades. By day, he is a museum director and has worked in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Virginia and New Mexico. In addition, he advises and consults with auction houses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, particularly about American furniture and decorative arts. Seibert's writings include books on photography, American fraternal societies and paintings. He and his family are restoring a 1905 arts and crafts house filled with years' worth of antique treasures found in shops, co-ops and at auctions.

Peter Seibert

Peter Seibert

Peter Seibert, a native Pennsylvanian, grew up in the antiques business and remains closely tied to auction houses, collectors, and dealers. Professionally, he has served as museum director and public historian in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Virginia. He holds an M.A. in American Studies from Penn State and has authored two books and numerous articles on decorative arts, interior design, and history.


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