Allan Blackburn column

Allan Blackburn.
Allan Blackburn.

After my seasonal ramblings and having just returned from the BBC Gardener’s World Show in Birmingham, at the weekend, it was interesting to see just how closely collectables and gardening are linked.

Many of the show gardens had an environmental theme and, for most, that meant using reclaimed materials for planting and decoration.

A Victorian water butt would be a wonderful addition to any garden, being both functional and attractive. Made of pottery, they can be wonderfully and tastefully painted.

The craftsmanship involved in producing such old tools and containers means that they are incredibly durable - many old tools, planters and containers were themselves the work of craftsmen, as well as being made by large manufacturers.

This is the thought behind most gardening collectables.

Modern gardening tools and ornamental items may be more functional and practical, but nothing gives a garden more character and charm than an antique piece, whether it’s in working condition or not.

While modern tools are mass-produced for sale at your local garden centre, at one time gardening tools were highly valued, and necessary for the livelihood of family and the community.

In early societies, a strong hoe and a sturdy rake meant that you were able to grow food to feed yourself and your neighbours, and the men who made these tools were considered important craftsmen.

As for old gardening tools, a lot of people do like the feel of traditional tools while they’re working their plot and some do have a decorative value (like the old watering cans becoming planters!)

Their value depends on their rarity, function, the maker and of course, their condition.

During the 17th Century, there was a surge in the number of people interested in gardening and there are many books dating from then and into the 18th century which list tools “necessary to the gardener”.

Unfortunately, there is very little for the collector from these eras – most date from Victoria’s reign onwards into the 20th century.