Collecting garden antiques for backyard garden

Columnist Sandy Erdman says vintage items can give a great look to your backyard garden.

Wooden seed boxes, watering cans, seed packets  and more found at the New Generations of Harmony.jpg
Wooden seed boxes, watering cans, seed packets and more found at the new Generations of Harmony.

As I get older I am doing more of just the backyard gardening such as growing veggies in a giant size galvanized wash tub. Great idea for those who live in apartments and condo, though I am still a homeowner.

I am also finding it fun to decorate around my giant wash tub of veggies. I do like to figure out this time of the year what I would like to add to my outside area. So like most, we go on the hunt for new- or vintage-look watering cans to not only use but to hold flowering plants. New or vintage re-purposed chairs, benches and old cupboards to use as potting tables. Water proof wicker and wrought iron are great finds, and maybe all you need is a bottle of cleaner and a can of spray paint and a cute pillow. Group collections of smaller items into striking arrangements, like the 1930s and '40s garden tools arranged with cute seed boxes displayed on a metal tabletop.

Watering cans, tools and containers for plants and more all found at The Backyard Flea, with Carol & David Thouin, Spring Valley..jpg
Watering can, tools and containers for plants and more all found at The Backyard Flea with Carol and David Thouin, Spring Valley.

Where to shop for garden antiques

Prices for garden antiques can vary widely, depending on age, rarity and condition. Many garden antiques such as flowerpots, buckets, watering cans and tools can be spotted at antique malls, thrift shops, flea-markets, yard sales and country auctions for $5 to $40. Garden furnishings like benches, cupboards, potting tables, chairs and wicker generally start at $50 on up.

At the Backyard Flea, 421 N. Huron Ave., Spring Valley, Carol Thouin says, “We have a good supply of galvanized pails, tubs and other containers great for spring planters. Of course, we always have garden chairs, painted furniture, and lots of unique repurposed junk. We enjoy seeing return customers who love the variety of what we offer as well as the displays and vignettes we set-up at our upcoming sale, May 11-15 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.”


At Sarah's Uniques & Jim's “Man”tiques, St. Charles, Sarah Kieffer says, “Spring is one of my favorite times to decorate. From garden tools, garden aprons, galvanized tubs, planters, wicker, metal trellises and more, I have it all here at the shop. A lot of cute planters priced to sell at $2-$12, these are great for flowers and the popular fairy gardens. Gliders and vintage furniture are always a hit and priced around $25-$200. A new trend is using old watering cans and sand pails for your flowers as an inexpensive way to show off your antiques with beautiful flowers.”

Erica McCain, manager, New Generations of Harmony, says, “We have so many fun vintage, antique and new garden items right now. Garden tools and decorations are hot sellers this time of year and understandably so. Our current outside items include a horse windmill, galvanized tubs on stands, a milk can, a wooden planter, ceramic pots, a garden plow, benches, birdhouses, metal trellises, wrought iron flower baskets, metal garden art and spinners all selling from $4-$285. And inside, we have antique wooden seed boxes, garden tool holders, vintage garden books, watering cans and vintage seed packets all of those items selling from $1.45-$145.00. And these are just a few items now."

Books on gardening, tools, carryall for your tools and plants all found at the New Generations of Harmony..jpg
Books on gardening, tools, carry all for your tools and plants all found at the New Generations of Harmony.

Finding vintage pots with unique patina

For most collectors, the patina that comes with years of exposure to the elements is what appeals to them. Some collectors love the look and feel of an old surface, while others buy a piece, sand it and repaint it. Most garden antique dealers leave weathered wood, moss covered terra-cotta and rusted metal untouched allowing customers to do with their purchases what they want. Although, think twice before refinishing, once the surface has been altered, it cannot be restored to its original condition. Signs of age are easy to take off, but they’re difficult to replace.

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at .

Antiques & Collectibles — Sandy Erdman column sig

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