Archive for the 'Vintage' Category


Getting into Vintage Tools

I’ve recently started buying vintage gardening tools. Previously, I had bought a set of Spear & Jackson traditional range. Not for any quality issues but purely because I liked the look of them. They have been great actually. But then I thought, rather than buying tools that look vintage, how about buying some that really are?

I figure if they have made it this far and are still in good repair they they’re pretty sturdy, right? I picked these up on eBay. The fork and trowel were around £5 each and the hedge clippers were around £9 I think. I’m very happy with them. Their handles have that smooth wood feel that only comes from years and years of use. And I love the colour of the fork.

Now I display my tools and because I like looking at them I even give them a clean now and again and have a bucket of wet sand standing by for that very purpose. I’m sure I’ll be adding to my collection. If I ‘ever’ get a greenhouse I’d like one of those long brass water sprayers.


Grow Sign

While on my internet travels – and there are many – I found this cute little grow sign. It’s the kind of thing I might hang in my shed (the one that I’m planning to fix up one day), or better still in my kitchen, or in the living room, on the mantle.

Grow is an interesting word. It’s a command – ‘grow’ you little blighters. Or it’s a suggestion ‘grow’ and further your mind. Or it’s a reminder that all of this is passing like the seasons and before I know it little hands will have grown too big to hold mine.

But still… I like this.


My Lovely Homemaker Collection

I have been collecting Ridway Homemaker crockery for about two years now and my collection is almost complete, so I thought it was high time I took a few photos of it.

You can find more about the history of Homemaker here. But for my part I just love the black and white vintage furniture icons, the simple rounded shape of the items and their overall durability. I have dropped a cup and it didn’t break! I kid you not.

I don’t have every single Homemaker item and probably never will. Some of the rarer items swap hands for 1000s of pounds. The most I have paid for an item was £215 (teapot above) but some items were as litte as £7.

But I also don’t have every single item because I just don’t need it. There are three different sizes of coffee cup available, but I only need one size (big!).

Above are two recent additions, the coffee pot (Metro) and the Scottish sandwich plate. The coffee pot is fast becoming one of my favourite items as it’s perfect for making large batches of tea!

Confusingly there are two Homemaker designs Metro and Cadenza. Most of my collection is Metro except this little milk jug that was just too stylish to pass up.

I currently have only four soup bowls so I’m on the lookout for two more to complete the set. They are quite rare and only pop up maybe once every six months.

I have two vegetable tureens, great for those family Sunday dinners.

And not forgetting the gravy boat, essential kit for a Northerner like me.

These are my dinky fruit bowls complete with rims for the stones.

And lastly here you can see my 10 inch plate, with 7 inch side plate and bowl. And that completes my little trip down vintage crockery lane. The big question is, when the collection is finally complete what shall I collect next?


Babington Kitchen Garden

It’s been oooh roughly three and half years since myself and my husband have been away without the children. And while we love the little blighters to pieces we thought it was high time we had a break. So we booked ourselves into Babington Houe for the weekend – a rather nice country house hotel near where we live.

While we were there I took some photos of the gorgeous old walled kitchen garden that they have there.

As you walk in you’re greeted by a row of pyramids that have Sweetpeas growing around them. They are very interesting as apart from the upright canes that hold them together the gardeners have bent smaller, more pliable canes, through each one to make an arch. Putting several of them side by side makes a wonderfully decorative introduction to the garden. It’s a great idea and I might try it next year in my own garden.

I soon realised that there were lots of great ideas in this kitchen garden that I could steal borrow. Take this little patch of Thyme that has been planted in a block and left to grow into each other. It makes a lovely, undulating and visually interesting herb bed.

I also liked how there were impromptu seating areas everywhere. Kitchen gardens can be very work-a-day and often there is no invitation to sit down. I can imagine sitting underneath this climbing rose with my latte and good book – after all the work is done, you understand!

I was heartened to see some winter Lettuce doing very well in the garden. Mine is somewhat smaller but I’m hoping the forthcoming good weather will help it attain this size before the cold weather sets in. The mesh, I think is more to keep the bunnies out than to protect them from weather. I’m sure I saw a cotton tail disappear behind an espalier.

While some of the planting is evidently new, others were maybe as old as the walls themselves. The garden was filled with espalier Apples and Pears. They didn’t, as in some kitchen gardens, relegate them to the wall either. Most of the older trees where in the middle of the garden and used to mark out pathways or edge the beds.

The sheer numbers of Apples was clearly proving too much, even for a busy hotel. And many of the trees where happily feeding the wasps.

But it’s the wall that gives the kitchen garden its soul. Its deep orange hue gives the garden an almost Mediterranean feel and once within its confines you can feel the temperature climb up a notch or two and the wind disappears. For me there is nothing that compares to the tranquility of a walled kitchen garden.

It’s so nice too to see an old garden being so well looked after.


Vintage Gardening Products

I visited a place called Oakham Treasures a few days ago. It’s an immense and impressive collection of tractors and vintage paraphernalia, collected by one man over the course of his life. They say it’s a museum but it felt more like rummaging in your grandfather’s shed. It smelt of oil and dirt and more oil and it was absolutely fascinating – to someone obsessed with vintage, like me.

There was a cabinet showcasing vintage gardening products which immediately caught my eye. The product above, I thought, was particularly amusing, ‘Slug Death – One taste and they are DEAD. It’s just a miracle!’ How brilliant is that? It does exactly what it says on the tin. Why aren’t product names more blunt like that these days? Garden centre shelves would be a lot funnier.

One of the only products that I actually recognised was this tin of Tomorite Tomato food. Back then they did it in these funky-looking tin cans, now we just get squeezy plastic bottles. Hmmm..

Next up, that gardener’s best friend, Dithane. I’d noticed Percy Thrower talk about it in his book but I’d never seen a real vintage can. Quite pretty really. Next to it is something called Cheshunt Compound, a fungicide that apparently helps eliminate damping off in seedlings.

And this is my personal favourite. A card featuring a beautiful bouquet of flowers is made by SureKill and is to instruct you in the ways of using everyone’s favourite synthetic pesticide, DDT. You might have also spotted some lovely Nutscene twine in there too. Notice that the design hasn’t changed, not even one bit. I like that. And I’ve no idea what Orthocide is – sounds toxic though doesn’t it?

I was nicely surprised to see a copy of ‘Adam The Gardener’ at the museum. I had found out about this book only last week when my friend showed me a copy that her dad had dug out of his loft. If I’d known it was a collector’s item I would have swiped it while she was making the coffee (no, not really Amanda).

Last but not least is ‘the wheel’ – every gardener has ‘the wheel’ and it seems like it’s no modern invention either. The Daily Mail were on to its usefulness early on and were using it to sell newspapers. The functionality is the same, the look is a little more on the vintage side.

I just bought a little piece of gardening history. The best thing about it is that I didn’t know how interesting it was when I bought it. It’s the Ryder’s Vegetable and Flower Seed Book for 1948. That’s a seed catalogue to you and I. Beautiful ain’t it?

I just love the faded colour in the illustrations and the typography used in the logo. What a find?

I didn’t really think much about the date on the cover ‘1948’ when I bought it. I just thought, oh that’s a nice vintage seed catalogue. But when I read the welcome message on the opening page I realised that, of course, it’s only three year’s after the second world war and gardeners are still ‘digging to live’.
Here’s what it said:

“On the 6th August, 1947, the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. C. R. Attlee, pronounced in the House of Commons… ‘We must produce a great deal more of our food at home to replace imports which we can no longer afford to buy….’
Subsequent events have given added prominence to this warning, and the sorry fact exists that in this 1948 season, running into three years after the cessation of the second world war, we of these old and historic islands must literally ‘DIG to LIVE’.
Everything that can be won from the soil must be of value to the Nation and none more valuable at such a time than fresh vegetable foodstuffs.”

This is pretty cool in itself but then I did some err… digging around to see if Ryder’s seed merchants still exist. I don’t think they do because I found a house for sale in St Albans on ‘Ryder Seeds Mews, built on the former site of Ryder’s seed merchants’.

But, I did find some information on Samuel Ryder, the guy who founded Ryder’s seeds in the 1890’s. He has a wikipedia entry and it turns out that he was the first person to start selling ‘garden seeds in penny packets’. Apparently he built a successful business on the concept and became very rich. Later, he developed an interest in golf and started a little golfing tournament called… wait for it… The Ryder Cup.

I know! Crazy. What a fascinating story? I must say, I’m hooked. I think collecting vintage seed catalogues is my new mini-obsession. Alongside vegetable gardening of course.


Dig for Victory

I’ve not quite decided if mtp will be an all-year-round activity yet (we’ll see how the summer goes first) but when I found this site about the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign suddenly cauliflowers in Dec became a distinct possibility. The site has pdfs of the original ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign leaflets issued by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1945. They show you what to grow, when to plant it, how far apart and when to harvest. It also gives advice on how to make sure you can harvest all through the winter – just when supplies are scarce (it says). I’m glad I didn’t live through the war but there’s something exciting about growing vegetables for a real cause. We all know that if our lettuces get eaten by slugs we can always pop to Sainsbury’s to get some new ones but what if the lettuces in your plot were your one and only chance for salad that year? Puts a different persepective on it doesn’t it?