Contact Elisabeth Ginsburg
Trend spotters undoubtedly know it already, but I have just
discovered a new and immutable truth—there’s gold in rust.
Of course, I am familiar with rust—the shed at our summer cottage
is full of rusty implements from my grandfather’s time. We still use them, but I know that if
we ever decide to buy something new, we can sell our ancient scythes and
loppers to an antique dealer for a
But it’s not enough to have a shed bursting with oxidized
iron. Now it’s chic to have a
garden full of rust as well. The
catalogs have a wide selection of pre-rusted trellises and tuteurs, not to
mention rusted armillaries, ornaments, pots and urns. It would appear that rust has taken the
place of moss, which was so fashionable a few years ago that magazines were
publishing recipes for a homemade moss-inducing glop that you could use to
“age” your pots and statues.
Several weeks ago I was visiting a large mail order
nursery’s retail establishment.
I saw a beautiful, classic rusty urn that stood about 2 ½-feet
tall. I imagined how lovely a pair
of them would look flanking my front walk. The practical voice in my head
whispered that when the fad for rust passes, I could convert them into
perfectly acceptable black or dark green urns with the help of a modest amount
of Rustoleum paint.
Then my husband intervened.
“Hey,” he said, as he fingered the edge of the object of my
desire. “This is a fake.”
I zeroed in for a closer look and found that he was right. I knew that the urn was a faux antique,
but I never would have guessed that it was faux cast iron embellished with faux
rust. What an idea!
It seems that this urn is made out of lightweight, weather resistant
fiberglass, which, of course, can be cast into any shape, from the hull of a
racing yacht to the body of a garden gnome. Once cast, the urn was sprayed with
gritty iron, and then allowed to rust.
After the rusting period, the urn was ready for sale. From a distance it looks just like a
piece of neglected cast iron. The
benefit to the gardener is that the faux rustgy urn is lighter than the real
thing and possibly a bit cheaper (although the model that I saw was rather
pricey). It is supposed to be
extremely durable as well. Of
course, that is also one of the advantages of cast iron. On balance, I suppose, real cast iron might rust away to
nothing in a millenium or so, while fiberglass will probably last for all
eternity. Either way, the initial
investment will be completely amortized long before the urn disintegrates.
The market for faux cast iron is taking off at the same time as the
market for faux terra cotta, and I must confess that I have already succumbed
to the latter. For years I was a
purist, refusing to buy plastic pots that were made to resemble terra cotta
originals. Part of my resistance
was based on snobbery, part of it was aesthetic and at least a small part of it
was practical. The practical side
of me loves terra cotta because it is porous, allowing for an exchange of air
and moisture that is healthy for plant roots. My aesthetic soul also rebelled against
the cheesy appearance of earlier generations of plastic pots and planters. The color was acceptable from a great
distance, but up close the tint and texture screamed “cheap
imitation.” I take the
trouble to buy interesting and unusual plants, so it seemed to me that I should
take the time and trouble to buy real terra cotta pots. I haven’t been able to afford any
yet, but I am especially fond of the rosy “Impruneta” pots, made from
clay found only in a certain region of Italy.
Now, everything has changed.
I am pleased to say that I have two non-terra cotta pots in the back
yard, and they are settling in nicely.
The faux terra cotta technology has gotten to the point where
manufacturers have created an extremely light material that looks very much
like aged terra cotta or weathered stone.
It is not hard and shiny like the old, cheesy pots, but looks and feels
a bit dusty or sandy. The pots I
bought did not have drainage holes in them, but I was able to pierce the
bottoms relatively easily without cracking the pots and ruining them. Of course, this may be a liability,
since I can also imagine myself denting them with an errant swipe of the
hoe. However, the difference in
appearance between this new material and the old plastic makes up for the
slightly-less-than-impervious nature of the former. Besides, even fully loaded with plants
and soil, these pots are easy to lift.
My lower back sings with joy.
Now, if I can just find the recipe for that moss mixture. I’m dying
to age my faux terra cotta pots.