Jardinieres, ornamental holders in which exotic potted plants were displayed, were introduced during the Regency but bad their heyday in the Victorian period. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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 Jardinieres, ornamental holders in which exotic potted plants were displayed, were introduced during the Regency but bad their heyday in the Victorian period.

 The custom of keeping plants in the house or in conservatories took hold in the 18th century, encouraged by the great variety of new species that were being brought back by explorers and plant hunters from a over the world, particularly from Asia and the Far East. Many of them could not survive outdoors in the cold British climate and were grown only as conservatory plants.

 Contemporary taste decreed that plants grown indoors had to be housed in attractive containers to harmonize with the rest of the room. These were known as jardinieres, from the French word for garden. Strictly speaking, jardinieres should have a drainage hole so plants can be potted directly into them. An indoor plant-holder with no drainage hole is more correctly called by another French word, cache-pot (pot-hider), though the word jardiniere is loosely used today for both types.

 Regency jardinieres were made from brass, wood or pottery, and were often sold in pairs. Sometimes they were matched with other pieces such as wine coolers. Because they were it tended for wealthy homes, they were always well-made and good-looking pieces.


 Ceramics were the first choice - the square porcelain tubs made by the Sevres factory in the mid-18th century were a much-copied example - but tole (painted lightweight tin), brass and wood (usually mahogany but sometimes rosewood, satinwood or japanned deal) were also used. Some jardinieres were made to look like something else, such as a table, wine cooler, or a punch bowl.

 Victorian interiors often included potted plants usually large foliage plants such as ferns nd palms. The aspidistra was very popular, largely because it could withstand the heavy hade of draped and curtained rooms and fumes from coal and gas. Victorians favoured large ceramic containers, many of them complete with matching pedestal stands.

 These were often elaborately potted, with realistically moulded and painted plants, birds, fish, butterflies and cherubs applied to the basic bowl or bucket shape. Earthenware and stoneware, especially pieces by Minton and others with rich majolica glazes, were favourite materials. Minton also copied the Sevres shape and style late in the 19th century.

 Brass jardinieres were still made, mostly in classical shapes and styles, while wrought iron was used to create fanciful designs which usually incorporated a table or a stand.

 Regency jardinieres in polished wood or brass were intended to house indoor plants, but can also make elegant containers for arrangements of cut or dried flowers.


 Keen Regency indoor gardeners pressed many things into service as plant holders. In the same spirit most jardinieres can be used for other purposes, or displayed as decorative objects in their own right. Would-be collectors don't need to be keen indoor gardeners.

 Most jardinieres do look at their best with plants in them, but you need to weigh this against the possibility of damaging them; water can create limescale or otherwise stain a piece, while plant growth can make them top-heavy, something you won't necessarily notice until the whole lot topples to the floor. Jardinieres can be found in many places, from car boot sales to high-powered auctions - though you shouldn't look too hard for fine Regency pieces in the former or 1950s versions in the latter - while garden centres and shops may well stock reproduction pieces.

 If you're looking for a jardiniere to use, the odd chip or crack doesn't matter much, especially if you can turn the damaged side to the wall. Any piece, though, should be reduced in price if it's damaged.

 It's probable that the interior of a jardiniere will have been stained by earth, water or minerals, particularly if the' glaze has crazed. Jardinieres are also quite likely to have picked up a few deposits of limescale if used in hard water regions. Many of these unsightly marks can be removed with proprietary cleaners or with light scrubbing, but do exercise care.

 Don't on any account use jardinieres in the garden. Metal and wooden examples will be damaged or discoloured by rain, while pots, unless they have been specially made to withstand low temperatures, will succumb to frosts, which will cause the glaze to chip and flake or the whole pot to crack.


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