April 23, 2009

Cultivating a garden of vintage style

Before going any further with this post, I must preface it by saying that I am not an expert on matters of gardening! While I had the fun of helping my parents and grandparents around their gardens as a youngster, I’ve never planted or tended to a garden of my own (as I haven’t had the good fortune to live anywhere with a private yard as an adult yet).

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the notion of making do or going without may soon become the de facto motto again – and if you ask me, not a moment too soon. Should you happen to have a yard of your own that you’re free to modify (aka, not one that’s governed by your landlord, if applicable) or access to a green space such as a community garden plot, I think that it’s high time us vintage lovers brought the idea of a home garden back into vogue.

For you see, there was an age once long ago before it became all the rage to line your yard with rock gardens, mammoth stone barbeques, and outdoor furniture that costs as much as its under-a-roof counterparts, when people actually tended the land – instead of just giving it a manicure and a hefty dose of keeping-up-with-the-Jones swagger. I’m all for anything and anyone looking lovely, but there is a lot to be said for practicality...remember practicality? It’s the opposite of just about everything the 30 years or so have been composed of.

The world has seen hard times before, and so long as we pull through these dark days, no doubt it will again sometime down the road, but that doesn't mean you have to toss in the towel entirely. In the past people often helped put food on their table and save money by growing and or making as many of their foods as possible. Perhaps the best example of this frugal, healthy step was the widespread adoption of Victory Gardens during WW2. With many foods and everyday items suddenly rationed, civilians turned to the soil around their homes to stretch their menus and help ensure they had nutritional meals. If you have the land and incentive, there's no reason why you can't try your hand at doing the same thing now.

With food costs continuing to rise faster than you can clip coupons and seemingly endless news stories about contaminants and harmful bacteria popping up in many everyday foods, there is something wonderful and reassuring about the idea of starting (and hopefully maintaining) your own garden. As I began this post by saying, I’m not a guru of such matters though, so instead I will point you towards an excellent UBC link called A Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and also suggest that you contact local garden centres and/or talk to anyone you know who has a vegetable/fruit garden before jumping into planting, if you do not have any prior gardening experience. Libraries (yes, they still ;) ) are also a fantastic place to source books on all matter of gardening related topics, from berries to begonias, mint to mulch.

While I may not be able to tell you how best to aerate your soil, I can certainly suggest some lovely ways to help both you and your garden – whether it’s an acre or a few pots on a sunny balcony – look wonderfully vintage.

-Garden Antqs Vintage : A fantastic blog devoted to the anything and everything that can help give your garden a wonderful vintage, antique, shabby chic look.

-Old Garden Tools: To quote this site’s homepage, “Old Garden Tools shows a large and extensive collection of vintage and antique garden tools and gardening ephemera.”

-Jon Fox Antiques: Online antiques shop with an extensive selection of old tools, everything from lawn edgers to trowels.

-The Cottage Garden Heirloom Seed and Plant Nursery: If you’re gardening vintage style, why not try your hand at planting heirloom varieties (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heirloom_plant ) of your favourite fruits and vegetables, this Canadian site has an extensive catalogue to pick from.

-Heirloom Plants and Seeds: Looking for even more heirloom plant sellers? This directory list numerous seed/plant sellers.

-City Gardening: A short Environment of Canada page about city gardening.

Want to rock a vintage look while in the garden? Reach for gingham and plaid patterned shirts in cotton and poplin, linen can also work well in warmer months. On your legs opt for dark denim and khaki, classic Wellington boots have been around since the 19th century and work wonderfully in muddy and/or wet environments. On warmer dry days reach for simple sandals, canvas deck-style shoes or even old fashioned wooden gardening clogs. Ensure that you wear a wide brimmed hat (straw is a timeless summer look) – and don’t hesitate to take one modern step and remember to apply sunscreen before heading out in the sun (a sunburn is never in style, no matter what decade!).

For more ideas and inspirations check out this Polyvore collection I whipped together. It features a lovely blond pin-up gardening in a pale blue and white gingham bathing suit pouring water from a watering can into a glass, a bottle of (what I’m guessing is) brandy or cointreau at her ankles. If you’re craving a copy of this print for your own walls, it can be picked up in various sizes here.

{How to Grow a Pin-Up Garden, created by yours truly.}

Are you a vintage lover who has a garden? I’d absolutely enjoy hearing about your gardening experiences and any ideas that you may have to help vintage gardens and gardening inspired styles flourish.

{Vintage seed package uploaded by chicks57 on Flickr.}


  1. Hello, I some how stumbled onto your site. Thanks so much for the mention of my blog, Theresa

  2. Hi Theresa, thank you very much for your comment! This post was one of my first on Chronically Vintage and I think it's really special that your's was the first comment it received, as I mentioned your stellar blog in it (as you said). It's a joy to hear from you and I really appreciate your comment!

    Many happy wishes for a beautiful weekend!
    ♥ Jessica

  3. Hi
    just found your site its nice to connect with people who like the same things

  4. Hi Jessica,

    I always thought that those victory gardens were an awesome idea.

    The very first time I went over to my husband's home, when I was first dating him, he showed me his tiny garden of summer squash (which he cooked up when he made dinner for me that night), tomatoes, and cucumbers. I was very impressed with his gardening desires.

    In the 30 years that we have been married, he has planted a garden each year. It is always a small garden, for we have never owned a large property, but we do get many delicious vegetables from his labor - always snow peas, tomatoes, cucumber; sometimes pumpkins, strawberries, peppers, artichokes, or lettuce. The last few years he has also started growing herbs.

    He does all the gardening, all I do is pick and prepare his harvest.


    1. How immensely lovely. It's beautiful and poignant that gardens have been such a key element of both of your lives for decades now. Thank you for sharing that heartwarming fact with me. I hope that this year's harvest is a true bumper year for you guys.

      Many hugs,
      ♥ Jessica