Metal goes outdoors

July 12, 1998|By Marty Ross | Marty Ross,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Just when it appeared that the galvanized watering can, a distinguished and agreeable gardening tool, was about to take its place among the relics of the past - replaced by plastic - industrial-strength galvanized steel has staged a comeback. Not just watering cans and buckets, but chairs, potting tables and other outdoor products made of tough galvanized steel have become quite chic. Of course, it needed a catchy nickname for the contemporary market: "galvi."

Galvanized garden furniture will probably never displace teak, but it has a fine presence in the garden, and it's made to last. It's not at all organic, but it looks terrific under the trees, and the bright finish ages to a handsome patina.

Antique galvanized steel watering cans are collectors' pieces and may cost up to $200. Even if they leak, they rate a place in the finest gardens, placed just so under a spigot on the day of a garden tour.

Smith & Hawken early on recognized the importance of style to a design-conscious generation of new gardeners. The company appears to have coined the term "galvi" in its catalog and can be credited with putting a touch of romance in the hard-working old material.

Galvanized products have had a very industrial image, says Fredrik Olsson, a buyer and product developer at Smith & Hawken. "We brought it home," he says. "We just made it a little friendlier." A galvanized tub can haul mulch from the compost heap to the flower beds, but it's also handsome - and useful - on the patio, full of ice and cans or bottles of cold drinks.

Galvanized florists' buckets, used for gathering flowers in the field, make striking vases and wine buckets for the patio.

Galvi products are being brought inside, too. There are galvanized chairs ($175 each) around the conference table at Smith & Hawken's corporate offices in California. The chairs are made in France, stamped out of sheets of steel and welded together, but they're as graceful as bentwood.

"I think we are inspiring people to do whatever they feel like doing with the products," Olsson says. "We're getting into a more eclectic lifestyle in terms of furnishing, and people can put them wherever they want and still feel comfortable."

Smith & Hawken's galvanized potting bench ($395) fits almost anywhere: in the garden, on the porch or in the kitchen. The Pottery Barn's line of galvanized products includes a bin big enough to hold a stack of magazines - or a patio tomato plant (drill holes first).

Galvi products mix comfortably with other furnishings and ornaments in the garden. The combination of galvanized and wooden furniture is not just sharp-looking; it's hip. Olsson doesn't like to speak of his company's gardening products in terms of the fickle world of fashion, but, nevertheless, he says, "I can verify that there is a trend."

Where to find galvi products

* Kinsman Co., P.O. Box 357, Point Pleasant, Pa. 18950-0357; xTC 800-733-4146, sells French florist's vases and six styles of watering cans. Catalog is free.

* Peterman's Eye, a specialty catalog of the J. Peterman Co., 1318 Russell Cave Road, Lexington, Ky. 40505; 800-231-7341;

* Pottery Barn, 10000 Covington Cross, Las Vegas, Nev. 89134; 800-922-5507, carries bins in two sizes (small, four for $29; large, $16 each) and other galvanized products. Catalog is free.

* Smith & Hawken, 1340 Smith Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21209;

800-776-3336; Catalog is free.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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