The geraniums, petunias and trailing lobelia plants are thriving in the back garden. The herbs are flourishing and the allotment is…well…to be honest, filled with weeds as always – but there are strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, onions and garlic there, somewhere, if you look hard and move the couch grass about a bit.
It’s at this time of year that the daily ritual (it’s never a chore) of evening watering begins in earnest and, when dusk falls, I trudge happily to and fro with my trusty metal watering cans, enjoying the way the cold water slops over the edge and soaks my toes, admiring the setting sun, breathing in the early summer scents of cut grass and pollen, and relishing the peaceful, thinking time.
One of my watering cans was inherited from my late grandparents, so I’m often reminded of them while I’m watering. The other was an antiques market find, picked up years ago for a snip at a house clearance stall. Chunky, built-to-last, pretty to look at – vintage metal watering cans beat new plastic ones hands-down any day. Plastic ones aren’t beautiful. They’re too light – they blow around the garden in strong winds – and they invariably fade and go brittle over time, whereas galvanized zinc ones just look better with age and last for yonks. They make a pleasing sound as you fill them. Sometimes they still have a metal label saying ‘2 GALLONS’ or similar. What’s not to love?
At Ardingly, the most affordable metal watering cans are always to be found on eastern European dealers’ stalls. Clans of cheery Hungarian and Slovakian lads sell them by the lorry load, on cheap, muddy, far-flung pitches (wear your wellies), alongside milk churns, new wooden ready-to-paint hallway storage benches, and beautiful vintage Hungarian linens, sold by the metre (just £5) and cut with a knife. Watering cans are about £15 – £20 each here – around half what you can expect to pay in a fashionable vintage boutique.
My watering cans are simple, well-made tools that turn an everyday task into a pleasure. They’re also the ultimate garden ‘styling props’ to be kept out on display and admired at all times – whether they’re perched between the patio pots or sheltering in the shade of a shrub – they’re so beautiful, I never need to hide them in the shed!