Cast-iron wickets or lawn guards in the shape of curved branches. The branches are in arched segments with sharp points to drive into the ground. When in use, it appears as if a branch or root is growing out of the earth, creating an arch, then going back underground. This design in characteristic of the Rustic style. The Rustic style was immensely popular in the Victorian era, and the height of its popularity occurred between 1840 and 1890. Rustic objects share a common aesthetic of being artfully assembled with materials harvested directly from nature to create a variety of furnishings and decorative objects for the home and garden. Rustic furnishings and accessories were thought to be especially suited to the garden, as they blended in with the natural landscapes. Rustic materials and motifs include tree branches, twigs, roots, burls, bark, pinecones, acorns, seashells, animal horns, and antlers. Rustic designs were often constructed from found objects or were cast or carved to appear like these articles. Rustic objects were usually irregular and asymmetrical to mimic the forms that would occur in nature. Rustic designs could be made following instructions in contemporary publications, but the popularity of the style led to the mass production of Rustic style pieces.
Wickets refer to garden borders, garden railing, or lawn guards that are made from arched segments with spear points on each end, which were driven into the ground to hold them in place. This term may come from the similarly shaped arches, called wickets, used in the game of croquet. Materials for this edging included cast or wrought iron, stone, wood, and composite stone. They were a popular feature of Victorian garden design, especially parterre gardens. Wickets were used to edge garden beds, define spaces, add texture, and highlight areas. Another popular use was edging paths to deter people from walking on the grass.
Cast iron lawn guards in the shape of curved branches were produced by several iron foundries in the United States including Hope Iron Foundry of Philadelphia and J.W. Fiske Iron Works of New York. The gnarled branch design appealed to the Rustic style, so popular in the Victorian era. This naturalistic design was one of many rusticated ornaments in Victorian gardens. It was meant to serve as an unobtrusive edging, which would blend in with the surroundings. The design for rustic wickets were used on the grounds of the Centennial World’s Fair of 1876. Later they are seen in photographs from the 1890s of Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and were probably installed after the city purchased the property in 1891. These wickets also appear in photographs of East River Drive in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park from the 1880s and 1890s.
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