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Catalog Data

Cast iron
Overall: 33 in. (83.8 cm)
Bottom: 21 in. (53.3 cm)
Top: 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm)
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron arborette in the form of a tree trunk with cut branch protrusions. Growing up the sides of the trunk are ivy vines, ferns, and flowers. This decorative garden accessory is in the Rustic style. 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.
Label Text:
Arborettes were rustic planters for the Victorian home or garden that were mass produced and sold through catalogs and in floral stores. Irish-English dictionaries of the nineteenth century define the word “arborette” as a “little branch, in twig,” which is likely the source of the name for these planters. They were usually cast in iron or terra-cotta to resemble an oak tree having just had its projecting limbs clipped and ranged in size from 1 to 3 feet high. These little tree trunks often appeared to be moss-covered and were painted in colors that would harmonize with the plants growing in and around them. Arborettes often had multiple cavities disguised as branches or knots which held the earth and strong growing ferns or bulbs. These planters were used both in and out of doors. Books and magazines suggested these planters be used to decorate a hall, parlor, or conservatory, or to be placed on a shaded table of an outdoor lawn. They were popular features for rockeries, parterres, lawns, balconies, halls, libraries, and other rooms.
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
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See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens