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GARDEN ITEMS SPRING UP AT AUCTIONS

Gardening was an important pastime in America in the late 19th century. By the middle of the century, there was interest in growing exotic fruits and plants, and several thousand varieties were available from growers who printed pamphlets and catalogs.

Lawn mowers and other tools came into use in the 1850s. Garden furniture, fountains, statues and birdhouses were added to the yard.

The bleeding-heart flower was introduced from China in 1851, and it was soon pictured on dishes and rugs and in books. Some old but popular plants like the moss rose, first described in 1760, were pictured on dinner sets.

Collectors today want anything that can be displayed in a garden or that was used for gardening. Trowels and all sorts of small tools more than 25 years old, which can still be found at garage sales, are now collectible.

Oak cradle

Q: I inherited an oak cradle from my father's family. It is smaller than a modern crib. It has straight slats on the sides and solid head- and footboards. It rocks on a platform, but can be locked in place. I think the mattress is original. The stuffing is straw or horsehair. The bottom of the cradle reads "Betts Street Furniture Company, Berens, Ringeman & Co., Props., Cincinnati, O., Oct. 26, 1875 & Feb. 26, 1878." What is the cradle worth?

A: Betts Street Furniture Co. was founded in Cincinnati by Herman Theodore Kemper, who immigrated from Germany in the late 1850s. The dates on your platform cradle are probably patent dates relating to the rocking mechanism. They make it clear that your cradle was not manufactured before 1878. This was an era when all types of rocking furniture were patented. Children's needs became a high priority in Victorian homes. Platform cradles like yours should sell for $100 and up.

Write to Kovels in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

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