Category:Britains Floral Garden

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Floral Miniature Garden, Flower Packets (Britains 1966).jpg

Britains Floral Garden

1960 - 1970
Britains - Circus - Farm - Floral - Garden - Zoo

Britains Floral Garden (1960 - late 1970) was Britains' 1960s' reimagining of the earlier lead-based Britains Miniature Gardening range, redesigned to be manufactured in plastic. The range was designed and sculpted by the talented Roy Selwyn-Smith (1923-2006).

Greenhouses and Garden Shed. Note the starlike "radiating" greenery on the upper border, positioned and waiting to be "planted"

1966 promotional text:

You can make an endless variety of Garden layouts with this wonderful series. These box sets show some of the arrangements you can assemble but with a simple system of "one price" packets of flowers and accessories you can extend your garden to any size. With no painting or gluing it has a unique appeal to girls as well as boys and can be of great assistance in domestic and professional planning.

— , Britains Ltd., , Britains catalogue, , 1966

Roy Selwyn-Smith

Roy had worked at Wilmores for Timpo, and during the 1950s had designed the Swoppets toys and Herald's range, as well as the Selwyn Miniatures range of knights which ended up with Britains as the "Knights of Agincourt" range. Britains acquired Roy's services when they acquired Herald, after which he went to work creating the Floral Garden range.

Innovations

The "planter"

While the basic idea, range and designs were mostly closely based on the earlier 1930s lead range, the design of the flowers and flowerbeds needed rethinking. In the lead range, flowers had been cast and supplied flat, and the owner could then bend them into more realistic shapes. This idea didn't work in soft plastic, which wouldn't subsequently "take a shape" after moulding, and would tend to "bounce back" into its original shape given the chance. How could one recreate the dense internal detail and structure of a bush or branching plant in a way that was compatible with the demands of injection moulding?

The solution that allowed Britains to finally recreate a plastic version of Britains Garden was quite ingenious. Each plant was moulded as a flat "starlike" set of leaves and stalks radiating away from a central plastic "nub" in all directions. The "nub" was placed in a flowerbed planting hole, and a special "planting tool", whose shaft and handle were made to look like a garden spade, was then used to force the nub deeper into the hole. As the bottoms of the stems entered the hole, the radiating set of foliage suddenly bunched together at the base and perked up to form a spray of foliage, "springing to life" in a very satisfying manner.

1960s: Floral Miniature garden, planting method

The lack of predictability for how this bunching happened added an extra degree of randomness to the plants, and if a stem or two occasionally broke off after repeated replanting, this added even more natural-looking variation to a flowerbed.

Where the earlier lead flowers had been painted, the new plastic versions used pre-coloured plastic, with the material's natural translucency adding more realism. Flower-heads were separately moulded in appropriately-coloured plastic, singly or in offset clusters, and push-fitted onto the stems by the user, which gave even more natural variation to the resulting plants.

Britains Floral Garden "planting tool"

"Brick" borders

Flowerbeds could be bordered by low brick walls composed of three staggered courses of flattened brick. In reality, these walls were made of Y-shaped triple-brick pieces that clipped together to form straight walls, or curves, or right-angle joints.

This was a brilliant idea for three reasons: the lack of strict locating points meant that the shape of the walls ended up with a natural-looking "rustic" variation, the use of a streaked mixture of plastics meant that there was a colour variation looking like stone, which was broken up at the Y-boundaries, making it look as if each brick was different (if the walls had been moulded as a single piece, the whole wall would share the same colour-variation and streaking and look less real) ... and thirdly, by having the user build the walls themselves, this added even more play value to the sets, and more of a sense of personal achievement at the sight of a finished garden.

Flowerbed detail with brick edging, Britains Floral Garden

Popularity

The way that the flowers "came alive" when planted enthralled many children, and while "Floral Garden" doesn't seem to have been a huge seller, it was so different from other toys of the period that owners who spent many happy childhood hours, planting and rearranging their plastic gardens are now fiercely loyal when it comes to any mention of the range, and there is a healthy second-hand market for the 1960s-produced parts and accessories.

Range

The listing below is drawn from our collection of 1960s Britains catalogues. There maybe additional sets, or items not listed here that were "garden-y", but technically part of other ranges.

Plants

Hardware

Boxed Sets

Lucy's Garden / Lucy's Little Garden

In 1976, an attempt was made at a limited relaunch of the Floral Garden range, renamed Lucy's Little Garden (a.k.a. Lucy's Garden / Lucy's Mini Garden), with a garden pack appearing in 1976, and extra accessory packs in 1977. However, these took up less than a page in the 1978 catalogue.

This can probably be seen as an attempt to follow the lead of other toy manufacturers who had rebranded old ranges in an attempt to "personalise" them, notably Tri-ang's renaming of the Spot-On Dollhouse furniture range as Jennys Home.

See also:

External links

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Media in category ‘Britains Floral Garden’

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