How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes
The houseplant is undergoing a renaissance in popularity - this revised and updated edition of Catherine Horwood's fascinating history will delight lovers of indoor plants
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There is no shortage of books on how to look after houseplants but no one has shown us how and when and why these plants came to be in our homes. Catherine Horwood’s combination of social history, plant history and the history of interior design explains why, as Flanders and Swann sung in the 1950s, ‘the garden’s full of furniture / and the house is full of plants.’
In this fascinating book we learned how potted plants are as much subject to fashion as pieces of furniture. For the Victorians, it was the aspidistra in the front parlour, the Edwardians loved a palm, and, for today’s millennials, no home is complete without the ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig. This book show that there is little new when it comes to plants in the home. In the mid-18th century, Wedgwood created a market for special bulb pots and in the 1950s, some of Terence Conran’s earliest designs were for houseplant containers.
Across the ages, the choice of potted plants has been influenced by the layout of houses, the levels of dirt and pollution and the equipment to hand. Now, with so much choice, we seem happy to treat houseplants as disposables. This book gives a better understanding of the miracles that were once achieved with indoor plant displays, inspired by Sir Hugh Platt’s 1608 vision of a garden ‘within doores’.
This new edition has been revised with new material added to bring the history of the houseplant and its massive explosion in popularity right up to date.
Catherine Horwood is a social historian with a passion for plants and gardens. Her book, Beth Chatto: A life with plants (Pimpernel, 2019), was enthusiastically received. Fergus Garrett called it ‘a triumph ... beautifully crafted by an author who has thoroughly researched and understood her subject’ (Gardens Illustrated) while the Evening Standard chose it as ‘A Gardening Book of the Year’, saying it was ‘one of the most intimate gardening biographies yet written’. Gardening Women: Their Stories from 1600 to the Present (Virago, 2010) was similarly praised. ‘Horwood strikes gold,’ said The Guardian. ‘Gardening Women is rich, full and lasting. Neither gardens nor women will seem quite the same again,’ said The Times. It was published in the US as Women and Their Gardens: a History from the Elizabethan Era to Today (Ball Publishing, Chicago). Catherine Horwood’s other books include Rose (Reaktion, 2018) and Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars (Sutton, 2005). She has also written for newspapers and magazines including The Times, the Daily Mail, Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden, and is a popular speaker on gardening history.
"Before Instagram loved houseplants, Catherine was telling the story of them. Potted History is the essential tome for tracing the fascinating history of our obsession with indoor jungles. A must-read for any fan of bringing the outdoors in."
"One of my favourite books on gardening. It's a story of potted plants from the bustle of Covent Garden in the 17th century to the Instagram age...Horwood's cleverness is to use the story to give wider insights into how we live, and indeed, how cities have changed over time."
"Catherine Horwood... has found that rare thing: a genuinely new subject in interior design."
"Dr Horwood’s remarkable research into the ‘flowerpot room; in Josiah Wedgwood’s Soho shop...There is also wonderful detail, too, on the Victorian obsession with indoor plants - all those ferneries and winter gardens."
"This book embarks on a journey through 400 years of changing fashions...well researched...and an enjoyable read."
“A fascinating history of the houseplant that looks at how plants have been used inside the home through the centuries from as early as the 1600s…a thought-provoking read.”
“Anyone who is interested in houseplants will find this book fascinating. Anyone interested in social history will find this book equally impelling. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
"The author is a consummate garden historian with a talent for storytellling. This work reflects her considerable skill."
"Full of excellent detail and has taught me much."
"Readers seeking an academic but accessible take on the relationship between houseplants and social history will enjoy this book."
"Writing with flair and just a bit of tongue in cheek...social historian and plant and garden enthusiast Horwood updates this book, first published in 2007, with renewed vigor."