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Plants Make People Happy

Living in a flat without a garden, I’ve always enjoyed growing plants in my home. I think it was at the end of the first lockdown that I noticed my lounge was being taken over by jungle of waxy green leaves. Listening to a lecture by author Catherine Horwood (Organised by Surrey Wildlife Trust) it seems I’m not the only one. In her book ‘Potted History’, Catherine examines the social history of house plants which she calls ‘a green revolution’. Catherine puts this down to a change in social mobility, advances in technology (leading to cheaper plants) and the rise of plant influencers on Instagram such as Urban Jungle Bloggers. Search the term #plantsmakepeoplehappy to see the hundreds of thousands of green leafed posts.

Tropical Trelissick Gardens in Cornwall (photo: S.Richards)

In 1608 Sir Hugh Platt wrote about a garden ‘within doores’. In the 19th Century Dr Ward designed his ‘Wardian case’ to transport plants from all over the world back to Britain. The Victorians had a passion for ferns and excursions were arranged by train companies for keen horticulturalist to collect fern samples that were native to Britain. As a personal interest my 3-times great grandad looked after the fern house at Kew Gardens and then Cambridge botanic gardens at the turn of the last century. I can’t help but think of George when I see a fern growing.

After WWI the cactus was popular along with bulbs but flower arranging took over the inter-war years and 1930’s, only ivy was used as foliage. At the start of the 1950’s the Festival of Britain included ‘room plants’ which showed signs of a house plant revival. Nurseryman Thomas Roachford coined the name ‘houseplants’ for non-flowering plants in the 1950’s.

Dr David Hessayon ‘Be Your Own House Plant Expert‘ was first printed in 1961 and helped thousands of people grow their own house plants. Catherine Horwood’s book ‘Potted History‘ explores the history of certain plants, their social history along with their influence on home decorating.

I visited the beautiful Trelissick Gardens on my holiday to Cornwall a few weeks ago. Situated next to the river Fal, the garden enjoys a tropical micro-climate and is able to grow many of these indoor plants outside. I took my camera for some house plant goals!