Do you find yourself opening this newsletter every week? Do you value the labor that goes into it? Have you become a paid subscriber? Think about it! Many of the people who read this newsletter the most are people who haven’t gone over to paid. I’m constantly saying I’m going to pay for things and take weeks to actually do it, so I get it. But maybe today is your day.
An interesting dichotomy presented between the feminized and masculinized versions of plant parent that has me in a bit of a psychoanalysis emergency session with myself. I would think my version of plant life is Victorian, romantic, feminine, but the last few years, despite being with the plants so much more and theoretically having more time to deal with them, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with them for growing too much, for flourishing beyond the bounds I’ve set for them. I’ve repotted many, divided and conquered, tried to contain them because I do not wish to buy bigger planters nor make the space for them or deal with a plant stand once they’ve out grown the already expansive, extended sill in the primary plant room (the light!). But here I am, I’ve let one practically die rather than deal with another messy dividing yet again (and so soon, didn’t we just do this?) and my prized rare geranium I literally just killed trying to rein her in a bit. I should be sad, somehow I am not. I’ve always been the “no children, just me and the plants” gal and now I’m wondering if my plant children have reached their teenage years and I'm frustrated that they still require so much of me, more time and money and they don’t even listen or do what I ask. I’ve found myself more drawn to a boring palm that sits in a corner and works as a piece of the furniture and asks nothing of me other than a little water. Maybe I’m sick of motherhood and wish I could be more like a 1950s dad to these plants. I do enjoy having a cocktail with this palm, now that I think about it…
I have never thought about houseplants from a historical perspective. Honestly, I don't think I've even considered them as having a history to be studied! What a fascinating dive, I can't wait for the next installment.
The stereotype conversation is interesting; I felt called out. Ha! Many of my houseplants have names, and I've gone so far as to purchase name tag stakes for my plants. And I use an app to help keep me on a care schedule. I have over 40 interior plants with varying levels of care, so the app is a lifesaver.
I love the stereotype discussion. It is interesting how design vs obsession is viewed in a particular gender role. So thought provoking- I am looking forward to the next installment for sure! I have some thoughts now about both my and my spouse’s plant tendencies, but I see it fitting into the next article’s era. Great piece!
I am not a houseplant person—I love them, but I’m not home consistently enough to keep them alive.
I have nothing profound to add to this piece. I just have to tell you I didn’t have “become slack-jawed while reading about the history of houseplants” on today’s bingo card, but I’m delighted it is now.
I can’t wait for the next installment!
I've been enjoying the writing about houseplants and thinking about my own 'period of many plants' in the 1970s. I commented about that in response to an earlier question about when in your life have you had houseplants. I have lots to say about the plant culture of the boho 1970s white teen hippie girl and am waiting for the next installment that should get to that period
But I had a thought to throw in now.
I just saw that a pandemic-closed storefront in my area had reopened as a *plant store* -- one like I remembered from my girlhood that had been generally missing in recent decades. It's one of those stores devoted exclusively to houseplants, jungly and humid, with plants at all levels and many hanging. For a long time, our only houseplant options were indoor plant rooms attached to nurseries and garden supply stores. But this one was only and all about houseplants.
That sent me on a reverie about my period of the plants. In my parents' house there were one or two faux plants for decoration and no desire to have real ones. But they allowed me to do what I wanted with my bedroom and soon it was filled with them. In the basement I had gro-lights and propagation systems (yes there was marijuana under the lights but not only marijuana) and lots of books all about them on my bookshelves. I also spent a lot of time at the plant store, just like this new one, talking all about plants with the staff, looking at and memorizing varieties, remarking on plant pots, etc.
My memory of the plant store was that it was one of a set of such places—comic book stores, record/music stores, (later) video stores—that were anchors for an interest and then a community could grow around it. You could hangout. You could show off knowledge, talk about the details of obscure things, etc. You'd have a "thing", as in plants are your thing or comics are your thing. I remember lots of us at that age and that time needing to have a 'thing.' Houseplants and indoor horticulture is a good area for having just enough specialized knowledge for the those that want it, but also being an easy, low barrier of entry specialty. In other words, there was some social capital and aura around being a 'plant person' at that time.
I just love CS. I have never met a group with such wide ranging curiosity, and I love it. Can't wait for the next installment. ❤️
Did anyone else's 2022 brain immediately sketch smartphones into the hands of the lovely "two young women in a conservatory, 1850s?"
Re the notion of potted plants serving as “exquisite distractions” from empire. What did people at the time think & say they were doing whilst wandering in the conservatory?
This is fascinating, AHP.
Is a second part to this article still coming? I loved it and can't wait for the second half!
This piece immediately made me think of The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery (historical chick lit is the best chick lit)! Of course Anne of Green Gables romanticized PEI/Canada for me, but this book took it much much further. Ahh I can't write any more or spoilers but. the book is very very rich for historical contextual analysis.
Have been wildly anticipating this piece and it’s even better than I hoped. (Just took attendance and I’m at 75-80 over here, depending how we count baby plants, so put me down for proper Victorian womanhood...)
Great post per usual. Really surprised there was no mention of Tulipmania. Just a wild confluence of proto-hyper-capitalism, colonialism/exploitation, and pretty flowers!