SCIENCES

Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes

Pimpernel. 2nd ed. ed. Mar. 2021. 176p. ISBN 9781910258941. pap. $16.95. gardening
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In this updated edition, social historian Horwood (Beth Chatto: A Life with Plants) tells the story of houseplants in Britain from the 16th century to the present. The 14 chronologically arranged chapters describe the people—nurserymen, plant collectors, horticulturists—and changes in social and domestic life that influenced trends in indoor growing. From masking street stench with heavily scented plants, to pursuing Instagram likes, people have grown plants indoors for many reasons; those reasons can tell us much about the ways in which they lived. Harwood includes many quotes from works of the time, along with extensive endnotes, a bibliography, and lists of plants introduced or discovered by date, botanical and common name, and area of origin. The text is informative and detailed but sometimes dry. More illustrations showing how plants were displayed at the time would enrich the work and make it more appealing to general readers.
VERDICT Readers seeking an academic but accessible take on the relationship between houseplants and social history will enjoy this book.
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