Gardens Illustrated
Potted History book by Catherine Horwood

Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes, by Catherine Horwood, book review

Published: December 10, 2020 at 2:35 pm

As houseplants undergo a renaissance in popularity this interesting book on the history of the houseplant has been fully revised and brought up to date. Reviewer Rosanna Morris is a freelance writer

Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes
by Catherine Horwood
Pimpernel Press
£9.99 ISBN 978-1910258941


It has been an exciting few years for the house plant. You only have to scroll through countless Instagram photos of Oxalis triangularis or notice the number of independent plant shops propagating on high streets to understand how much they are enjoying a renaissance. String of hearts (Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii) trail down walls, Swiss cheese vines (Monstera adansonii) in macramé hangers dangle from ceilings, and statuesque fiddle-leaf figs (Ficus lyrata) tower over sofas in homes up and down the land.

So much has changed in the story of the house plant since social historian Catherine Horwood originally published her book Potted History in 2007 on how and why plants came to be an integral part of interior design. Now, 13 years on, she has written a final new chapter and published this updated second edition.

In her new chapter, Horwood makes the claim that houseplants are now more popular than they were in the Victorian era, which was a boom time for indoor gardening with advances in travel and technology and the golden age of conservatory building (a subject covered earlier in the book). She discusses how many people have plants in their homes today and why she thinks this ‘green revolution’ has come about.

For those who have not encountered this book before, it is a fascinating history of the house plant that looks at how plants have been used inside the home through
the centuries from as early as the 1600s. The new addition is a thought-provoking read and explores reasons why the fashion for house plants can wax and wane.


Colour images have been removed from this revised version, while the simple black and white illustrations remain. The cover has also had an update. It is now a drawing of a stripy elephant ear (Alocasia zebrina) – one of the most popular indoor plants today, according to Horwood.


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