A Victorian Guide to Houseplants: Floral Decorations for the Dwelling House by Annie Hassard

April 17, 2023

A Victorian Guide to Houseplants: Floral Decorations for the Dwelling House by Annie Hassard


Are you a houseplant person? So were the Victorians! Many hobbies involving plants became popular during the 19th century, such as collecting and pressing flowers. Using plants decoratively in the home was a huge craze, encompassing both potted plants and arrangements of cut flowers and greenery. Ferns were particularly popular, to the point that some species actually became threatened in the wild, and this was also the period when Christmas trees became widespread in Britain and the US.

Close-up of a engraving in a book that depicts an elaborate arrangement of flowers and plants such as ferns on a dining table.

Floral Decorations for the Dwelling House, by Annie Hassard, was first published in 1875 and provided advice on a wide variety of floral decorative schemes, from centrepieces to boutonnieres and flower crowns. Other books had been published on this topic, but Hassard's expanded the subject to include living plants in addition to cut flowers. 

A book open to show a large engraving of an elaborate floral arrangement on the right-hand page, and on the left some text with a smaller engraving of a vase with plants.

As the design historian Penny Sparke has written, Floral Decorations for the Dwelling House provided, "a very detailed account, both practically and artistically oriented, of the best plants and best pieces of equipment to use for a wide variety of indoor plant and flower decorations, from bouquets to dining tables, window displays, hanging baskets and Christmas decorations, as well as giving advice on how best to arrange them” (Nature Inside, p. 48).

Close-up of an engraving in a book that depicts a boutonniere composed of a rose, other small flowers, and some fern fronds.

The book was praised in the January 1876 issue of The Floral World and Garden Guide as “a systematic treatise on the subject. The truth is, the gifted author of this stands alone and far in advance of all competitors, whether as an exhibitor or a judge of exhibitions, whether in the preparation of a bouquet for a princess or the decoration of a grand saloon for an important public ceremony”.

For more on this copy of Floral Decorations for the Dwelling-House visit its page in our shop. You may also be interested in our other rare books on nature & biology.

Image of a book open on a cushion. The right-hand page is an engraving of a large and elaborate, three-tiered floral arrangement including ferns. The left-hand page is text.