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.
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.
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).
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”.