January 2015: Indoor gardening

A plant-filled room at Arbor Lodge, Joy Morton's ancestral home
A plant-filled room at Arbor Lodge, Joy Morton's ancestral home

January 2015 library profile:

Indoor gardening


I hold it for a most delicate and pleasing thing to have a faire gallery, great chamber or other lodging, that openeth fully upon the East or West sun, to be inwardly garnished with sweet hearbs and flowers, yea & fruit if it were possible.

~Sir Hugh Platt, from Floraes Paradise (1608), p.31 as cited in Potted History (2007) by Catherine Horwood



As the frigid weather freezes our locks shut and our outdoor gardens wait for spring, don't forget that a thriving garden and even beautiful flowers can be cultivated inside your home! From houseplant encyclopedias to greenhouse manuals, the Sterling Morton Library has resources that can help you turn your house into a garden in itself. According to Catherine Horwood, author of Potted History: The Story of Plants in the Home, bringing plants indoors in pots has a long history, going all the way back to several millennia BC, intertwining closely with the history of plant exploration and collecting. Complimenting Horwood's European perspective is Tovah Martin's Once Upon a Windowsill, which reminds that while bringing plants indoors may have a long history, houseplants didn't really find their way into the common North American home until the Victorian era and owe their welcome to the Victorian style front parlor. In this modern time, the library invites you to explore ways to grow plants that could never survive outside in our yards through the building and maintenance of terrariums and greenhouses, as well as the cultivation of indoor potted gardens, and carry on the tradition of brightening homes with greenery and life.



"Across the world, for thousands of years, plants have been brought into the home - for medicinal use, to cook with, for their scent, or just to admire. From the 3rd century BC, the Egyptians brought plants in clay vessels into inner courts for display. Fifteen hundred years before Christ, the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut grew Somalian frankincense trees in her temple. Terracotta plant pots have been found in the Minoan palace at Knossos on Crete and Roman villas were scented with the blossom of citrus trees...What has been no surprise is that the enthusiasm for trying to grow plants indoors is generations old. Maybe our ancestors sensed what we now have scientific proof of, that many plants are positively good for us to have around, both where we work and where we live. Or maybe the 'green-fingered' gene just will not allow some of us to be without the glories of greenery, however small our home may be. We too can experience the same thrill as Restoration Londoners on discovering the tip of a bulb emerging on a cold January day. Plants link us to the past and can point us to the future, which, let us hope, will always be green.

~from Potted History by Catherine Horwood, p.8, 180


Library Resources

Potted History: The History of Plants in the Home by Cathering Horwood 2007

Once Upon a Windowsill: A History of Indoor Plants by Tovah Martin 1988

The RHS Encyclopedia of House Plants by Kenneth A. Beckett 1987

Conservatories Greenhouses and Garden Rooms by Alexander Bartholomew et al 1985

How to Build and Use Greenhouses by T. Jeff Williams 1978

Tempting Tropicals: 175 Irresistable Indoor Plants by Ellen Zachos 2005

Fun with Terrarium Gardening by Virginie and George A. Elbert 1973

Landscaping Indoors: Bringing the Garden Inside by Brooklyn Botanic Garden 2000

Interior Plantscaping by Richard L. Gaines 1977


Reader's advisory

If interested in gardening creatively in pots and baskets outside the home, explore our collection on container gardening, or for those who want fresh veggies in winter, we have a few books on year-round vegetable gardening!


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