William Robinson: gardener, writer, and a bit of a hero.
In the 1860s – yes, the 1860s – Mr Robinson went to Paris on a fact-finding mission and returned proclaiming that ‘the day is fast approaching when the value of graceful plants as house-ornaments will be recognised’.
This ‘graceful custom’, as he put it, of growing plants indoors, was very much more common in Paris. He noted, for example, that one nursery in Versailles grew 5,000 to 6,000 Dracaena terminalis each year.
His chapter on The Plant Decoration of Apartments is testament to his enamour, talking of ‘handsome-leaved’ plants, with a ‘variety of form and grace of outline’. His fondness for non-flowering plants – and optimism about the speed of change – really struck a chord.
It took a few more decades than Mr Robinson predicted for houseplants to really take root in British hearts and homes. How pleased he would be now though to see all of us nurturing and celebrating our plants indoors and doing our bit to fly his flag for him.