Regular readers will know we’re big fans of Juliana Crow and her straight-talking advice from 1952. This is where we’re going to start with our new series that puts house plants alongside other fashions of the day.
Juliana is frustrated by the limited range of plants in people’s homes and gives us an insight into popular – and perhaps overused – house plants at the time she’s writing her book:
“It is quite unnecessary for the components of the indoor garden to be limited to philodendron and chlorophytum, peperomia and fig. There are palms other than Howea and Cocos and more exciting climbers than the Kangaroo Vine.”
So while these were the plants of the moment, what was going on in the wider world? What would the owners of these plants have been watching, listening to and thinking about in the early 1950s? What other objects would have surrounded them in their everyday lives?
More than a decade after the Second World War, compulsory identity cards were abandoned, tea rationing came to an end, a one shilling charge was introduced for prescriptions on the NHS, and the war-time Utility Furniture scheme closed. The Morris Minor was the most popular car.
The Greatest Show on Earth won best film at the Oscars, while Sooty and the Flower Pot Men made their first appearances on the small screen. By the bedside table, there would have been the newly published C. S. Lewis’ novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Borrowers by Mary Norton for the children. The beautiful voice of Vera Lynn topped the chart that year with Auf Wiedersehen (Sweetheart).
The biggest event that year would have been the change in monarch: Elizabeth became queen following her father’s death. Winston Churchill was Prime Minister for the second time, and exploded the UK’s first atomic bomb in Operation Hurricane.
There were floods in Devon and the Great Smog covered London, killing 4,000 people. The Winter Olympics took place in Oslo and Olympics were in Helsinki later that year. Newcastle United won the FA Cup for a record fifth time.
And all the while, chlorophytum, philodendron, peperomia, howea, coco palms and kangaroo vines were the common plants in people’s homes, adding their own touches to the styles of the time.