In this series we put house plants alongside other fashions of the day. What would people have been watching, listening to and thinking about while tending to their plants? What other objects would have surrounded them in their everyday lives?
Xenia Field’s 1966 book ‘Indoor Plants’ is today’s inspiration. While the cover shows an array of flowering varieties (‘flower power’ of course), the inside is a dream for foliage enthusiasts.
I love this quote where she talks about plants as if they were children or pets, and in some way had the capacity to think and act for themselves:
“I always describe the indoor plant as one that consents to become, with cheerful tolerance, the willing, happy and permanent inhabitant of a normal home.”
The 1960s was a decade of social and cultural change, and a counterculture which brought us the civil rights movement, women’s rights and environmentalism. Synonymous now with mini-skirts, the rise to world domination of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and the empowerment of young people, it was a period of fast-moving and often shocking fashions.
Of the plants of the day, Xenia features, among others, Monstera, Rubber Plants, Ivy, Diffenbachia, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Chinese Evergreen, Begonias, Crotons, small Draceana, variegated Devil’s Ivy and Urn Plants in her multi-plant containers. Check out the 1960s pinboard here for more.
Some of these are spot on for the current trends – Xenia herself says that ‘none fits in better with steel furniture, zebra skins, oddities and modern decoration’ than Monstera deliciosa.’
Interior decoration took its inspiration from all over, resulting in a mishmash of colour, pattern, psychedelia, space-age and hippie influences. Op(tical) art and pop art were big. Every home had a shag rug and a lava lamp.
On the TV, Julie Goodyear made her first Coronation Street appearance as Bet Lynch, Till Death Do Us Part first aired, and we said goodbye to the Thunderbirds. Camberwick Green was the first programme to be shot in colour. On the big screen, The Sound of Music won the Best Picture Oscar, beating Doctor Zhivago.
In leisure pursuits and pastimes, England won the World Cup, Seamus Heaney published his first major collection Death of a Naturalist, and the Ford Cortina Mark II was launched and became Britain’s most popular new car the following year.
Xenia says that ‘plants must be ‘champion’ in order to be satisfying.’ I think being champion must also have been essential to keep up with the tremendous fashions of her day.
- V&A 1960s fashion (https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/1960s-fashion)
- Ultra Swank (http://www.ultraswank.net/interior/home-decor-1960s/)
- Tate (http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bridget-riley-1845)
- BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/homes/design/period_1960s.shtml)