Although the history of the houseplant goes back to the 18th century, the modern era of the houseplant probably began with the notorious gum tree of the 1960s. At that time, he enjoyed a proud box seat at the balcony window and when the affinity to the Sunday coffee announced itself, this was compared with the copies in the own good parlors.
This sensation around the green on the windowsill was dismissed by the then young generation as petit bourgeois and thus mutated the rubber tree quite quickly to the object of their contempt. It was probably due to this contempt that the houseplant had a hard time with the ’68 hippie generation (despite its other affinity for green plants).
How the times have changed for the poor and long spurned rubber tree. Today it is again considered to be the epitome of good design with its large, glossy leaves and its simple shape and is indispensable in any stylish living ambience.
But in contrast to times long gone, the poor gum tree these days doesn’t live a lonely live, he is mostly to be found in best company of other, no less “hip” buddies.
For example, the good home designer of today also grants the slender, high-growth bow hemp (Sansevieria) a box seat in every interior. The absolute superstar among the top models of indoor plants, however, is undeniably the Monstera, whose large, leaky leaves are found in every Urban Jungle, living and/or printed on sheets, wallpapers and pillows.
The relationship of people to their houseplants is therefore subject to constant change, but has always remained an extremely emotional one – from love to contempt. This constantly changing relationship is also the reason for the title of an exhibition of the Botanical Museum in Berlin-Dahlem, which will take place until June 2, 2019: “Loved, poured, forgotten: phenomenon indoor plant”.
However, as the Berlin exhibition organizers were able to find out in their investigations, it was not only aesthetic preferences that determined the fashions and attitudes towards the indoor plant. Above all, the changing living conditions had an impact on the trends regarding our green contemporaries.
For example, the introduction of large windows into the living space in the 1950s brought a turn to green landscapes, which allowed themselves to spread before the carefully arranged flower windows and with the years even on etageres and flower stools next to the iconic kidney tables, bag lamps and club chairs.
Another change brought the use of modern heating from the 1970s, which increased the average living room temperature of 18 to 22 degrees Celsius. This caused some “traditional” houseplant to go the path of all secular, for others, especially tropical plants, this paved the way to our good rooms.
The Ficus, the Monstera or various palm trees provided an everlasting holiday feeling, while others, hitherto very popular indoor plants, such as the violet, had to give way to the cooler bedroom.
With the following 1980s however, started another difficult time for our green pals. For example, the exhibition states that “Stylistically demanding households relocated to kitchen herbs” at that time.
But even though the plant, which existed long before us humans, cannot exist as a houseplant without us, in spite of all fads, it will probably be indispensable to our living spaces in cultural history. Therefore, it is recommended for every visitor to Berlin to get to know them better during a walk through the exhibition, which lasts until June 2, 2019, at the Botanische Museum Berlin.