The Vintage Home #18: When Houseplants Ruled the Earth
In decades past, the ordinarily healthy practice of decorating the home with houseplants went off the rails. It escalated beyond being a simple peculiarity of the times and entered into a sort of mass delirium, rivaled only by the international obsessions with recreational drug use and casual sex.
Strange fads such as streaking, fondue parties, breakdancing, and mainlining heroine got a lot more attention than the boring and benign houseplant. Do not be deceived – this quiet, unassuming, photosynthesizing home dweller was the perpetrator of a global hysteria that went under the radar – until now.
Those of you who watched The Partridge Family will recall the veritable jungle habitat in their living room. (I always imagined somewhere inside this dense flora was a tribe of naked natives, untouched by Western civilization.)
In the Blake Edwards film The Party (1968), you may remember the indoor river where Peter Sellers loses his loafer. This was basically a living room ecosystem, complete with stepping stones and waterfalls….. maybe it’s an extreme example, but I could go on with plenty more.
|Apartment Life magazine (May 1977)|
As people got a lot more “Earth conscious”, more and more plant life started entering our homes. Maybe it started as just a couple ferns hung with macramé. Perhaps you purchased one of the many records on talking with your plants – a surprisingly popular phenomenon. Soon, your addiction to newly freed oxygen got kicked up a notch. It wasn’t long before your living quarters became less like a house and more like a terrarium.
Movie experts claim Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is really about the psychology revolution of the seventies, and paranoia over the corresponding “groupthink” and self-help ideologies. In fact, I believe it is really about our subliminal fear of being overtaken by plant life.
Naysayers will do well to remember that your average home was much smaller in the 1970s. Vaulted ceilings and open floorplans weren’t yet popular. Thus, you were in a much more enclosed space, making the surrounding vegetation much more “intimate”. Leaves and fronds constantly brushed your face as they germinated further and further into your personal space. Indeed, had the Houseplant Revolution (as it shall henceforth be known) not been quelled during the Reagan era, we may have all wound up Pod People.
What do we have here in the picture above? Three completely inconsequential houseplants? Or two predators lying in wait on a kitchen shelf while a third closes in from behind?
I will leave it to you to decide. Just know that this man was never seen again.
And if you couldn’t surround yourself in shrubbery indoors, there was always the option of having a window to your wilderness habitat. The mentality of the 1950s and early 60s was to trim and manicure your yard till it looked as artificial as possible. Not so the 70s, where the philosophy was to let it bloom.
In a twist of irony, just as The Pill entered the scene, our dwellings became more fertile.
|1980s Plant Porn|
But don’t imagine for a second that the influx of greenery ended in 1979. The 80s may have abandoned the macramé hangers, but their contents. Even the occult powers of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher couldn’t ward them off until roughly November 1986, where they weren’t banished entirely but subdued to manageable populations.
Take note that by the early 1980s, plant life was making its way into our workplace. Once the vegetation was firmly embedded within our places of industry, world domination was only a few seedlings away. Thank God for the Reagan-Beelzebub counterstrike – a plan so covert, we still don’t understand its mechanism.
Now that the threat is gone, let’s not fall into complacency. (The same thing happened to the Mayans, and look what happened to them.) To watch the endless home shows on TV, the going style seems to be very minimal and sterile. Houseplants simply don’t fit into our world of clean lines and stainless steel fridges. We’ve come a long way from talking to our geraniums, but be forewarned: the flora shall return.