The keeping of plants is no recent innovation: on the contrary, the techniques and traditions of growing them indoors in pots have been appreciated for countries. The history of lotus blossom, cherished by the Pharaohs of Egypt in their palaces 3,000 years ago, gives us the earliest known information of this subject. Also, in the Far East, particularly in ancient China, People were passionately fond of enhancing their homes and formal gardens with flowers and plants.
Originally, of course, each country was familiar only with those plants that flourished in the local environment, but as contacts with other continents and countries increased, people began to discover the possibilities of plants from distant lands. In Europe, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, many hitherto unknown exotic plants were introduced by Crusaders returning from the Holy Wars.
This early import later continued on a larger scale with the expansion of merchant shipping to more remote countries. Explorers and enterprising botanists also brought many new plants back with them, which were promptly added to cherished collections of an ever-growing number of plants enthusiasts.
Every university was proud of the unique plants in its botanical gardens, and as more and more specimens poured into Europe, certain rare varieties became the subject of crazes.
In the sixteenth century Holland already boasted its own nurseries, and during the golden age merchants from the Republic of North Netherlands suddenly became obsessed with tulips of mixed colors. So began the famous tulip mania that hit Europe around 1630, with speculators paying incredibly high prices for a single tulip bulb. This boom lasted about a decade and was followed a century later by a similar craze with the hyacinth as the object of trade.
The discovery and collecting of plants in all parts of the world came into its own in the second half of the eighteenth century. Botanists and doctors of medicine studied many exotic plant varieties and sought good and efficient means of transporting them back to Europe.
Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, Monstera and Philodendron, for instance, originally came from America, as did many of the bromeliads; and from Japan came, among other worthies, Primula japonica and Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan).
A bewildering range of plants is now widely available to everyone, and you can choose at your leisure which plants from this vast collection you find most attractive.
Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans