Enhance With Planters

By Karen Parr-Moody


With spring, one dreams of beautiful vessels in which one can place one's stunning plants and flowers. At GasLamp, there is currently a gorgeous variety, including romantic terrariums, chic cloches, and ever-collectible artisan pottery.


Whether indoors or outdoors, whether a graceful orchid or a charming thatch of moss, greenery inspires the home decorator with endless possibilities. Few singular items can so instantly breathe life and beauty into a space -- and for so reasonable a price tag.


"Cloche" is the French word for bell, and such glass vessels were developed in France in the early 1800s. Also known as a "bell jar," this device was used to protect seedlings from cold, wind and frost, hence hastening a crop to maturity. In the photo at right is a glass cloche that designer Jason Parker Counce has cleverly styled with a porcelain figurine and a vintage plate ($65). While many such cloches are clear, this one has a delightful design on the side in the form of a yellow bird and the words "Le Musée de Famille." What a bright nod to the founders of the cloches. This cloche could very easily contain a miniature Victorian moss (Selaginella), which would thrive with indirect or artificial light, or a grouping of hardy hens and chicks.


What began innocently enough as a practicality would eventually move into the Victorian world of fashionable home décor. On the heels of the cloche's invention, an English doctor named Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward published a book called "On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases" in 1842. In it, he detailed his accidental discovery of how to grow a seedling fern he had placed in a capped bottle. His original purpose was to observe an insect chrysalis transform into an insect; the emerging fern was an unwitting interloper.


Ward's discovery represented a watershed moment for the spread of exotic plants. His resulting terrariums, called "Wardian cases," greatly increased the viability of transporting agricultural goods. These included orchids transported from tropical climates into Europe, along with various plants sent from England to its various colonies. Previously, the bulk of plants perished while traveling by ship.


These cases were made of glass panes faceted by frames of iron, very much in the style of the antiqued white version seen in the photo at left ($72; Booth B-319), which takes on the appearance of a lantern.


Knowing Victorians as we now do, with their love of the whimsical and ornamental, it should come as no surprise that the Wardian case found its way into their front parlors. Victorian homes were beset by coal dust outside and gas lamps inside. To bring some nature indoors, they were fond of the aspidistra. A native of the Eastern Himalayas, Taiwan, China, and Japan, it was which exported to England from Hong Kong in 1863. Nicknamed the "cast iron plant" for its tenacity as a houseplant, Victorians scattered it about their homes.


Another plant loved by fashionable Victorians was the exotic orchid. This particular plant would have been seen in respectable Victorian homes, most certainly housed in an ornate Wardian case or terrarium, such as the one seen in the photo at right ($55; Booth B-309). While this particular terrarium has already been styled in a hip fashion by desinger Jason Parker Counce with mushrooms and moss, GasLamp also has similar empty versions, such as one found at Booth B-115 for $32. The modern gardener can update the Victorian orchid obsession by turning such a glass terrarium into a woodland scene. Simply install moss on the bottom and add a collection of miniature ferns and a single miniature orchid.



Following the Victorians' love affair with terrariums, the first third of the 20th century was marked by the emergence of the streamlined Art Deco style. The spare rooms of this period put far less emphasis on the importance of indoor plants, and terrariums fell out of fashion. However, it was during this time that American pottery flourished, with Ohio taking the lead in the manufacturing of such.






Some of the pottery made was elaborate and resembled china. Other forms were more rustic, such as the terra cotta pot seen in the photo at left (1930s/40s planter, Mexico, $135; S-104). Either way, they were aesthetic additions to a room, porch, or patio.


Almost every major pottery company in American came to make jardinieres and pedestals, the majority of which were made from the 1930s to the 1950s. There are many coveted and collectible names from this era, including Roseville, Weller, J.B. Owens, Robinson Ransbottom and McCoy Pottery.


McCoy planters, such as the one in the photo at right, continue to be highly collectible even today. There are many reasons for this; among them are the beautiful McCoy colors, which include soft yellows and mint greens. The planter shown here is likely from the 1940s, as it is in the matte, pastel finish of that era (planter, $32; Booth B-309).


For green thumbs of today, designer style is made easy by opening one's imagination to the possibilities of what a "planter" can be. For example, GasLamp dealer Kimberly Coots is a master of finding unusual "industrial" items, with which she fills one of her booths. Many of these can perform double duty as planters, as can this unusual geometric piece in the photo at right (vintage basket, $125; Booth B-113). One can easily envision this stunner presiding over a cool deck or a designer loft.


For the Victorians, it was a terrarium full of finds. The gardener of today has a vast array of greenery available due to our global market of new hybrids and heirloom blooms. At GasLamp, one only needs to find the perfect container, then all that is left is to figure out what sort of gorgeous mix of plants or flowers might lie within.

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