Ken Marten Terrarium
Potted History by Catherine Horwood
Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania by Sarah Whittingham
Un-Cut with Catherine Horwood, Sarah Whittingham and Ken Marten, 12/04/13
Un-Cut, 12 April 2013, 18.30-20.30
Set against a backdrop of Ken Marten’s intriguing, living, terrariums, three fascinating speakers will illuminate the alternatives to cut flowers. From indoor plants, to Pteridomania - the Victorian fern craze, to sealed glass gardens.
Ken Marten’s Terrarium Table is a contemporary interpretation of a Victorian invention (the Wardian case), the impact of which is difficult to fully encompass. The Terrarium Table is both a product, bringing plants back into the home in a low maintenance and space-saving way, and also a meditation on culture and origins: as we may sit down to a family meal, our gaze continues beyond the familiar and time honoured tradition of a table set for dinner to the complex foundations of modern life beneath.
As author Catherine Horwood remarks, ‘our relationship with plants in the home has fluctuated – sometimes we fill our rooms to bursting with greenery or scented plants, then banish them on the grounds they are unfashionable or too demanding’. Catherine will explore the human, scientific, and fashion narratives that have shaped this relationship.
In the nineteenth century Pteridomania, or fern madness, swept through Britain. Dr Sarah Whittingham will describe the story of the fern craze, from the invention of the Wardian case, through tales of fern forays, to the creation of verdant ferneries in private homes and gardens. She will also reveal the extent of the craze in mainstream Victorian and Edwardian society by describing some of the incredible variety of public places where it was considered appropriate to have a fernery. And along the way she will introduce some of the authors, nurserymen, designers, and colourful characters such as the ‘Itinerant Fern Vendor’, who were associated with fern mania.
Sarah Whittingham is a historian who specialises in the social history, architecture and gardens of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her book, Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania, was published in February 2012 to great acclaim. She is also the author of The Victorian Fern Craze (2009), has written articles on Pteridomania for numerous publications, has lectured on the subject for many years, and appeared on BBC television and radio talking about it.
Ken Marten's Terrarium Table will be on display the museum from 8-12 April. Ken has been in the vanguard of Floristry for many years. With a background in film and theatre prop making and design, Ken has always brought drama and eye-catching detail to his floral displays. As of March 2012, Ken decided to change direction by focusing exclusively on living plants. Believing living plants to have benefits in terms of sustainability and for the health of the buildings they occupy, Ken brings his creative flair to updating our perception of indoor gardening. His innate understanding of fashions and cross-discipline talents inform his vision for Hermetica London.
Dr Catherine Horwood is a social historian and author. Her books include Gardening Women. Their Stories from 1600 to Now (Virago) and Potted History. The Story of Plants in the Home (Frances Lincoln). She blogs on women and horticulture at www.gardeningwomen.com and is currently working with Beth Chatto on her archives.