Finding Flora in The House of Discovery

There are just a few weeks left to visit 'Finding Flora' in the Como House of Discovery. Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna, Senior Curator and Historian, talks about the research behind the installation.

Como is redolent with floral imagery. Flowers and foliage decorate furnishings, textiles, ceramics, and art. From engraved illustrations of women as personifications of flowers to the profusion of bouquets on the Sanderson chintz sofa covers – Como has unequivocal floral energy.

Finding Flora draws from an archive of historical images depicting how flowers were once used to ornament interiors and dress at Como. Floral arrangements, alongside other botanical decorations, recreate the atmosphere of ‘rustic adornment’ and verdant abundance inside Como House. National Trust curators have collaborated with florists and students to develop the installation and explore sustainable approaches to floristry.

A resonance can be felt between 19th century attitudes towards nature in urban settings and our contemporary obsession with indoor plants, flowers, and beautiful decorative ceramic planters. These living displays were once affectionately called ‘parlour pets.’

During the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution ushered in an era of new coal-based technologies, contributing to emigration, an increase in urban populations, and exacerbated pollution. In many respects, we are living with this legacy to the present day.

A fascination with plant life, and nature in a more general sense, psychologically mitigates the grief many humans feel about species loss and the impacts of climate change. If we make space for leafy specimens in our homes, we bolster our sense of connection with the natural environment. Our forebears in the Victorian era undoubtedly felt this too.

Finding Flora in The House of Discovery closes on October 15. Purchase your tickets here to visit to join a guided talk and tour with Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna


Elizabeth Anya Petrivna