In this, my third post and final post on glass conservatories of the nineteenth century, I'm featuring the smallest one of all, the Wardian case, named after Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (1791-1868) of London. As the inventor of a glass-enclosed growing chamber, one would think Dr. Ward was a botanist looking for a way of regulating growing conditions but it wasn't so. Dr. Ward was simply a physician with a passion for botany who noticed something growing in a specimen jar.
English botanists had been gathering exotic species of plant material and shipping them back to England since the end of the 16th century, but something like 9 out of every 10 living plants died enroute due to the salty air and lack of sun, fresh water, and proper care. The most viable way was relegated to transporting seeds, corms, and rhizomes.
|Pre-nineteenth Century Plant Transportation Methods, The Natural Life of the Tea-Tree, 1799|
Air pollution was a major hazard of England's industrialized cities at the time. Much of what has been attributed to the infamous London fog wasn't a fog but sooty air pollution from the coke and coal used to heat homes, businesses and industries. Its effect was devastating on anything that required oxygen to survive.
A London fog drawn by Duncan. Page 8, The Illustrated London News, Volume 10, January to June 1847. Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Suspecting that plants could live in a closed environment if their needs were met, he instructed a carpenter to build a tightly fitted glazed wooden case and then added ferns inside.
The ferns thrived.
Would plants survive a sea voyage in such a case? Unlike before, the Wardian case could be brought onto the deck and into the light without worry of salt spray on their leaves.
In 1833, Dr. Ward tested his theory when he sent a Wardian case of British ferns and grasses to Sydney, Australia. The voyage took several months, yet the plants arrived in good condition. With the Wardian case restocked with native species of Australia, the ship returned and even after a long, stormy voyage arrived with intact healthy plants.
After more successful voyages, the Wardian case became indispensable to the transportation of plant specimens and was instrumental in the establishment of many new industries around the world, such as tea plantations, rubber plantations, and other agricultural goods.
According to the BBC article, Wardian Case, "There is no park in London without a plant that travelled in Dr. Ward's Case."
The Wardian Case also had a dramatic effect on Victorian furnishings as it soon became a common feature of stylish drawing rooms on both sides of the Atlantic.
With the Victorian penchant for the stately ornate, the simplicity of that first glazed wooden Wardian case soon grew into large iron and glass structures, many of which last to this day.
Although a quick search on Pinterest will show many of these creations in color photographs, for authenticity I've kept the images shown here to those found in 19th century books.
So why did I title this post, Amelia's Terrarium, if I'm talking about Wardian Cases? Because around 1885-1890, society began to use the term, terrarium, when talking about a glass structure to house plants and/or land animals, and an aquarium to showcase sea creatures. From then on, Wardian Cases became known as terrariums.
In my novella, Sweet Love Grows, my heroine, Amelia Cord, is being evicted from her estate and must leave behind everything she holds dear, including her favorite plants in the conservatory.
However, she is given the chance to take a few plants if they can fit in a small terrarium, such as the one pictured on the right. If I'd called it a Wardian Case, my readers wouldn't have a clear image of what I was trying to portray, especially since googling Wardian brings up everything Edwardian. Hence, I used the new word, terrarium.
My post on what I imagined Amelia's conservatory would look like, as well as other conservatories, can be found through the following links:
- Botanical Conservatories
- White House Conservatory: Then and Now
More images are featured on my Pinterest boards:
- Conservatory and Greenhouse
- Wardian Case Terrarium Victorian
Years ago, I bought a small foot-long terrarium something like in the last image above. At the time I didn't realize how to use it properly thus it was always too wet and mossy inside. I believe it's still packed away after our many moves and one of these days I'm going to dig it out and put it on display, with or without plants as a reminder of the trials my heroine Amelia went through before she found true love.
What about you? Have you tried growing plants in an indoor container like a terrarium? What about using one for other land creatures like reptiles? I'd love to have you share your experience one way or the other.
Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at www.anitamaedraper.com.
Readers can enrich their reading experience by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories at www.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper.