This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
In general, hardy plants are not very much favoured in rooms. It is, perhaps, natural we should prefer the plants of warmer climates indoors, and those that are hardy out of doors; but we are not always natural in our tastes, and there is no reason why we should rudely shut the door in the face of any member of the ornamental classes of plants, be it hardy or tender. Those that can afford to surround themselves with the more costly natives of tropical and temperate lands, may fairly indulge themselves in that way to their hearts' content. Their enjoyments do not, or need not, however, limit those of the less wealthy. Hardy and half-hardy plants are fortunately cheaper than those requiring more expensive appliances and management in their culture. They are not less numerous, nor less varied in character, and perhaps not less beautiful, if the false idea of commonness that attaches to them is not allowed to have undue weight. But there is no need for putting the one class of plants in comparison with the other. Each has its own fitness to meet the varied wants, tastes, and means of men; and perhaps the latter consideration, or length of purse, will, as it always should, determine our tastes, and their limits.
If I cannot afford to pay the piper, I need not forswear music, so long as the whistle and the Jew's-harp remain; and if I can pick a little enjoyment out of those humble, not to say vulgar instruments, why should I long after the unquestionably more classic but to me unattainable bagpipes 1 And so, if my accommodation for plants extends only to a cold frame or two, my time and thoughts will be better employed in filling them with, and cultivating well, such plants as will accommodate themselves to such quarters, than in dreaming of stoves, conservatories, and tropical plants. There is no better ornament for a sitting-room or dinner-table than a well-cultivated plant of pleasing aspect. The essential points in a good plant for this purpose are a graceful or striking form, softness of colours, and general freshness. These points are all combined in many hardy and half-hardy plants. Many may lack the refinement of appearance that characterises some of the Ferns, Palms, etc, employed to decorate the drawing-rooms of the wealthy and the fashionable; but there are not a few that, with good management, may prove sources of pleasure to those whose tastes are not prone to soar above ordinary things.
The two subjects selected below, to be followed by similar selections from time to time, with our esteemed Editor's permission, I have found very useful in my own circumstances; and believing that many others may find them likewise useful, I pass on to describe their treatment for the purposes of room and table decoration.