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The Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery at Philadelphia’s Morris Arboretum—the only remaining freestanding Victorian fernery in the U.S.—is a splendid monument to the 19th-century fern craze and the technology that made it possible.
Glass and Iron
Advances in the use of glass and iron in construction during the Victorian period led to a proliferation of glasshouses like this one, where collectors could house exotic specimens year-round in a controlled environment.
During the same period, another new technology—hot water heating, as in the system pictured here—was applied to the cultivation of ferns. In fact, the radiator was originally developed to warm plants, not humans.
The collection at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Fernery includes some 75 varieties, ranging from giant New Zealand tree ferns to delicate maidenhair ferns, arrayed around a series of goldfish ponds and waterfalls.