I have been requested by a number of the readers of my first "Book of Flowers," should I publish another work or a new edition of the old one, to give some directions in constructing bouquets, showing how to arrange the colors, etc. Now this is about as difficult a task, as it would be to direct how a beautiful painting could be executed; such an art cannot be communicated by writing. It requires taste, skill, and practice to become a good artist, and to know how the colors should be blended to form a perfect picture. It is somewhat so in arranging flowers in a bouquet. There is very bad taste exhibited, in many of the bouquets that are offered for sale in the flower shops, which to the eye of an amateur is about as annoying as discords are to the ear of an educated musician. I must, however, confess that I cannot communicate the art of arranging the color of flowers in a bouquet that would be satisfactory to myself, and must give as a substitute, some hints which I find in a late London paper from a report of a gentleman who gives an account of what he saw on a visit to Paris, in an article entitled, "Flowers and Foreign Flower Fashions." The article is a long one and I give only the following extracts:
"Such green with a little color is a rule that has a wide reign; and also it is remarkable how rarely one sees one color; but crimson and buff roses, violet and pink, pale sea green and rose color, or any of these, with white. This seems the prevailing thing, as much in dress as in flowers, and as much in rooms as anywhere. But then, Parisians do compose room, and toilette, and flowers, all as a sort of picture.
"But to go on to vases and to flowers in general. The great idea now in arranging them, is to show each flower separately (not in that horrid way, of all others most objectionable, when, having a crowd of flowers, each flower tries to be seen, thus making up a result of a mass of excited petals, like faces turned up in a crowd) - but where the view is to let each flower repose quietly and calmly upon a bed of green. That is, after all, the natural view of flowers; but I never saw it done perfectly till a few days ago, at Paris.
"Bouquets for the hand are not made up abroad like "the run" of English ones. The prettiest mode this year is to have a kind of fern shaped spray of green going down the bouquet between each little group of flowers. It seems to me that In composing a bouquet, there are five or six separate bunches of green arranged first separately - some fern, for example, or sprays of rose leaves (to mention things, that every one has at hand), and then these sprays are fastened to the centre, formed, one after each little group of Azaleas or Geraniums. The effect is exceedingly good. The flowers would not be mixed much - perhaps red and white in one place, and only pink in another; or perhaps blue would be alone here, and next door to. it buff. The art is, not to seem to think the flowers unsuited to each other. Flowers for hair and dress are now very rarely mixed. You have some one flower and its own buds for all. Then, if more green is wanted, there are always sprays of ivy, drooping fronds of fern, long ribbons of delicate grass. As a general thing, however, one flower with its own leaves is enough for one person's ambition; and the result is once more, much grace and little heaviness.
"For actual use on dinner tables, the prettiest fashion I have ever seen by far, is that of the large open vase supported on gilt branches, always so arranged as to look wide and low in proportion to its height.
"The dish or vase, I should mention, was of plain frosted glass, shallow and wide, and rested on twisted supports of bright and frosted gilding.
"The dish was itself filled up with bright dark green moss - one of the beautiful green-house lycopods might well be used here. Lycopodium denticulatum is, perhaps, best of all for the purpose, and is easily grown anywhere, in a shady corner of the green-house, or in a window that will not suit many flowering plants because of want of sun. The moss was raised in the centre - not a heap, but curved upwards. The flowers were as follows: one deep red Rose, one of the palest Blush white, a spray of white Convolvulus, just touched with pink, a cluster of red drooping flowers (I thought of the Rose acacia), one spray of pale wild Rose, one bright pink Rose, a cluster of white Acacia, and a drooping branch of the pink Convolvulus.
"It is to be remarked, the colors were all shades of rose and white. The whole thing was most perfectly bright, and fresh, and beautiful. Bach flower was simply laid down on the green, fairly round the vase, no attempt being made to fill up the centre at all. The flowers just touched, and had each its own green leaves; the stems, of course, were just hidden slightly in the moss. I give this to show the style of thing, but, of course, other flowers can be used for any of those named. The great thing is, it seems to me, to have some idea to work to; and there certainly are such ideas to be picked up, sown broadcast abroad; where nobody is ashamed of trying to make themselves and everything else look their prettiest!
"Another thing that struck me was the great use made of green in everything, and the immense effect thus produced. A stand of flowers would really have very few plants indeed. There would be green and moss - and perhaps two plants in flower. Setting off one gem is far more the fashion than collecting a crowd that detract from each other's beauty. Each flower is thus allowed to be distinct. And then things are on a large scale. I have passed under a flower vase often in going to dinner - a tall vase on a side-table, with really' gigantic flowers - Sunflowers and Dahlias, with great Roses and Gladioli, and with such large green leaves, and the flowers cut with such long stalks, that each seemed well detached - and the strange selection was Oriental, and beautiful in its strangeness. Of course all things of this kind must suit the rooms they are in; but in immense lofty rooms, and with the large massive style of most of the French furniture, nothing can be in better taste than some of these brilliant vases. Then the beautiful feathery grasses are very much used in Paris; and nothing can be more graceful, on a large scale, than are these white plumes."