This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
The feature that most distinguishes American floriculture from that of Europe is the great preponderance of the cut-flower trade as compared with the sales of plants. Forty years ago the passion of Americans for cut-flowers was remarked by travelers, but however important the cut-flower trade may then have appeared it has had a marvelous growth since that time. Prior to the Civil War it would have been impossible to purchase any considerable quantity of cut-flowers in the winter season in any of the large cities. The greenhouses were small flue-heated structures in which a great variety of plants was grown; hence it would have been impossible to secure a quantity of any one kind. There were no middlemen to collect even the small quantities produced in a locality, and when large numbers of blooms were required, advance notice was expected and the person wishing the flowers had to do the collecting from the various establishments. After the period mentioned, floricultural establishments rapidly increased in number and size. This growth has continued until today. Instead of being concentrated about large cities, there is scarcely a city of 5,000 or even less that does not have its florist.
Not less than $100,000,000 is now invested in the cultivation and sale of cut-flowers in America. Although statistics of the cut-flowers alone are not available, a conservative estimate based on the United States census of 1910 places their annual value at $25,000,000.
From forty to sixty years ago the camellia was the most valued cut-flower, either for personal adornment or for bouquets, and sometimes as much as $1, $2 and even $3 were obtained for single flowers at the height of the holiday season. Then came a period of decline during which they were almost forgotten except in a few private collections, but now they are seen upon the market as pot-plants. The florist of the present generation wonders how they could have been admired to the extent that they should lead as cut-flowers. Perhaps no better idea of the requirements of the former cut-flower trade can be given than to quote the record of a leading New York florist establishment for 1867 which shows a product as follows: Camellias about 45,000, bouvardias 20,000, carnations 70,000, double primroses 100,000, and tuberoses 50,000. Other flowers on the market in those days were daphne, abutilon, callas, sweet alyssum, poinsettia, eupatorium, heliotrope and a few tea roses. The most profitable white cut-flowers, in the opinion of many florists, were Stevia serrata, Double White camellia, Calla sethiopica, Lilium can-didum, Deutzia gracilis, and Double White Chinese primrose.
It will be noted that roses were not important in the cut-flower trade of this period. It is a fact that very few were grown under glass. A few florists were growing Bon Silene, Lamarque and Safrano roses, occasionally devoting an entire house to them, but more often in houses with other flowers. The rapidly-awakening demand for all kinds of flowers brought good prices for roses and stimulated the florists to give this flower more attention. The time was one of changing ideals and the old formal camellia, show dahlia and Chinese chrysanthemum were passing, while new and less formal flowers were coming into- favor. The flower-buying public, however, wanted something larger than the small tea varieties then grown. Every new variety from Europe that had any promise was tried, and from that day to this scarcely a new introduction has escaped a searching test as to its adaptability for culture under glass. The Marechal Niel was grown for the discriminating trade, and it continued the leading variety until it was supplanted by the everblooming, more prolific and more easily cultivated Perle des Jardins. Likewise, the hybrid perpetuals were tried, and some of them, notably General Jacqueminot, were found to force well.
This variety, when it could be had for the holidays, brought $1 and $2 a bud.
The roses of this time were produced on plants grown in deep beds or in pots or boxes. The latter method enabled the grower better to time his crops, while the former involved less time and attention. The endeavor to secure the advantages of both naturally resulted in the shallow raised bench, and this method of growing cut-flowers has been adopted for practically all now grown in large quantities; in fact, this system of culture is perhaps the greatest single feature which distinguishes American floricultural methods from those of Europe. Simultaneously it became very generally recognized that to grow roses successfully required separate houses and a different temperature. For a long time it was thought that a special form or construction was necessary, viz., the three-quarter span, but now the even-span house is in general use.