An important feature of the work of a retail florist is the making of floral designs or "set pieces." Fig. 1242. This work is directly opposed to the informal arrangement of flowers which is so much admired at the present time. See Bouquets, Vol. I. By artistic arrangement, however, these designs are now made less formal than in the earlier history of the retailer's work. These designs lend themselves well to the working out of various inscriptions and legends in flowers; therefore, these are most frequently used as tokens of affection sent to friends or relatives at the time of a death. These designs are also much in demand by various fraternal orders and other societies, when the emblems of the order or society are worked out in flowers and sent as a tribute to the house of sorrow. They therefore have their place in the work of every flower-shop.

As has been stated, the present-day tendency in the arrangement of flowers in designs is to get as far away as possible from a stiff, set formality. A design must, of necessity, be distinct in outline, but by a careful and free use of ferns and other florists' "green," the effect may be made somewhat informal and pleasing. Various forms of the "shower" wreath illustrate this, as well as a loose arrangement of flowers, and even foliage and flowering plants about the base of a standing emblem.

The most common forms of floral designs in use at the present time are flat and standing wreaths, pillows, casket-covers, crosses, anchors, and the emblems of various fraternal orders, such as the Masonic square and compass, and the Odd Fellows' three links.

The flowers, of which these designs are made, vary in different stores. The price which is to be paid for the design usually governs the species and varieties used. Orchids, lilies, lilies-of-the-valley, roses and Farleyense ferns compose the most expensive designs; while carnations, stevia, Roman white hyacinths and other more common flowers, with asparagus fern, comprise the cheaper designs. Usually the florist determines the price the customer wishes to pay and selects the flowers in accordance with this. Within recent years there has come to be a demand for unusual material in designs, and boxwood, galax, leucothoe' and magnolia leaves, ericas and other woody plants have been much used.

In making these designs, the arrangement must necessarily be quite formal; therefore, wire frames are used. These are made in large quantities by various wire-working firms and are sold at wholesale at a comparatively low figure. In order to emphasize the particular formal outline and to hold the flowers permanently in place, the flower-stems are usually removed and the flowers then wired with 9- or 12-inch, No. 22 or No. 24 wire. The wire forms are first filled with sphagnum moss, which is moistened so that the flowers will retain their freshness, and the wired stems of the flowers are inserted in this moss. The wiring is an art, and the design-worker becomes so proficient in this that many flowers may be wired in a short period of time. This is necessary when many designs must be made quickly, as is so frequently the case in a flower-shop at the time of the funeral of a distinguished person. Design work usually brings the retailer a substantial remuneration. In many instances, flowers of a lower quality may be used in designs than are demanded by persons buying cut-flowers. They must always be fresh, however; but, when roses are used, those having short stems are just as desirable as long-stemmed flowers.

In carnations, many having a split calyx may be used when they would be salable in no other way.

If Roman hyacinths are used, the main truss may be sold as cut-flowers, and the secondary trusses used in designs.

The green elements in the design, which are used to emphasize the beauty of the flowers, vary much in different stores. Each designer has his own ideas regarding the uses of this material, but often he is compelled to use what is available at the precise moment when it is needed. Because of its excellent keeping qualities, the "dagger," or Christmas fern, is frequently used; but, when this is plainly visible in the finished design, it has a coarse appearance which cheapens the effectiveness of the piece. It may, however, be used as a cover for the frame and moss, with excellent effects. The "fancy dagger," or spinu-lose wood fern, is more attractive than the common dagger fern. One of the earlier greens used was smilax, but this has inferior keeping qualities -to other kinds and is not so popular at the present time. It does not lend itself readily to a loose, formal arrangement. Both Asparagus -plumosus and A. Sprengeri make excellent backgrounds for all design work. For softening effects to be worked among the flowers, nothing adds value to the design so much as a few sprays of Adiantum Croweanum or A. Farleyense. Often the foliage of the plants from which the flowers come adds a more pleasing effect than does the green of any other species.

This is especially true when roses or lilies-of-the-valley are used.

Of the many designs made by the retailer of flowers, wreaths are probably the most in demand. They exhibit good taste, and many have excellent keeping qualities. One of the earlier forms was made of English ivy, and the effect was pleasing. This was especially so when the wreath was enriched with a large bunch of violets, arranged in a loose, artistic manner. Because of the difficulty of getting a sufficient quantity of these leaves, the ivy wreath has been largely replaced by that made of galax leaves. These have excellent keeping qualities and are obtained in large quantities by wholesate dealers from the mountains of North and South Carolina. Both bronze and green galax may be secured, but the green is most satisfactory as it makes a more pleasing contrast with a larger number of colors of flowers. It is customary to make these in rather large sizes, a 16-inch frame, or even larger, being used. Usually the right-hand side of the wreath is decorated with roses, lilies-of-the-valley, or other flowers. A standing galax wreath, with a base of galax leaves, cocos palms, white roses and "valley," and the wreath itself decorated with white roses, lilies-of-the-valley, with shower sprays of "valley" and maidenhair ferns on dainty narrow ribbon, makes an effective design.