Porcelain, plain in tint and of carefully chosen colours, such as beef-blood, the old rose, and peach-blow hues, in which so many simple forms and inexpensive bits of Japanese pottery may be bought, a peculiar creamy yellow, a dull green, gobelin, and Delft blue and white, sacred to the jugs and bowls of our grandmothers, all do well. Cut glass is a fine setting for flowers of strong colour, but kills the paler hues, and above and beyond all is the dark moss-green glass of substantial texture that is fashioned in an endless variety of shapes. By chance, gift, and purchase we have gathered about a dozen pieces of this, ranging from a cylinder almost the size of an umbrella-stand down through fluted, hat-shaped dishes, for roses or sweet peas, to some little troughs of conventional shapes in which pansies or other short-stemmed flowers may be arranged so as to give the look of an old-fashioned parterre to the dining table.
I had always found these useful, but never quite realized to the full that green or brown is the only consistent undercolour for all field and grass-growing flowers until this summer. But during days that I have spent browsing in the river woods, while Bart and Barney, and more recently Larry, have been digging the herbs that we have marked, I have realized the necessity of a certain combinaticn of earth, bark, and dead-leaf browns in the receptacles for holding wood.flowers and the vines that in their natural ascent clasp and cling to the trunks and limbs of trees.
Several years ago mother sent me some pretty flowerholders made of bamboos of different lengths, intended evidently to hang against door-jambs or in hallways. The pith was hollowed out here and there, and the hole plugged from beneath to make little water pockets. These did admirably for a season, but when the wood dried, it invariably split, and treacherous dripping followed, most ruinous to furniture.
A few weeks back, when looking at some mossed and gnarled branches in the woods, an idea occurred to Bart and me at the same moment. Why could we not use such pieces as these, together with some trunks of your beloved white birch, to which I, via the screen at Opal Farm, was becoming insensibly devoted at the very time that you wrote me?
Augur holes could be bored in them at various distances and angles, if not too acute; the thing was to find glass, in bottle or other forms, to fit in the openings. This difficulty was solved by The Man from Everywhere on his reappearance the night before the Fourth, after an absence of a whole week, laden with every manner of noise and fire making arrangement for the Infant, though I presently found that Bart had partly instigated the outfit, and the two overgrown boys revelled in fire-balloons and rockets under cover of the Infant's enthusiasm, much as the grandpa goes to the circus as an apparent martyr to little Tommy's desire! A large package that, from the extreme care of its handling, I judged must hold something highly explosive, on being opened divulged many dozens of the slender glass tubes, with a slight lip for holding cord or wire, such as, filled with roses or orchids, are hung in the garlands of asparagus vines and smilax in floral decorations of either houses or florists' windows. These tubes varied in length from four to six inches, the larger being three inches in diameter.
"Behold your leak-proof interiors!" he cried, holding one up. "Now set your wits and Bart's tool-box to work and we shall have some speedy results!"
Dear Man from Everywhere, he had bought a gross of the glasses, thereby reminding me of a generous but eccentric great-uncle of ours who had a passion for attending auctions, and once, by error, in buying, as he supposed, twelve yellow earthenware bowls, found himself confronted by twelve dozen. Thus grandmother's storeroom literally had a golden lining, and my entire childhood was pervaded with these bowls, several finally falling into my possession for the mixing of mud pies! But between the durability of yellow bowls and blown-glass tubes there is little parallel, and already I have found the advantage of having a good supply in stock.
Our first natural flower-holder is a great success. Having found a four-pronged silver birch, with a broken top, over in the abandoned gravel-pit (where, by the way, are a score of others to be had for the digging, and such easy digging too), Larry sawed it off a bit below the ground, so as to give it an even base. The diameter of the four uprights was not quite a foot, all told, and these were sawn of unequal lengths of four, six, seven, and nine inches, care being taken not to "haggle," as Larry calls it, the clean white bark in the process.
Then Bart went to work with augur and round chisel, and bored and chipped out the holes for the glass tubes, incidentally breaking two glasses before we had comfortably settled the four, for they must fit snugly enough not to wiggle and tip, and yet not so tight as to bind and prevent removal for cleaning purposes. This little stand of natural wood was no sooner finished and mounted on the camp table than its possibilities began to crowd around it. Ferns being the nearest at hand, I crawled over the crumbling bank wall into the Opal Farm meadow and gathered hay-scented, wood, and lady ferns from along the fence line and grouped them loosely in the stand. The effect was magical, a bit of its haunt following the fern indoors.
Next day I gathered in the hemlock woods a basket of the waxy, spotted-leaved pipsissewa, together with spikes and garlands of club moss. I had thought these perfect when steadied by bog moss in a flat, cut-glass dish, but in the birch stump they were entirely at home. If these midsummer wood flowers harmonize so well, how much more charming will be the blossoms of early spring, a season when the white birch is quite the most conspicuous tree in the landscape! Picture dog-tooth violets, spring beauties, bellwort, Quaker-ladies, and great tufts of violets, shading from white to deepest blue, in such a setting! Or, of garden things, poets' narcissus and lilies-of-the-valley!