This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A novel and most charming floral arrangement will be found in the " Aquatic Bouquet;" and whether for the drawing-room bracket, the stand of the sick-room, or as an epergne for some elegant dining or supper table, it is an imposing object. But to describe this lovely creation : - It consists of flowers, leaves, buds, sprays, grasses, ferns and moss, - or indeed any treasure of the floral kingdom, - in a state of perfect beauty, and in an upright position, surrounded, covered, - yes, buried as it were, beneath the limpid element. A singular, yet, after all, a most simple phenomenon, merely one of Nature's laws beautifully demonstrated, viz.: - the power of atmospheric pressure, and the old rule of our school lesson - "two elements cannot occupy the same place at the same time," in this instance proved by following the subjoined directions: Have ready a glass-shade, such as we use tor covering fern-cases, wax-flowers, statuary, or other delicate objects, of any size convenient; or substitute any plain glass chamber, such as a tumbler, jar, or bell-glass - though these are only suitable for small bouquets - a glass or china dish, with flat bottom, sufficiently large to admit the shade, and with a deep rim (such as a soup-plate for instance), - a selection of flowers, of even ordinary species, such as Dianthus, Abronia, Verbena, etc, with the other floral treasures, before mentioned; a piece of stone one-half as large as diameter of the shade, some fine but strong green thread, and a tub filled with clear cold water.
Now commence, by arranging the flowers and leaves tastefully into a graceful bouquet-form; using judgment and artistic skill, in order that, by contrast and pleasing combinations, the most satisfactory results may be obtained. Fasten this when completed to the stone, by tying the stems to it (for which reason the stone might better be rather rugged in character). The stone itself must then be entirely hidden by tying moss and colored leaves around it (commencing at the top, and covering the stems of the bouquet). For this, the leaves of Coleus, Achyranthus, Alternanthera, and variegated Geraniums; contrasted with moss and emerald-green fern-fronds, will present a charming appearance. The stone so covered is placed in the centre of the dish, and around it (if space intervenes between it and the side of the dish) arrange pretty stones, moss and bright leaves, with graceful vine sprays.
Now immerse this dish, arranged as it is, in the water contained in the tub; then taking the shade in the hand, place one side of it beneath the water, just over one side of the dish, and slowly sinking it until entirely filled; all the time turning it over the bouquet, until finally it is placed down on the dish; then raise dish and all up slowly from the water, and you will find that the atmospheric pressure will keep the shade firmly fixed, while before you will be one of the most lovely objects you ever beheld.
Do not disturb the water around the rim of the dish, as it aids in making the shade air tight, and for this reason it might better be renewed from day to day as it evaporates. Around the outer rim of the plate or dish place pieces of stone, shells and coral, prettily dressed with Tradescantias, Ivies, or other delicate plants that will grow in water. We have said this was a beautiful object, but "the half hath not been told," until after standing for twenty-four hours, or less time perhaps, each tiny leaf, every feathery spray, the crimson of the gorgeous foliage plants, and soft velvety petals of the blossoms, have become - encrusted with a glittering coat of diamonds - draped and festooned with tiny ropes of shimmering spangles - gemmed and studded with sparkling jewels, and opalescent pearls in the form of hundreds of minute air-bubbles, so iridescent and transparent that every shade and tint of the rainbow is reflected; and the star-like incrustations give the bouquet the appearance of some wonderful piece of fairy-work, arising from a sylvan grotto covered with white frosty gems, far more brilliant than any cut and polished by human hands.
This wonderfully beautiful object is well-suited for adorning the sick-room, where flowers are generally so acceptable, yet frequently inappropriate on account of the odor; but for table decoration it is specially elegant, and capable of surprisingly beautiful effects. Thus we have seen a most imposing supper-table epergne arranged thus; an unusually successful aquatic bouquet, filled a shade eighteen inches in height, placed on a moss-covered stand, one foot in height, around which were four gold-fish globes, of the half gallon size; arranged in the same manner, but with only white flowers; below these was a circle of white cut-glass, finger glasses, alternated with small shades, only six inches in diameter, with bright flowers in the one, and only ferns in the other; as an edging, a circle of plain, cut-glass tumblers, each containing four rose-buds of many varieties surrounded by moss. Each dish was surrounded by shells, stones, and delicate vines, and having been constructed the day previous, it was by the following evening in that perfect state of frosty loveliness that is the greatest charm of these exquisite creations.
The magnifying power of the globes and round shades is also another special wonder in these beautiful arrangements, so that very small blossoms appear quadrupled in size. They will continue perfect for four or five days in summer, and from six to nine in winter. Sea-weed also is charming arranged in this manner with a shell to anchor them.