This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
From time immemorial, flowers have been used by all classes and ail nations as commemorative of the happiest as well as the saddest hours of life, and their arrangement in varied forms, or appliance toward the decoration of the person, of halls, tables, the altar, and the tomb, have called forth much of mind, skill, thought, and study into creation of what may be termed artistic taste. By this we mean that perfect degree of art in which no art is visible; when everything looks so simple and so natural that it could hardly be imagined other than what it is. It is, however, a rare accomplishment, the art of arranging flowers gracefully and well, though, fortunately, flowers are intrinsically so beautiful that they can hardly be spoilt; and it often happens, that by mere accident, caused from haste or want of time for the arranger to dispose of them according to rule, that the. flowers look really lovelier than would have been had the systematic line and rule, which we designate as the art mechanical - not the art artistical - been adopted.
Without any pretensions to ability to lay down laws and rules which should guide in the arrangement of flowers, we may say that one of the first and main points is to make a judicious choice of colors and their combination, as well as the size and number of the flowers, with reference to the place they are designed to fill. In the decoration of the person, coiffures, or knots of flowers arranged upon the skirts of the dress, should have the flowers in accordance with the general color and style of the dress and ribbons with which they are to be worn.
* Oar engravings are copied from the circular of J. C. Schmidt, Erfurt, Prussia.
Strong contrasts should be avoided, and yet any attempt to match the colors is not desirable, because unattainable, it being almost impossible to match the tints of flowers with colors of human dye. Much may be done, however, by avoiding any strong or startling effects of color, and seeking for soft and harmonious blending, bringing in those shades which soften and tone down color when contrasts can not be avoided. Cerise and scarlet flowers, for instance, look charmingly with white, but only when they have green to tone down the color. With black hair and costume light, flowers are very ineffective, while deep and rich colors light up and render the whole rich and beautiful. As the most of this article will address itself chiefly to ladies, we. may be excused for entering upon illustrations which will be familiar to them. We have said that we were not prepared to lay down fully any rules, and yet the mixing of too many colors is a rule always to be observed, as it never answers well. Let us take, for instance, shades of wool, not for working a flower, but to form a pattern; have we ever found crimson, brick red, scarlet, and pink to mingle well together?
The same rules that apply to dress and work in general will thus have also reference to natural flowers and to their ar rangeinent, while practice in this will perhaps, more than anything, render the arranger an adept in the good disposition of shades and colors generally. The choice of flowers, although not always at control, yet if their adaptation be well understood, the effect of many a bouquet may be increased by the reservation of one single flower. For instance, fuchsias are graceful in a vase, where their natural graceful, drooping habit can be provided for; but in a hand bouquet their flowers drop so easily, and are so readily crushed, that long before the evening has passed their beauty is gone. Again, in the green for intermingling, old foliage will last much longer than that which is new or young; and again, the use of rose-buds and geraniums present a much more pleasing effect than full blown roses and camellias, the last being only admissible when a distant view is to be had or some pattern or name arrangement created.
In the making up of bouquets, either for the hand or vase, it sometimes happens that flowers are used without stems; these are attached to small bits of wire, or tied by threads to small splints of broom corn or pasteboard strips, - the former the most readily obtainable and most in use; by this means a flower that is broken from its parent stem is used and placed in the position desired, and its base is sometimes supplied with soft cotton, or wool of a similar color, which, being wet, serves to keep the flower fresh a longer time than would otherwise be. The line - and - rule form of making the round bouquets, bo much of late years in vogue, is so stiff and unnatural, so void of graceful outline, and generally so deficient in knowledge of harmony in color, that we rarely look upon one without its carrying us at once into association with the trade rather than beautiful in nature, so stiff and regular are the lines and circles drawn one around and below the other in enlarged but regular rotation. It needs but a glance at one of these machine-formed bouquets, in comparison with one like the engraving here, to satisfy any one of the fact, that in the making up of flowers to produce pleasing results, something more than mechanical knowledge is requisite.
We have had with us a number of gardeners, but never but one who could arrange flowers in a bouquet.
In our earlier days it was the fashion to use flat bouquets more than round ones and we are glad to see the style again coming round, because it is much more convenient to carry, on account of the facility of putting it down without injury to the flowers. In former days we made the flat bouquets with backs of leaves, or sprigs of evergreen strung on fine wire and secured to a strong main stem or handle, around and to which our flower stems were attached; but now lace fringes of paper have come in their place, giving a light, starry margin, that shows well at the same time that it requires less skill in arranging, because of this lace back covering readily what formerly occupied as much time to prepare as did the arrangement of the flowers. The accompanying figure, 80, shows one of these lace-backed, flat bouquets; while figure 81 exhibits a bouquet constructed more by form and pattern rule and intended for use as a fan. For ready construction of flat bouquets frames of light wire are made, by haying a stem, or rather two or four separate stems, with a space the size of a pen-holder between them, fashioning the outside circle or edge to the size and form desired by connecting from time to time with the main branches or stems, which again are brought together at the base and connected with a handle.
Annealed copper wire, greened, is usually used, and by it and a little green thread a bouquet may be put together very quickly. In making up, begin at the center for the hand bouquet, and on the outside for the vase or basket, and, as we have said when referring to a single flower, the use of soft cotton or Wool wetted thoroughly and laid in next the base of a leaf or flower will assist in keeping it fresh a long time. We may renew this subject at a future time should our readers desire it, but for the present believe we have said enough, at least for hints to those who are disposed to practice their taste and cultivate a knowledge which only requires practice to perfect.