Within twenty years there has been a great change in our floral arrangements and designs. This has been partly brougnt about by the innovations of the more enlightened florists and partly by the more refined taste of our customers who have rebelled against the same old conventional arrangements. Time was when the center-piece of the table was an elaborate lofty affair, very complicated in design and three or four feet high, and if the host at the head of the table wished to see those at the other end he or she had to lean over at a tilting angle. Reason has abolished all this and whatever flowers are used now are in low baskets or trays or vases with flowers on their natural stems. This wiping out of these very artificial arrangements may be a loss to some classes of florists, but who can regret the more natural and beautiful use of flowers which prevails today.
Baskets or trays are still used for holding the roses, carnations, violets or orchids, but we expect to see these go soon and all flowers used in vases of some kind for all decorations. They last better, they look better, it is better taste and more comfort to the guest to look upon a vase of roses whose petals and leaves are plump and fresh than upon those whose heads begin to droop, for you will be of a strange build yourself if you do not feel a wilting come over your spirits in a more or less degree when you look upon a wilted arrangement of flowers. The wilted dude rolled in the gutter over night is not a more pitiable sight than a basket of roses that have collapsed. And the less our customers see of these wilted flowers the better.
At smaller dinner parties maidenhair fern or Farleyense or asparagus sprays are strewn on the table and here and there some flowers of the choicest kinds, rose buds, orchids or lily of the valley. This is a beautiful arrangement and most pleasing to the guest if not overdone. Very seldom now that any design of flowers, whether for the table or a gift, is made of more than one or two varieties of flowers, and more often, with the exception of orchids, it is only one variety. It is a basket of pink and white roses, or all Meteor or Liberty roses, or American Beauties, all lily of the valley, or valley and violets. Perhaps all violets and perhaps violets and Roman hyacinths. It is almost impossible to make an ugly combination of carnations, they blend so finely, yet they are most often chosen in one color or at most one or two shades. Tulips and narcissi are scarcely ever used except in one color. Orchids are of such a fantastic shape and pleasing colors that a variety is prettier than a mass of one sort. A basket of all Cattleya Trianae would be very rich, almost too heavy, and the addition of cypripediums and oncidiums would be an improvement and entirely in keeping with the nature of the flowers. The orchids are from the tropics where the vegetable kingdom is all jumbled up and thousands of species to the acre, while the natives of a cooler clime, our roses and carnations and violets, grow in colonies as do the wild flowers of the northern temperate zone.
It is difficult to foresee any great improvement in the arrangement of our flowers for decorations over the prevailing taste and customs of the present day.
There need not be less used because the arrangement is simple. Flowers on their own stems is the order of the day and the longer the flowers last in their beauty the more there will be wanted, for in many homes now and in the future, in every home, humble as well as palatial, some flower will be considered not a luxury, but an essential and comfort.
A great many florists in this country, especially shop or storekeepers, depend very largely on the funeral orders for their living. If the prevailing fashion of sending flowers, particularly designs, to the family of the bereaved were suddenly to become unfashionable with all classes of society there are several thousand flower stores Chatenay Roses throughout the land that would be to rent for some other class of business. It is not likely to go so suddenly out of fashion, but it will change; and the change has already come with many people. A large number of citizens recently banded themselves together in Cleveland and in my city and perhaps others, to protect themselves against " The enormous and extravagant expense of funerals, the outlay and display made at the funeral of the dead often leaving the survivors in hopeless debt."
The Odd Fellows' Three Links in Flowers.
Presentation Basket of Mme. Chatenay Roses
Carriages and flowers of course come in for a good part of these worthy people 's condemnation. There is no doubt that the expense of many funerals is out of all proportion to the means of the family; it is ridiculous and almost criminal to see such ostentation, and we often suffer from it. An instance occurred the other day. Forty dollars' worth of flowers were ordered and delivered, and a month or so afterwards the collector was told by the poor widow that, " The children had gone too far in ordering," and added that her husband had led a double life, having a wife in St. Louis as well as here in Buffalo, and instead of having $10,000 life insurance, as she supposed, he had none, and she was penniless. And there are lots of such cases.
In those times of distress and excitement people are often careless about expenses. You can't very well ask for payment before the articles are delivered and it's hard-hearted to send an order C. O. D. or to call around the next day with your bill. Looking at it in a business way, without sympathy, when you know the family is quite poor, persuade them that very little is necessary. When a number of friends are uniting together to send a deceased friend a design, get all you possibly can. They won't miss it and it's a worthy way to distribute wealth, and distributed it is, as is the outlay for all luxuries as well as necessities.
Table Center-piece of Violets and Roses.
The Pillow, One of the Older Designs Capable of Many Variations.
No association or legislation or advice or admonition from pastor or bishop can stop or abolish the use of flowers at funerals; for there is nothing else you can do. In no other way can you show your sympathy. With some people the use of flowers at the grave is as old as history and will continue. But fashion and a more refined taste will modify and change the manner of their use.
We read constantly of the obsequies of some illustrious personage in Europe and the flowers used are invariably in the shape of a wreath. You would think they knew of nothing else but a wreath, for it is a wreath from the emperor of Germany, or Edward VII, or the " Honorable Guild of Candlestick Makers of the Ancient City of London." They never rise above or below a wreath, and when you read of carloads of wreaths, or that it took 100 able-bodied men to carry the wreaths, as it did at the funeral of the late president of France, you feel nauseated, as if you had sat down to a dinner of fourteen courses, but every course was the same old thing. I may be mistaken, but I don't think they stick to this very ancient but still most beautiful design because they haven't heard of any other; it is solely because it is simple and chaste, and they don't want any other. Yet it seems that a bunch or loose arrangement of roses or carnations or orchids would be a relief and change from the everlasting wreath.
Our best people (by that I don't mean necessarily the most virtuous, but the people of wealth and refinement and the taste and education which wealth affords) have almost entirely set their faces against the elaborate designs that were used by all classes twenty years ago. Gates ajar and broken columns and scrolls, and even crosses and anchors are never seen or ordered by that class who lead in fashion, and depend upon it, the other strata of society will copy and emulate the well-to-do as they do in every particular where their means can possibly reach.
Floral arrangements for the more refined are almost entirely now limited to loose arrangements. Cycas leaves, two or three dozen roses, lily of the valley, a bunch of Roman hyacinths. A wreath is often used, but it is usually some distinct design. Ivy leaves with lily of the valley or all valley, orchids, or all roses, or valley and violets, or all violets. And in many cases the above flowers are bought and sent to the house of mourning simply with a card and loosely in a box.
It would be absurd for the florist to discourage the use of large designs where they are wanted, and in case of societies who wish to send a design to a late brother or sister there is nothing but a large design to send, and the catering to this class of" business is quite lucrative with many. Where the design is a pillow, broken column, anchor or scroll, there is room for a display of skill and art, but where the design represents the calling of the departed there is no art, it is merely mechanical, bad taste and bound to sink into disuse. It is impossible to make beautiful such a thing as a fireman's hat, a locomotive, a safe, a gun, a desk; or in case of a brewer, a quarter-barrel keg. There is no skill in making those designs; the wire worker is the only man who exercises any skill; putting the flowers into the monstrosities is no more than putting on an overcoat; the tailor is the man who had the skill; if you depart from the lines laid down by the frame you spoil the imitation.
There is a wonderful change in the material used since the days of balsams and hollyhocks, when a design resembled a clipped sheep, with a Safrano bud here and there raised above the surface a fraction over the rest; and tuberoses were a very important flower. Funeral designs are now made with great taste. Fine flowers are used and color is not forbidden. No longer do we see the solemn whiteness in bunches or designs, or any arrangements. Why should we I think the fashion of white flowers is as absurd as the deep mourning assumed by many. A long black veil only attracts notice and attention, and surely the broken-hearted and sincere mourner does not want to attract attention.
The Bride's Shower Bouquet.
The crowding of flowers in a design is no longer permissible. Every flower should if possible show its individuality. The whole should blend and every flower and leaf should be fresh and spotlessly clean. And let me add in conclusion that when you take an order for a design and promise it at a certain hour see that it is delivered on time. Punctuality gets a large credit mark in the public favor.