The author of the following pages would never have assumed to instruct his brother florists, however limited their experience might be, had not he received many flattering comments on his cultural notes which appeared in the American Florist and later in the Florists' Review. These notes were well received, even by men who were able to teach the author, and brought to my busy desk hundreds of inquiries on a wide range of subjects, which I found were beginning to be a great tax on my time.
Being made with that disposition which gratifies itself when any favor can be bestowed, we determined in an unguarded moment to compile our knowledge of commercial plants into a volume, and if those who favor us with a perusal of its pages glean only one hint which may help them in their business they will have received value for their money and we shall feel highly gratified aside from any pecuniary reward. We are one of those who esteem the respect and approbation of our fellow men, and particularly those in our own calling, far above riches, but if a substantial reward is sent us for our labors we shall again be grateful.
A friend of venerable age, with some experience as a writer, a student of horticultural lore, told me last winter that a business man should not attempt to be a literary man. We scarcely even then realized the truth of his words as we have the past three months. We scarcely knew at the start what a task we had undertaken. The writing has been done at odd hours snatched from business cares, and no little midnight oil, or rather gas, has helped the book along.
It was difficult to determine the limit of the book, but as will be apparent few plants are noticed but those of commercial value, and those only in a Strictly commercial way. Had we known of any work giving plain cultural directions for our leading plants this book would not have been begun. My own business embraces nearly every branch, from selling a bunch of violets over the counter to planting a tree or seeding a lawn or building a greenhouse, and therefore we have with confidence touched on several features of the business besides the growing.
This book was never intended for men 'who have made specialties of a few plants with great success. Being specialists they have reduced their business to a science and make no mistakes, but they are few compared to the great army of florists who grow and retail and have to handle a great variety of plants. Many of these are not graduates of horticultural establishments but have left some other calling to engage in floriculture. Another class is the young man who has been brought up in places where the rose or carnation, or perhaps palms, was the specialty and where the opportunity of observing the care or culture of other plants was limited. To such a one we believe this book will be of service.
Looking back over thirty years' experience in this country we are amazed and gratified at the enormous strides the business of floriculture has made, and why should the limit be yet reached? We believe 'with confidence that the use of flowers and plants is yet to grow tenfold. They are the handmaid of refinement, good taste and real gentility, all of which is blessing the mass of the people more and more. We believe that our florist shopkeepers and their clerks could imbibe a little more knowledge of the plants they handle without any detriment to their health or prosperity.
We wish to acknowledge to Mr. W. H. Taplin the several valuable articles on choice palms, ferns and cycads which bear his initials. It must be acknowledged that there is no better authority than Mr. Taplin on those special plants. For the very practical chapter on commercial Orchids we are indebted to Mr. Wm. Hewson, who handles a cattleya with the freedom, quickness and success that some men do a geranium. To my good friend John F. Cowell. Director of our Botanic Gardens, I am indebted for access to and hints on his collection of Nepenthes, Bromeliads. etc. The remainder of the pages are my own experience and observation.
If you think there is sometimes a little extraneous matter that is not connected with the subject, and may be called frivolous, don't blame the author; he could not help it however much he tried to suppress it; occasionally there had to be a slight relief from the dry monotony of the subject.
And last the author owes much to Mr. G. L. Grant, the publisher, who has so ably put the matter in form and finely illustrated many of the subjects.
With a fervent wish that with all their imperfections these pages will be appreciated by many, I remain, with some confidence and much hope.
Yours very sincerely,
William Scott. Buffalo, 1899. ______________________