This principle we found a good plan when carrying lilies to town at Easter time. If you loaded up a hundred plants in the wagon and let them stand up singly, however mild and quiet the day, they would swing into each other and many would be broken; but if half a dozen are tied together and cannot swing into another bunch, they will travel perfectly.
In packing the cut stalks in a box you can put as many bunches as you choose, but never let one bunch touch another, or have any chance to do so.
Bulbous stuff does not travel well when unexpanded. You should not attempt to pack them more than one layer deep, and lightly covered with tissue, but a great many can be put in a box, as they do not hurt in the least to be packed tightly together.
We do not have any more camellia or gardenia packing, and there is a vast army of young florists who perhaps never handled one. The slightest touch of your fingers on the petals of a camellia would leave a mark. You had to handle them from the under side of the petals and in traveling each one had to lie on a bed of batting and be covered with a layer of the same. And the same care must be taken with gardenias or their petals will soon be a dirty yellow.
Eucharis flowers should also be packed in batting or their beautiful flowers are easily bruised.
I don't know that there is any special method for the other flowers we use. Common sense will suggest the right plan. As before stated, the main point is not to crush with over-crowding, and don't leave room at ends, sides or top of box for any shaking or moving.
A few months in the autumn and again in the spring are the easiest and safest times to send flowers on any journey. The temperature is just right, no fear of frost and no need of ice, and during the cool days of October and November is when our chrysanthemums are mostly handled. Fine flowers of these, like the good roses and carnations, should be laid out in rows with tissue paper between their fine heads, and they are so heavy that one layer of them is always enough. In saying one layer it is always understood that when you commence with the first row of flowers, whatever they are, that you have a roll of tissue paper, or a roll of excelsior wrapped around with tissue paper, and that the first row of flowers rests against, which brings them up as high in the box as the last row put in, each succeeding row lying just behind the other, separated or not by a strip of tissue.
In the hot summer months there are not many flowers going long distances. When roses are sent a journey and the thermometer is 85 or 90 degrees, lumps of ice are distributed among the stems or placed in the bottom of the box; but if much is used it should be fastened so that it does not roll around. It is surprising how few flowers we get frozen when the weather is considered, but when going a journey by rail in the winter months always pack for zero weather. You can't tell how long they may be on the expressman's wagon, and there is where we get the trouble, if any.
This question of good packing is of great importance to the grower who ships most of his product to the wholesale house or commission man. The latter may be a very conscientious man, there are a few, but he can't possibly unpack all he receives and that is left to more or less careful help. Then your shipments are nearly always at once exposed for sale. If they make a good appearance they are quickly snapped up. If crushed and bruised they are ignored. The packing is the crowning effort of all your work.
Plants in Pots Prepared for Packing.
Plants Prepared for Packing.
There are other boxes besides pine now used for transporting flowers, but for very severe weather 1/2-inch pine boxes are the best. Paper seems to be the best medium to resist the cold, a number of sheets inside and plenty more outside. Newspaper is all right for the lining of the flower boxes, but should never come in contact with the flowers or the stems, for it will absorb the moisture from whatever it comes in contact with. Tissue paper only should touch the flowers or the stems. Newspaper on the outside of boxes is a splendid thing to resist the cold. We all know, or ought to know, that a newspaper of a few thicknesses on our chest will in a cold time keep off the wintry blasts far better than the heaviest undershirt (you may as well have the undershirt, too). Paper is, although thin, airtight, and a number of layers will resist the coldest weather for a long time. So either in cold or hot weather plenty of it should be used, and it should be always dry. If wet it would be a conductor of cold.
The above remarks have been mostly suitable for shipping flowers some distance. The grower, and there are many such, whose houses are only a few miles in the country, who sees his boxes aboard the train, and Fritz, the express driver at the city end, knows them and shoves them on his wagon and soon delivers them, has not all this care and trouble. We know from experience that when we are quite sure our boxes will be carefully handled and promptly delivered, our carnations and roses and violets, mums or gladioli or asters, can be just laid in the box, giving them lots of room, and they will arrive at our store in an hour or so just as they left the houses. But very different would it be had they to go into strangers' hands and journey 400 miles.
The cutting of flowers is hardly within the scope of this article, but here is an opportunity to say that our leading flowers should not be cut and at once packed. If you do, they are unfit for sale in the store for ten hours. A cool cellar is a great boon to a florist, where he can store his flowers a day or a night before shipping. I may differ with some, but if the cellar is moist as well as cool, none the worse; for roses I am sure it is better to be moist; for carnations, perhaps not.
Roses are cut several times a day when they are fit and should be in water a few hours before shipping. Once a day is enough to cut carnations, which should be always fully expanded. We prefer to cut (or as some say, "pull" them) in the morning and ship to town in the evening, or if it suits better, to cut in the evening and ship in the morning, but never ship the freshly cut flowers. Violets we like to pick towards evening and put their stems in water, but not in a cellar; under a rose or carnation bench is best; if kept on ice or in a very cool cellar they lose all their odor. Lily of the valley should also be cut and bunched and stood in water in the cool for twenty-four hours before using. The stems get charged with water and last longer and are stiffer. Chrysanthemums can be cut a day or several days ahead, just before they are fully developed. Here again my experience tells me that if the cellar is moist as well as cold it will keep the mums in fine order. Cut all bulbous flowers a day before you want to use them and then they won't wilt.
We are often sorely vexed at some miserable breakdown in the very last part of the packing or care of flowers, and this is more than annoying. If your crop had failed at the start you could have perhaps replaced it, but carelessness or "thickheadedness" in the handling of flowers at the last moment is heartbreaking. You have built the houses, watched and labored at the crops; perhaps through the curling smoke of a 10-cent domestic you have viewed your Flora Hill carnations or Marie Louise violets and through a hazy but pleasant daydream figured on the proceeds, pencilling on the nearest plate or rafter so many thousands at so much per hundred, and all this is wrecked by some poor or careless handling at the last moment.
We are often called upon to send designs away by. rail. There is only one way; they must be so fastened to the box, bottom and sides, by wire that they cannot move, and lightly covered with tissue paper and protected from frost. If any considerable amount and the distance is not too far, it is always more satisfactory to send a competent man with the flowers, to unpack and fix any little damage done in transit.
When receiving a box of flowers that you think are frozen, put the box without unpacking in a cool cellar, that the frost may come out very gradually. Many flowers are not much the worse for a degree or two of frost, but if suddenly unpacked in a warm store, when frozen, they would be useless.