The author might have called upon one whose business it is daily, and perhaps all day, to pack flowers, but since he received a letter from Chicago a year or so ago which acknowledged the receipt of a box of orchid flowers which conveyed the pleasant tidings, " The coelogyne flowers arrived in the most perfect order; they were finely packed," and as no one but myself had a hand in it, I feel competent not only to pack flowers but to tell others how to do it.
This is an opportune time to repeat a short story of that great man, Horace Greeley, who embittered and shortened his days by accepting the nomination for president. In his young days he edited an agricultural paper somewhere in our state, and a delegation of western farmers called on him. After a pleasant chat in his office the leader of the party said: " Now, Mr. Greeley, we should like to see your farm." " H - 1; farm! Gentlemen, you don't expect a man to write and farm too," was the forceful rejoinder. So it's not necessary for a man to be continually at the calling to be able to write about it. In fact, if he is too well posted on a specialty his brain is liable to be clouded.
In no part of the business (for this part is purely a business, unlike the cultivating, which is a profession) is there more need of good sense and judgment, which with constant practice makes an expert packer of flowers. In the first place, some men have a knack or gift of handling cut flowers different from others. Some men will take up a few dozen roses from the counter and move them or show them off to a customer as quickly but as gently as a mother handles a two-months-old baby, while I have often been annoyed to see others slap them down as if they were a bundle of salt codfish. Every time the soft petals of a rose get a knock there is a bruise that does not show at once, but does in a few hours.
It is not the distance they travel; the quick ride in the express car can do but little harm; but they get jarred about many times before they are placed on the retailer's counter. The grower may handle them roughly; they get a bump at the local station, and another when thrown into the express car; another jar or two before they get into the express wagon to be delivered at the stores, and if they are going to the commission man their troubles have only begun.
There are, broadly, two rules to observe. Flowers should never be put into a box crowded so that they are actually squeezed, and, what is quite as bad, so loosely that they can shake or move about.
Roses should not be packed more than one layer deep. Their flowers should be sufficiently far from the end of the box that there is no possibility of their petals being jammed against the end. If they have any distance to go there should be a layer of tissue paper between every row of buds, and in warm weather, with varieties like American Beauty and Ulrich Brunner, every rose should be wrapped in tissue. The box should be long enough to take the steins at full length.
Small and tight buds may have another layer of buds on top, but with the choicest flowers one layer deep is enough. A great many buds will go into a shallow box because the flowers lie close behind each other. Some tissue paper over the lot and newspaper to keep them firmly in place, and then the lid. Flowers going by express, particularly where (as often there is) a change of cars on the road, should be packed so that no harm comes to them whether the box is standing on its side, bottom or upon end (which it frequently does).
Carnations don't bruise so much as roses, but their petals get crushed if crowded in and they have to remain hours in cellar or ice-box before they get their perfect shape restored. What a change there is in the box suitable for carnations. Thirty years ago we thought a cigar box was handy to carry a few short-stemmed carnations in. A few years ago we had wooden boxes made, thirty inches long, and now we want a box five feet long, if it is to hold any quantity.
The best flowers of carnations should be laid in flat boxes, one row of flowers behind the others, as you do roses, but they need no tissue paper between them. If you can give the flowers a few hours in a cool cellar before offering them for sale then you can lay them in the box in bunches of twenty-five, but the less weight you have on the flowers the better for their petals.
Violets are easy to pack and are usually sent in bunches of twenty-five and fifty, all tied by the grower ready to retail. They are often huddled into a box a foot deep. That may do for some grades, but the finest should have a box some six or seven inches deep and the bunches placed one behind the other and each bunch wrapped in tissue paper.
Lily of the valley is easily handled, and if each bunch is wrapped you can pack quite closely, but let each bunch be reclining on the other and only one layer deep. It is weight that expressmen charge for and not space, so when supplied with suitable boxes it is useless to crowd and spoil flowers for the sake of another box.
Orchids are not packed every day, except by a few specialists, but laid on a bed of cotton-batting, with the same material put between the flowers and sufficient covering to keep them from shaking, they travel all right. Cypripediums will, of course, travel with less care than the softer flowers of cattleya, odontoglossum and coelogyne. but with plenty of batting they travel well and two days' journey to them is the same as two hours.
The Lilium Harrisii and longiflorum are the most troublesome flowers to pack and have arrive without a grumble. If you let them rest on tissue paper their own weight will break their petals, and even if every flower was stuffed full of batting and every flower surrounded with it, there would be a great many damaged flowers. We have found the best plan is to get a box of sufficient depth and across it, say a foot from the bottom and the same from the end, fasten a strip of wood (an inch square will do). Then take half a dozen spikes of lilies and bunch them up with their flowers fitting in among each other and fasten that bunch on to the strip of wood a few inches behind the flowers. See that the flowers do not touch bottom, sides or any part of the box, or another bunch of flowers. The lily flowers will swing, but move all together, and will not bruise each other.