This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The Orientals, adepts in voluptuous ease, place vases of flowers around their fountains; and as they lie upon divans, their eyes close, in the refreshing siesta, with these radiant sentinels for the last image to blend with their dreams, and their odour to mingle with the misty spray and cheer their waking. The Greek maidens dropped flowers from their windows on those that passed, to indicate their scorn, praise, or love. One of the poetic touches which redeem the frugal lot of the grisettes, is the habit they indulge of keeping a box of mignonette on their window-sills. You may see them at dawn bending over it to sprinkle the roots or enjoy the perfume. In Tuscany and the Neapolitan territory peasants wear gay flowers in their hats; while the more grave people of the intervening country rarely so adorn themselves. I was struck, at the wedding of an American in France, to see the servants, tearful at parting with their mistress, decorating the interior of her carriage with white flowers. There is something, however, very artificial in the dry immortels, here and there dyed black, for sale at the gates of Pere la Chaise, and bought by the humbler class of mourners to hang on the crosses that mark the graves of kindred. Our own rural cemeteries are teaching a better lesson.
The culture of flowers on such domains is not only in excellent taste, but, when judiciously selected and arranged, a grateful memorial. At Monaco, a town in Italy, a few years since, the body of a young child was covered with flowers, according to the custom of the place; and when sought for the purpose of interment, it was found sitting up and playing with the flowers - an affecting and beautiful evidence of the ignorance of death characteristic of that spotless age.
Fashion seldom interferes with Nature without diminishing her grace and efficiency. It denudes the masculine face of the beard, its distinctive feature; substitutes for the harmonious movement of the chaste and blithesome dance, the angular caprices of the polka; clips and squares the picturesque in landscape into formalised proportions; and condemns half the world to an unattractive and inconvenient costume. Even flowers seem profaned by its touch; there is something morbid in their breath when exhaled profusely in gorgeous saloons and ostentatiously displayed at a heartless banquet; and wisely as the florist may adjust them into bouquets, they are so firmly entwined and intricately massed together as often to resemble mosaic. We turn often from the most costly specimen of this appanage of the ball and opera, with a feeling of relief, to the single white rose-bud on a maiden's breast, or the light jasmin wreath on her brow. The quantity and showy combination of the flowers, especially the heated atmosphere and commonplace gabble of the scene, and often the want of correspondence between the person who so consciously holds the bouquet in her gloved hand and the sweet nature it represents, rob the flowers of their legitimate claim.
Indeed, like all truly beautiful things, they demand the appropriate as a sphere. The east wind, in Boston, on the last national holiday, and the grave faces of the children, to say nothing of the idea that appro-bativeness and acquisitiveness were the organs mainly called in play in their little overworked brains, utterly dispelled all genuine romance and grateful illusion from the floral procession. Something analogous in character, atmosphere, and occasion, is needed to render the ministry of flowers atfecting and complete.
We instinctively identify our acquaintances with flowers. The meek and dependent are as Lilies of the Valley, and, like them, need the broad and verdant shield of affectionate nurture; sycophants are parasites; exuberant and glowing beauty and feeling are more like the Damask Rose than any thing in nature; the irritable annoy us like Nettles; the proud emulate the Crown Imperial; the graceful are lithe as Vine-sprays; the loving wind round our hearts like tendrils; and the cheerful brighten the dim background of life like the scarlet blossoms of the Woodbine. Not a flower in the cornucopia of the floral goddess but hath its similitude and its votary. The boy's first miracle is to press the seed-vessels of the Balsamine till it snaps at his touch; or to shout, as he runs from bed to the garden, at the sight of the rich chalice of the Morning-glory, planted by his own little hand, that has opened while he slept. The Clover's pink globe, and the deep crimson bloom of the Sumac; the exquisite scent of the Locust, and the auspicious blooming of the Lilac; the hood-like purple of the Foxglove, and the dainty tint of the Sweet Pea, stir, whenever they re-appear, those dormant memories of early and unalloyed consciousness, which:
"Neither man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy".
Thus, from the first, perverted mortal! thou wert indebted to flowers. As a wayward urchin, loitering on the way to school, thou whistled shrilly against the edge of a Grass-blade, held a Butter-cup to the chin of thy little comrade, or puffed away the feathery seed-blossom of the Dandelion to ascertain if thy secret wish would be consummated; - as a youth, with quivering pulses and flushed brow, thou wert not ashamed to seek the choicest flowers as interpreters of thy feelings towards one before whom thy words were tremulous, yet fond; - and in thy prime, when positive knowledge and accurate deduction constituted thy felicity, it was, or might have been, to thee a rational pastime to study the botanical relations, laws, and habits of these poetic effusions of the earth, causing them to gratify thee through analysis, as they once did through sentiment. And " in that Indian summer of the soul," that descends on frosty age, how do flowers serve as the magic connecting bond that unites senility and childhood ! The eye of age softens as it beholds the shower of blossoms from the fruit-trees, thinks of its own flowery day, and is thankful for a serene maturity.