This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The cut flower trade for some years has been growing with wonderful rapidity, till now in New York city alone the business has reached several million dollars annually. Growers of cut flowers realizing that the day has gone by for the raising of general mixture or "trash," as it is termed, now confine themselves principally to forcing two or three articles and growing them well. Thus we find on Union Hill, near Jersey City, one man who confines himself to growing tea roses, Jacqueminot roses and violets another to forcing Lily of the Valley, hyacinths and lilies; while still another puts all his energies in the cheaper but just as important carnation, bouvardia and smilax.
Fashion wields her iron sceptre and dictates to her votaries the kinds and colors of flowers to be used, as she does in everything else. Last winter she decreed yellow, and Neil roses and sunflowers and yellow pansies were in demand.
The forcing of roses is perhaps the greatest branch of this great industry, and the quantity consumed is enormous. It is impossible to even estimate the quantity. It is known that in Philadelphia, at one of the Assembly balls, that not less than twenty thousand tea roses were used, beside Jacqueminot and other kinds. At one affair, in New York, over five thousand tea roses were recently used in the decorations. The five or six principal commission dealers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia probably pass twelve or fifteen thousand tea roses through their hands daily. When it is considered that the roses that these gentlemen sell are the sui--plus required, it may give some faint idea of the quantity consumed in the three cities. It is asserted that one firm of growers in New York cleared over twelve thousand dollars in one season in Jacqueminot roses alone.
Of course this was an exceptional case, and the growers sometimes lose heavily. For instance, one firm down East undertook to grow Marechal on a grand scale, and the result was a break in the market, and a twenty five dollar bud sold for three dollars a hundred, productive figure beiug about five dollars at that time.
In carnation blooms the quantity consumed is still more enormous. One commission dealer last winter passed through his hands an average of fifty thousand a month between November and April, and then complained that he had not enough to supply the demand. He sold nearly thirty thousand to one firm in one month, and he was informed that that was two thousand a day less than his customer used, or ninety thousand that month consumed by one firm. There are probably from ten to thirty thousand carnation blooms used in Philadelphia daily, and sometimes more.
A few years ago Lycopodium was used almost entirely for filling bouquets. Now it is almost altogether discarded, and smilax has taken its place. So enormous is the consumption of this plant, that there are growers of it entirely. One man in Philadelphia, who raises it in connection with one or two other flowers, has cut, to date nearly ten thousand strings, and this is a mere drop in the bucket to the amount grown.
For the Grant procession in one of our Western cities, over five hundred strings were used to decorate the hose carriages of the fire department.
Lily of the Valley plays an important part in the trade, one gentleman in Newport having several houses of it, and is so skilful in blooming-it, that he is enabled to have it the whole twelve months of the year. One firm in Philadelphia also possess the secret Of necessity the quantity consumed of this flower is much less than that of some of the other leading things. Still thousands of dollars annually pass into the hands of the growers of this gem among flowers.
Of the cities in the Union, New York and Boston each consume the greatest amount, Philadelphia next, among the Eastern cities, and Chicago and Cincinnati of the Western ones. The two latter, and in fact most of the cities and towns, north, south and west of New York and Boston, draw their heaviest supplies from the two last mentioned cities and from Philadelphia. The trade is still in its infancy, and before many years it is safe to say that the cut flower business will be one of the most important of the trades that supply the luxuries of life.