This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
To American florists we can recommend this branch of business as something well worthy of their attention. It is plain that the grower gets a quick return with little labor; and with a great saving in the pot bills, as the pots are returned when the plants are set in the trays. To make such a business succeed cheapness is essential. If the plants could be sold at very low figures success would be certain. ' My own experience in the plant trade convinces me that it can be and in time will be done.
In families where a gardener is kept, and a greenhouse maintained as a part of the household belongings, more plants are used than one house can supply, and the com-meroial florist is called in. Besides, the plants so used are generally much injured in one or two evenings. The family stock would soon be used up. The gas, heat, dust, and,- worse than all, the dismal London smoke that penetrates every room, combine to destroy both foliage and bloom. So it has come to pass that gigantic establishments, numbering their planthouses by the score, have sprung up to decorate these endless parties, dinners and routs. This decorating rooms with plants has been practiced in a small way in the United States. It should be more general. A taste for the refined and beautiful will be cultivated and a new branch of business started.
Cut Flowers are quite general in London, though we doubt if so many people in proportion to the population enjoy them as with us. As we said of the bouquets made here, so we must speak of this matter. Flowers are plenty, but the taste to put them together is wanting.
In the arrangements for holding flowers, on the other hand, the English are ahead of us. A whole column and a dozen cuts would fail to give you an adequate idea of the richness and variety of glass and other ware used to hold flowers. I can only mention a few I chanced to see in the shop windows and at the Royal Albert Hall. Among the prettiest things were cut-glass troughs about two inches deep and wide, and of various lengths. Some were straight and some curved. When filled with cut flowers and arranged in various patterns, monograms, letters, etc., upon the table, the effect is fine. Plate glass mirrors under them add greatly to the effect.
Ferns And Folinge Plants are used here for green. Whole leaves of Croton, Dracaena, Begonia and Maranta, and long streamers of Cissus discolor are freely cut and placed with the flowers. The effect is something past description.
I have not seen a spray of that cheap and ugly Lycopodia, so much used in New York, nor, on the other hand, a yard of our lovely Smilax. Much as the English gardeners lack taste, in variety and profusion of cut flowers they distance us. Besides these foliage plants they use many flowers not known in our markets.
Among other glassware I noticed what is here called an "iceberg" - an irregular heap of rough glass looking like ice. It is made in several parts, and the sides are pierced with small holes. Water is put inside, and Crotons, Adiantums, and other greens inserted in the holes till the glass is half hid with the falling sprays or glistening leaves. Imagine such a thing as that on a brightly lighted table. Time forbids an extended account of this table ware. In a city of so much wealth and artistic skill, we expect everything to be of high-class design and manufacture. Wedge-wood and Flaxman have done a great deal for English art and pottery, and we can only regret that the florists have had no Flaxman to teach them truth and beauty in their art.
It is often the custom in America to decorate the chandeliers with flowers. We tie the sprays to the lamps only to see them fade in the heat. Here they do much better. Imagine a plain four-armed chandelier with an upright pipe for support, and beneath it and securely fastened on, a handsome painted china dish. Inside is a tall vase to match, with the gas pipe passing through it. The four lamps stand on the edge of the dish and the vase hides the pipe. This is for holding water, in which the flowers are placed. Seen from below when filled and lighted, it must make a fine show. Even without the flowers the lamps so made are far superior to the usual pattern. Such a lamp as this could be easily made by our gas-fixture men. At once I hear the housekeeper reply: " Very fine, no doubt, but how am I to clean it out?" With a dipper, sponge, and some ingenuity.
An elaborate piece of glass and Wedgewood ware was also exhibited at the Royal Albert Hall. It was made in parts and designed to stand upon a dining table. The outside rim was of black and gold china, forming a curb for the glass lake inside. Within this was another rim of Wedgewood ware, troughs ornamented with a Greek pattern in foliage, and figures of men and animals. Inside of this more of glass mirror. In the center rose a fine stand for candles, with places for bouquets among them. Fruit dishes, flower stands and light holders were arranged at intervals about the edge. The whole was filled with fresh flowers, and was surrounded by a crowd of admirers. Such is English table decoration. But what is the good of so much art ? The flowers were cheap and poor, and placed in this splendid affair by the hand of a bungler and novice. - From the N. Y. Evening Post.