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.
"The Hopean apparatus is thus described in the Gardener's Chronicle: - 'A flat dish of porcelain had water poured into it; in the water a vase of flowers was set; over the whole a bell-glass was placed, with its rim in the water. This was a Ward's case in principle, although different in its construction. The air that surrounded the flowers, being confined beneath the bell-glass, was constantly moist with the water that rose into it in the form of vapor. As fast as the water is condensed, it runs down the sides of the bell-glass back into the dish; and if means are taken to inclose the water on the outside of the bell-glass,' (which can easily be done by having the bell-glass as large as the porcelain dish,) 'so as to prevent its evaporating into the air of the sitting-room, the atmosphere around the flowers would remain continually damp. What is the explanation of this! Do the flowers feed on the viewless vapor that surrounds them J Perhaps they do; but the great cause of their preserving their freshness is to be sought in another fact. When flowers are brought into a sitting-room, they fade because of the dryness of the air. The air of a sitting-room is usually something drier than that of the garden, and always much more so than that of a good greenhouse or stove.
Flowers, when gathered, are cut off from the supply of moisture collected for them by their roots, and their mutilated stems are far from having so great a power of sucking up fluids as the roots have. If, then, with diminished powers of feeding, they are exposed to augmented perspiration, as is the case in a dry sitting-room, it is evident that the balance of gain, on the one hand, by the roots, and of the loss, on the other hand, by their whole surface, can not be maintained. The result can only be their destruction. Now, to place them in a damp atmosphere is to restore this balance; because, if their power of sucking by these wounded ends is diminished, so is their power of perspiring, for a damp atmosphere will rob them of no water: hence they maintain their freshness.
"' The only difference between plants in a Ward's case and flowers in the little apparatus just described, consists in this, that the former is intended for plants to grow in for a considerable space of time, while the latter is merely for their preservation for a few days, and that the air which surrounds the flowers is always charged with the same quantity of vapor at all times in the dish and bell-glass, while in a Ward's case the quantity of vapor will vary with circumstances, and at the will of him who has the management of it'
"This very excellent quotation comprises all that can be usefully said on the subject of preserving cut flowers in rooms, and ought to be carefully studied by every lady who takes pleasure in having flowers in her room. We have long seen expensive glass shades placed over artificial flowers, and over delicate specimens of natural history, with a view to keep the dust from them, while no such precaution was taken to preserve natural flowers from the same evil, much less to prolong their existence in a fresh and perfect state.
" It would be of little utility for us to attempt giving specimens of such apparatus; the description given shows the principle completely. We may, however, remark that porcelain dishes might be made with a shallow groove within their rim, into which the glass shade might be made to fit, both for the exclusion of air and also to prevent the evaporation from the water from mixing with the air in the room; - not, however, that the small quantity of aqueous matter discharged by evaporation from such dishes would at all affect the air of a large sitting-room; perhaps it would rather have a beneficial effect, especially in winter, when large fires are maintained, which, it is well known, rob the air of a room of its moisture, and render it unwholesome for the inmates.
"Closely connected with Wardian Gases is the subject of plant tables for rooms, certainly a department of drawing-room furniture hitherto much neglected. The following specimens may afford ideas for further improvement, should they not be sufficiently complete in themselves. "Fig. 12 is a flower-basket of wirework painted green; or, still better, the basket-work part may be made of brass wire, and left of its natural color. It is mounted upon a mahogany or oak clawed pedestal set on castors. A shallow one tray is placed within, to prevent the water that may pass through the pots from falling on the carpet This tray, like all others used for the same purpose, as well as in Wardian cases, should have a small waste-pipe attached to the lower part of its bottom, and regulated by a brass cock, so placed, and of such a size, as not to be seen from any part of the room. This is intended for withdrawing the water that may accumulate in them, and so preventing its overflowing, as it may not be convenient at all times to remove the whole of the plants out of the table.
The plants are to be packed in moss, kept perfectly green and fresh on the surface.
"Figs. 13 and 14 are more adapted for cut flowers than for plants in pots. They are made water-tight within, with the usual provision for drawing it off every day, that fresh water may be supplied. The top is covered with a portable fine brass-wire grating, the meshes being about half an inch square, to support the flowers, and to keep them in an upright position. Fig. 15 is an example entirely composed of mahogany, rosewood, satin-wood, or oak, according to fancy. The interior of the box is lined with thin lead, zinc, or copper, and provided with a waste-pipe. The basket-work round the top, in this case, should be brass, rolling rather outwards at top, and only from four to six inches inches in depth, as the framework of the table is presumed to be deep enough to hide the pots: the whole of the basketwork should appear above the surface of the moss. This table may be used for cut flowers of dahlias, pinks, or carnations, half of the box being filled with moss, and filled up with fine white sand, into which the flowers are to be stuck nearly to their calyx. If tastefully arranged with regard to the harmony of colors, such a table will have a pretty effect, and the flowers will last for several days, if not exposed too much to the action of the air.
All stands for cut flowers should be provided with glass shades, to be put on at night when the company retires, and removed just before breakfast in the morning, to secure them from dust, which must necessarily arise in doing up the rooms in the mornings, and also to protect them from air. The moss and sand being saturated with water when put in, the flowers will remain much longer than if placed in water alone., "Fig. 16 exhibits a very elegant flower-stand upon a principle different from those already noticed. It was the invention of Mr. Saul, of Lancaster - a name well known, from his many and excellent contributions to the horticultural periodicals, extending now over many years. It was published in the second volume of the Magazine of Botany, and described as follows: 'The very high state of perfection to which casting in iron has arrived is taken advantage of for ornamental purposes. The present flower-stand is worthy of notice, and will not be very expensive. There are four movable baskets, a a a a, which move round on the rod 6, and may be placed any height and any figure that may please the possessor, to suit the situation in which it is to be placed. The rod b moves up and down in the pillar c, till the branch rests at the top of the pillar at d.
The branch e is movable, and may be taken off the rod, so that the brackets may be slipped off at the top, leaving only one or two, according to the number of plants intended to be placed there-on. The stand is bronzed, which gives it an elegant appearance, either fit for a drawing-room or any other place. The bottom f is made of different kinds of ornaments, to suit the aste of the purchaser. The pots g g are merely placed to show that they rest on the saves fixed at the ends of the brackets.'
"Fig. 17 is another specimen of a flower-basket upon a stand, with basketwork of rass enclosing a shallow vessel for the reception of water. The form is elliptical, nd, as an economical arrangement, the top may be removed, and replaced with the of of a circular or elliptical table.
"The amateur propagating-box is exemplified by the annexed diagram, fig. 18. They are much used in Denmark by those who have no regular greenhouse, pit, or frame, and are both ornamental and useful, and seem to attract the same attention the Wardian cases do in the drawing-room in this country. The case here represented is three feet long, fifteen inches wide, one foot high in front, and eighteen inches high at the back. The sides are formed of boards, and painted. The top is covered with glass, and the whole elevated to a convenient height upon a stand. The bottom is covered with drainage, over which is a stratum of moss, one of sand, and a third of mold. The cuttings are made and planted in the usual manner, for it is for the propaga-ion of cuttings that these cases are intended. The whole is well watered and the glass shut down, and afterwards managed exactly as Wardian cases are with us. With us a species of cultivation of the already formed plant affords the gratification, ou the Danish ladies take the subject up a step earlier, and produce the perfect plant fom the cutting or slip - each in their way equally gratified with their success, and of course equally annoyed should failure ensue.
The form of this kind of propagating k>x may be varied, and elegant and ornamental forms may be indulged in".