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.
FERNs used for button-hole, or indeed for any kind of bouquets, should be cut off plants that have been grown in a cool house, or that have at' all events been well-hardened off, or otherwise, though they may look fresh and nice when cut, they shrivel up in a few hours, when of course their beauty is gone. In the case of Maiden-hair it is a good plan to cut off the very young points, as, with the exception of these, the other parts of the frond keep well. Another point that should be' remembered is always to keep the stems of the button-holes as thin as possible, in order that they may easily pass through the coat, and nicely fit the little glass water-tubes which are now so much worn, and which keep both Ferns and flowers fresh so much longer than they otherwise would be. After the bouquets are made, many place their stems in water, to keep them fresh; this I do not think a good plan, as, though the stems may be in the water, the Ferns are exposed to the air, and, thus circumstanced, they will not keep nearly so long fresh as if they were shut up in some air-tight box or drawer.
Dealers in bouquets have numbers of drawers lined with zinc in which they keep their flowers, mounted or otherwise, but though those who have shops must have such appliances as these, it is not to be expected that amateurs will be furnished with them. If I want to keep a button-hole flower from one day to another I place.it in a little box made either of wood or cardboard, over the bottom of which is laid some wet moss of the kind one gets in bundles at the flower shops or finds in the woods or on banks. I place the back of the bouquet next the moss and cover the stem over with more wet moss. I then sprinkle the flowers and Ferns well with water and shut down the lid, which is as air-tight as possible, and, treated thus, flowers and Ferns will keep fresh for days. If I want to send a bouquet by post, I put moss enough in the box to raise the bouquet when laid in it nearly level with the lid when shut down, and across the face of the flowers I lay a piece of cotton wool, which keeps them from rubbing against the lid.