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.
But before commencing, allow me to make a few preliminary observations in regard to the importance of adhering strictly to the laws and dictates of a cultivated and refined taste in order to ensure success. And first I would remark that there is a prejudice existing in the minds of many in regard to the arrangement of flowers in elaborate designs and ornaments - a prejudice which makes no distinction between the manifest absurdity of attempting to imitate in flowers objects which are entirely destitute of either beauty or adaptability, such, for instance, as the monstrosities in the shape of monuments, fountains, tables, etc., which yearly disgrace some of the horticultural exhibitions in our large cities, and the forming of ornaments or designs natural and graceful in conception, and elaborate and artistic in execution. How often do we hear from such persons the remark that a bouquet formed of flowers culled at random, and put together in the most careless manner, is far more pleasing than one of a more elaborate character, and yet should one arranged with good taste, and a due regard to the harmony of colors, be exhibited, what exclamations of delight and admiration would reward the artist for his labor.
To a person whose highest conception of a bouquet or floral ornament does not exceed a bunch of Hollyhocks and Asparagus, with, perhaps, the addition of a Paeony or two, the directions here given will appear useless and trifling; but when such an one witnesses the result he will perhaps change his opinion.
With these few remarks I pass to the more practical part of my subject; and first in order, are the requisite tools and materials.
The tools required in making a bouquet are a flower-gatherer - which is a pair of scissors that holds the flower tight after it is severed, and which can be obtained at any of our horticultural warehouses - a sharp penknife, and a good strong pair of ordinary scissors. The materials for forming the frame-work of a bouquet, are a good, strong, straight stick, from twelve to eighteen inches long, according to the desired size or height of the bouquet, observing to have it long enough to leave room to hold it in the hand at the lower extremity until the bouquet is completed, when the stick is to be cat off even with the lower end of the bouquet; a handful of straight switches from trees or shrubs, of sufficient strength and stiffness to sustain the weight of a good sized flower when attached to their upper extremities, and about eight inches long; also a small quantity of the whisk from an old corn broom about six or eight inches long, a single straw of which is used for supporting the heads of small flowers, such as Violets, etc.
In addition to the above, procure two coils of unannealed, or very pliable or flexible, copper or iron wire, one coil of which should be about the thickness of a pretty good sized pin, and the other the finest almost that can be procured, not larger than fine spool-cotton or horse-hair. The first mentioned is used for attaching Camellias and other large flowers to the switches, or artificial stems, and the latter for the smaller flowers, and is much preferable to twine or thread, as it does not require tying, but is merely passed four times around the flower and its support and is then cut off with the scissors. would recommend that copper wire should be used, particularly the larger size, as iron wire if left in the green-house soon becomes rusty and soils both the hands and the flowers. The commercial gardeners generally use iron. A ball of good strong hemp or cotton twine, or tie-yarn, is requisite for putting the bouquet together and must be kept in a flower-pot at your feet, to keep it from rolling about A quantity of evergreen, such as Cedar, Arbor Vita, or, what is better than either, the small evergreen vine, or Lycopodium, which grows in profusion in New Jersey and other localities, and is used for making wreaths for ornamenting churches in New York and Philadelphia at Christmas, for filling in the interstices between the flowers and for finishing the lower part of the bouquet.
Before describing the modus operandi of making or putting together the bouquet, allow me to say a word or two in defence of the practice of using flowers with short stems. Of course when a collection of plants is very extensive, or when the kinds used are not mostly of a valuable kind, there is less necessity for economy; but where the reverse of this is the case, I know of but one objection that can be urged, and that is that the flowers will wither sooner than if their stems reached the water. This objection has been found by experience to be far less serious than it appears at the first glance to be, for if the interstices between the supports of the flowers be properly filled up with any kind of materials, such as evergreens, moss, or the like, to retain moisture, and the bouquet is turned upside down once or twice a day and water poured on it, it will retain its beauty and freshness for a week at least, and I have seen a bouquet two weeks old so fresh that it called forth the admiration of all who inspected it.
Before quitting this branch of my subject, I will offer a few suggestions in regard to the economical use of flowers which will be found of considerable importance where the demand is greater than the supply. By a careful examination of the botanical structure of various plants, it will be found that a number of them produce their flowers in clusters or umbels, and that in many cases the upper buds expand sometime before the lower ones, consequently if the whole head is cut off the later bloom is entirely lost This is especially the case with Geraniums, (particularly the scarlet,) Primroses, Big-nonias, etc., and it will be found a considerable saving to only cull the expanded blossoms. There are also other plants which produce their flowers in long spikes or garlands, such as the Acacias, the Euphorbia Jacquinceflora, the Spiraea prunifolia, and others, all of which can be divided into pieces from one to two inches long and will have quite as good an appearance in the bouquet as if the whole stem were used.
Again, there are other plants, and among them some of the most gorgeous and showy descriptions, whose flowers are too large to be used entire and consequently require to be divided; among these are the Poinsettia pulcherrima and the Strelitzia regina.
The first of these produces a flower of no beauty, but it is surrounded by scarlet leaves or bractae of the most gorgeous splendor, the heads measuring in some instances twenty inches in diameter; these bracts have a fine effect when introduced singly or in pairs. In dividing them, insert your knife at the top and pass it down perpendicularly dividing the flower and stem into two equal parts; then sub-divide these until you have but one or two bractae with a small piece of the stem attached to each; these sections are then to be tied to supports and are then ready for use. The Strelitzia produces a flower, or rather a succession of flowers, of a singular shape, but of a beautiful combination of colors. They appear in triplets of two beautiful orange and violet petals, and after one set withers they are succeeded by another set from the same calyx or spathe. Should you cut the whole head you would find it too large and unwieldly, and at the same time lose the succession of blooms. It is therefore advisable to sever the connection and take out the bloom without injury to the rest of the head, and tie it on a stick as before directed.
There is perhaps no plant so much injured by injudicious cutting as the Camellia, It is of such slow growth that should two or three inches of the stem be cut with the flower the plant would not increase one particle in size and the bloom of the following year would be entirely lost It is therefore absolutely necessary that the flower alone should be gathered and an artificial stem supplied of either wire or wood, or both. It is a fortunate circumstance that this flower deprived of its stem is of longer duration than any other.
There is a great diversity of taste as to the shape and size of bouquets. Thai most generally preferred, however, for hand-bouquets is flat or slightly oval on top, and about eight inches in diameter. I am aware that they are frequently made much larger, but in my opinion they appear heavy and cumbrous. The flat bouquet possesses two important advantages over the pyramidal or cone-shaped, in not requiring near so many flowers, and also in allowing every flower to be seen at one glance. The pyramid, or cone-shape, is however preferred for large bouquets or table designs.
The length of this communication warns me that I must close. In my next I will continue the subject and describe the process of putting together the bouquet.