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.
A FINE figure for a niche, or a comer bracket, is a large vase filled with a tall bouquet. Flower-stalks of gladioli are especially effective here; also branches of lilies, or individual lilies of the larger sorts, together with panicles or spikes of medium or more minute inflorescence; such as canna, spirea, deutzia, delphinium, are always desirable, while boughs of pendant blossoms - laburnum, acacia, dielytra, salvia, etc., and all papilionaceous flowers, whether drooping or erect, add- much grace to such collections. In filling the vase, it is well to select one elegant blossom or cluster for the center, the remainder of the group diminishing gradually in size, the stems also of slightly lessening length, so that the bouquet shall present a pyramidal form. Fronds of the larger ferns, branches of slender lanceolate leaves, and long ribbons of grass, particularly of the variegated sorts, with their plumy blossoms, are the proper foliage. Long outtings of convolvulus, tropeolum, and other blooming vines (only one or two handsome branches, and those of the same plant), should fall from among the group, over the edge of the vase, and wind carelessly around it, and about its support, thus giving an air of lightness and ease to what would otherwise appear stiff and formal.
Stateliness is the idea to be conveyed by this grouping, hence the vase must not be crowded. Only a few stalks, and not more than two or three of a species, are required, while one splendid lily, peony, or cluster of roses, is sufficient for the center. A floral ornament of this sort is appropriate for the communion table. The floral festooning, mentioned above, is suitable wreathing for any part of a church, or its furniture.
Floral wreaths, crosses, crowns, stars, are more satisfactory, if the verdure is first arranged, as directed, for the festooning, and the flowers afterward inserted. Perforated, or wire-netting, forms of almost any desirable shape, may be procured at the florists; of these, a beautiful wreath, cross, etc., is quickly and easily prepared, the forms being filled with damp moss, in and among which the stems of foliage and flowers are inserted through the apertures. At the tin stores may be found slender tin pans, or troughs, of these shapes, painted green or brown; they are intended for holding water, in which the stems of flowers may be placed, and thus these floral devices retain their beauty a long time. They are generally used for the decoration of graves, but are not out of place upon the parlor table or the invalid's book-stand. For all these designs, buds and half-blown flowers, of medium size, with a good variety of the smaller sorts, of individual growth as well as of bracts, are needed; and a large proportion of heavy greenery for the ground, with a little delicate and lighter foliage for separating and relieving the flowers.
The usual table embellishments, of the floral order, are generally wreaths surrounding certain dishes, tall vases, or the high epergne with its broad bowl or vaselike branches: these may be occupied by flowers, shedding fragrance and beauty over the feast; but they are frequently so densely grouped, and require so much space, as to interfere seriously with the sociability of the company; low, shallow dishes, filled with short-stemmed blossoms, if they do not present so imposing an appearance, are far preferable; and these blossoms may be more readily examined and admired than if raised to the height of the tallest person's eyes. The most suitable table flowers, are roses - always, if possible - (for their significance), camellias, carnations, tuberoses, fuchsias, azaleas; or balsams (double), portulaocas (double), gilliflowers, the smaller lilies - lilies of the valley, especially - and hyacinths, in their season; with heliotrope, mah-ernia, genista, acacia, sweet alyssum and mignonette; all feathery foliage, of the gentlest green, fringing the dish (a pendant spray or blossom breaking the outline here and there)- and slightly pointing the collection at intervals.
These dishes of flowers are equally suitable for the festive board or the center or pier-table.
Mantel bouquets, because of their awkward receptacles, are too often clumsy, uninteresting concerns. Vases of medium height and size are best for these, of colorless glass or crystal. Decorated or gilded vases, whether of china or glass, are entirely unfit for holding flowers. Their dainty colorings or etchings or picturesque forms may command admiration, and serve effectively as ornaments to any apartment, if allowed to remain idle; but, no matter how beautiful they may be in their particular province of art, when place in close companionship with Flora's exquisite tints and tissues, not only do they sufer in comparison, but even the flowers themselves refuse to disclose their highest charms in such society. To prove this, just place two bouquets, of precisely similar flowers, one in a common glass tumbler, the other in an elegant Bohemian or Sevres vase, and see how much more vivid and healthful in coloring, and vigorous and intelligent in manner, so to speak, the group in the tumbler will appear, than their dull and dingy and characterless neighbors of the ruby or gilded vase. Silver, it is true, forms an agreeable contrast with delicate green, and the more subdued tintings, and hence vases and dishes of this material will always be in request for table flowers.
And for a statuesque group of camellias, tuberoses and cape jasmines - gleaming like sculptured marble amid their own dark foliage - the grandeur of some dim old bronze seems most appropriate, and the solitude of some shadowy recess more fit location than the broad display of the mantel.
The vase for holding a mantel bouquet should be of slightly spreading form; and as only the front of the flowers is seen, they must be arranged in the fan-shape, rising gently in the center. A back of arbor vitae, or of bouquet green, is very suitable, but more delicate foliage is always desirable when it can be procured. Heath, acacia, or the flumey boughs of asparagus, are very beautiful. Arrange this first, then a row of sprays and spikes of the smallest flowrets in contrasting colors; next, small clusters of larger flowers, with their buds, in harmonizing tints; each cluster separated from its companions by a bit of green, or a spikelet of white; then large and small, alternately (the largest in the center), of harmonizing tints, a speck of green here and there - if part of it is drooping, so much the prettier. Clusters of medium-sized flowers should follow these - a few pendant bells or racemes among them; and then flowers of a similar size, alternating with the smallest of drooping habit, a few leaves of finely cut foliage interspersed and hanging over the edge of the vase, with a stray branchlet or raceme, of fine florescence, of greater length, to relieve the monotony of the edging.
Of course the stalks must be of graduated length, that each set of flowers and foliage, as it is added, may stand freely below the preceding set.
(TO BE CONTINUED.]