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.
Placed a simple glass stand of some choice pattern, and neatly filled with the most slender, graceful vines and ferns that could be procured. The base was unusually flat and shallow, with the broad fronds of some handsome fern spread out, and extending for seme distance beyond the outer edge. From the moist sand with which this is filled, springs up the taller plumes of a feathery species of grass, intermingled with those of a drooping habit; and in the interstices between are introduced the most delicate fern fronds to be procured, as well as some of the richly colored tropical leaves.
Around the bottom are placed a few pale tea-rose buds, and flowers not too marked in color, but possessing that indispensable quality, agreeable fragrance. At the summit is set a glass receiver also filled with moist sand, in which are placed very much the same character of plants as are seen at the base, with the | addition, perhaps, of a few sprigs of smilax and other neat little vinos to hang down and partially cover the glass stem.
This floral ornament composes the centerpiece; then on either side, and midway between it and the ends of the table may be noticed glass vases of a very light and unique pattern, in which are arranged a collection of flowers that harmonize in color, and give a quiet, subdued effect, but exceedingly tasteful withal. In front of each guest's plate is placed a tiny bouquet, a grade larger than the ordinary button-hole size, and this, too, should be neat and plain, the green being composed of one of the smaller Adiantums.
Here, it will be seen at a glance that everything is omitted that can in any way offend the eye; and, in fact, the whole idea is to make use of as little material as possible, but that little must be the best in its line.
When we contrast this system of forming bouquets with the antiquated pattern which continually reminds one of the great amount of thought requisite to place each individual flower with mathematical precision, we think no right-minded lover of flowers will be willing to go back to the " good old times " of bouquets at least.
Notwithstanding the course of The Horticulturist, especially during its earlier years, has been to give the greatest prominence to subjects of practical importance, yet it has never avoided those having for their object the cultivation of a pure and refined taste in rural pursuits. By this we do not necessarily allude to objects of an expensive and elaborate character, suited only to the wealthy, but to those more especially adapted to the wants of our readers who long for the simple, yet neat and appropriate decorations that can be fashioned and arranged by any one with sufficient taste.
The old-fashioned idea of bouquets has received a severe rebuke of latter years, and in no one thing has popular feeling shown a more marked improvement than in this. As formerly seen upon our tables during festive occasions, the huge "nose-gay" and "flowerpot," were in fact floral monstrosities, utterly at variance with the rules of good taste, adapted, as it were, to pander to the love for bright colors, without harmony of arrangement, and precise form without gracefulness. Fortunately for the advancement of a refining taste in floral decorations, as well as in other auxiliaries for gratifying the eye, popular opinion is gradually tending towards plain colors, and an easy, flowing, graceful outline.
The annual exhibitions held near London, as well as those in other parts of England, are now encouraging this advanced taste, by the offer of liberal premiums for the best example of "Table Decoration." The writer witnessed, in the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham, one of the most beautiful, although comparatively simple displays, that he had ever seen, and yet the whole exhibition was confined to a comparatively few tables, laid as if for the usual meals, and decorated with a few plants and flowers in the most exquisite manner.
To illustrate the fashion of the past age, we must remind our readers that the bouquet was arranged in circles, with each individual row composed of a different flower, and when accessible, these were of a distinct color as well, so that the tout ensemble was somewhat in the style of a zebra, or some nondescript article, not certainly found in nature.
The whole matter of arrangement may be summed up in a few words. The former idea appeared to be to distort nature, and give to her flora an artificial aspect; while the true aim and purpose of the modern florist should be to preserve the natural, and entirely abolish the artificial, so that the latter may not appear in any form.
Indeed, throughout the exhibition alluded to, the fact was continually apparent that all the competitors were endeavoring to raise the art to a higher and much more sensible standard, by the simple act of substituting grace for formality.
We have thus dwelt longer upon this subject than we otherwise would, were it not for the importance being attached to the business at the present time. The out flower trade in all our large cities, is perfectly enormous, especially in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, where thousands of dollars are annually spent in this branch of industry. In some localities, especially near the suburbs of our larger cities, may be seen acres of glass structures, used solely for the purpose of forcing flowers; and the dwellers in the city proper know very little of the gigantic proportion which this business has assumed.
Indeed, our florists, with scarcely an exception, are to-day devoting a large amount of space for growing cut flowers, who, a few years since would have thought it entirely beneath their notice. But finding that it paid, and that handsomely, they are annually increasing this department of their vocation.
It is the fashion for persons of a certain class to characterize this as a useless expenditure of money. Not so, however. It is one of the most able advocates for a better state of morals in society at large. Its tendency is to elevate and refine, whilst creating a distaste for the gross and vile; and the tiny bunch of violets,purchased for a few pennies from the little girl on the street corner, affords far more pleasure to the buyer, than the same amount expended for any artificial ornament of whatsoever kind.
Is it not a pleasant idea, that the humble flowers may, in many instances, prove to be missionaries in a certain sense; awakening in the mind of many an erring one, visions of an earlier and better life, and recalling the oft quoted, yet ever sublime simile of the Great Master " Behold the Lilies of the field." Let us trust so at least, for we should all be firm believers in the beautiful theory, that with the increase of a love for flowers, just in proportion will be the decrease in crime and immorality.