From childhood I still carry the remembrance of the perfume of heliotrope on a hot day in a dining-room on the Hudson. The room I entered, after a scorching drive over a long sunny road, was made cool by vines and awnings at the window, and by a huge lump of ice placed in the centre of the luncheon-table and cut, after a fashion no longer existing among us, with a round hole in the middle to hold a mass of heliotrope. The flower has suggested to me ever since refreshing coolness.

The passion-flower, when cut from its stem, turned face up and laid about on the table, is a fashion as pretty as that once prevailing in the South, when pink damask roses without stems were scattered over the cloth. To-day violets are used in the same way, both for luncheons and for dinners - a bank of them in the centre of the table, and handfuls scattered over the cloth. The candles for the dinner-table are then either left without shades, which many people prefer, or show violets in some form. When one can afford to use orchids in the centre of the table, scattered over the cloth or laid like strands of ribbon from the centrepiece to each plate, one attains a surpassing excellence.

When all else fails, the scattering of ferns over a table is not to be despised. In the autumn the scarlet Virginia creeper is most beautiful used in this way, so is the vine of the blackberry - a bowl in the middle of the table and some tendrils laid on the cover. In the autumn, too, grapes are fascinating as a decoration, arranged in a dish with leaves, some of the bunches falling over the edges of the dish. It is no unusual thing to see fruits laid about on the table, as flowers are laid, but one must have a sure touch and not leave the decorations to the butler.

A dinner-table in late February, when each guest in a town house has begun to long for spring, is made delightful with yellow jonquils in a light, highly polished copper jar, especially when four brass candelabra are placed about them and the candles are left without shades. Pink roses have a quality that satisfies, whatever the season. White roses with maidenhair fern are beautiful in silver or glass. The white tulip has a never-failing loveliness, always enhanced when the delicate pink of its lining is visible.

When spring has come a luncheon-table may be made lovely with the blossoms and leaves of the wistaria in a basket of wood-green straw placed in the centre of the table, the handles tied with a wide satin ribbon exactly matching the blossoms. A dinner-table, when the nights are hot in town, may be made an unforgetable picture by the pink and white blossoms of the quince or the apple-tree, in a high vase in the middle of the table, the branches spreading. About the table in low glass bowls bunches of the white lilac must then be arranged. The light should fall from overhead through the pink and white blossoms.

Although silver pitchers, vases, and quaint urns have become fashionable for flowers in the middle of a table, men with highly developed aesthetic senses decry the use of silver with flowers. "You would not be guilty of such a thing, would you?" one of these men asked me - a very old man, with traditions of bygone days - an old man who loves flowers as some of us love people. He will bring me a single blossom from his garden, and I feel when I receive it as though one of his children had been confided to my care. He thinks nothing but pottery or glass proper for them, a bit of crystal, or a Venetian vase. We both agree on one point, he and I, when we are discussing these questions, - that nothing is really prettier, particularly in the centre of a table, than a round, perfectly clear fish-bowl (one may be had for fifty cents). The stems of the flowers are then visible, and the lights reflected in the water in a way we both find entrancing. He drew my attention to another point in favor of these fish bowls, - that they are low enough not to interrupt the gaze across the table; for at many luncheons and dinners, because of the floral decorations between, it is impossible to exchange a word with one's opposite neighbor. "Conversation is a sauce," he will say to me. "A dinner lacks flavor without it. If we are summoned to a man's board only to be fed and then sent away, we might as well have a series of stalls arranged, and guests driven in them, two by two."

I have one friend who possesses a tall, exquisite, and perfectly plain crystal pitcher of beautiful classic proportions, which she uses in the centre of her table, often with the purple iris of summer. Nothing can exceed its beauty. Though I have lunched with her again and again, I can never remember anything she has given me to eat, but I am always bewitched anew with the beauty of that simple crystal pitcher, holding its half a dozen long-stemmed blossoms.

While still on the subject of glass vases, it may be as well to say, that many most excellent examples, costing not more than ten cents, are to be found everywhere; they are good in form, simple in detail, and excellent for country houses where flowers abound. Of course the moment that these vases appear with painted decorations, or that they are in any way colored, that moment their value is destroyed.

Just here, too, I would like to say, that in this day of great profusion, it always adds a note of elegance to separate flowers, and to have one or two appear by themselves on a table, - a single rose or a lily in a long-stemmed glass, - not only because a single flower being beautiful is worthy of contemplation, but because good taste proclaims against too indiscriminate a massing of beautiful things, unless the production of sumptuous effects is the object, and one wants masses of flowers for the sake of their color. I remember a single orchid at the table of a friend which gave me a pleasure delightful to recall, even after many years. The orchid, full of green and yellow tones, was placed with a spray of maidenhair fern in a slender glass of Venice, full of softest yellows and greens.