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Flowers For Personal Adornment

( Originally Published 1923 )



The preceding chapters have considered the principles of flower arrangement more particularly in their application to the home. The remaining chapters consider them from the viewpoint of their use in the retail flower store, but certain factors may be used in the home as well. For example, a funeral spray can be made just as attractively from the flowers grown in one's own garden as from those bought from the florist. It is hoped that all may be of value, both to the retail florist and in the home, for the principles of harmony of line, form, notan and color, are just as important in the composition of bouquets or formal designs, as in any other form of flower arrangement.

In the foreword of his excellent book, "The Manual of Floral Designing," W. Cleaver Harry says: "Experience is a good teacher; but experience alone, without a text-book, makes a slow, tedious journey. After several years of store work, filled with glaring blunders and much hard labor, I began to realize that the arranging of cut flowers and floral designs is an art; that the knowledge concerning it is based on method and principle; furthermore, that an understanding of these principles would enable a man to do better and quicker work, to overcome obstacles and direct the work of others; in a word, help him to become more valuable—an artist, a manager."

Within the last few years, retail flower shops have paid far more attention to the arranging of bouquets artistically.

Bouquets may be classed according to their character into the following sections:

(a) Corsage bouquets to be worn by ladies for a public function.

(b) Colonial bouquets, usually to be carried in the hand.

(c) Bridal bouquets: (1) Formal, (2) Shower, (3) Arm.

(d) Boutonnières.

(a) Corsage Bouquets to Be Worn by Ladies for a Social Function

In the retail trade, corsages are one of the most profit-able items of the business. They utilize the short-stemmed flowers and but few are necessary. They should, however, be of the finest quality and perfectly fresh.

Several factors enter into the selection of flowers for the corsage. The first is that of color, for the flowers should harmonize with the gown with which they are to be worn.

The size of the corsage, whether large or small, depends upon the size of the person who is to wear it. It should never be so large as to be troublesome to the wearer, and there should be the right proportion of foliage, flowers and ribbon. Too much foliage detracts from the value and too much ribbon makes it heavy. The flowers should be the principal element, and in selecting them a combination of two species is the most interesting as, for example, a Rose inserted in the center of a bunch of violets. Mrs. Aaron Ward Roses with Lilies of the Valley or Roman Hyacinths, also Cattleyas and Lilies of the Valley are rich combinations. The varying form and color combinations increase the value of each. The colors should be selected as to color harmonies on the principles discussed in Chapter VII. The color of the ribbon may be that of analogy or of contrast, and in colors which harmonize with the color of the flowers of the principal varieties, as for example, Ophelia Roses, Ward Roses, Cattleyas, Violets and the like. It may be purchased by the piece or tied in bows, and the width usually used is about one inch.

As short a time as possible should intervene between the making and the wearing of the corsage, for the flowers being out of water, will wither quickly. This is especially true of yellow Daisies, Marguerites and Lilies of the Valley.

In making the corsage it is best not to wire some flowers, but the use of wire seems to be an advantage in most cases. It holds the flowers in place and they are less easily crushed or broken. If wire is used it should be hidden in the making. If Roses are to be used, the thorns should be removed, and No. 22 twelve-inch wire run through the base of the petals to hold the flower to the calyx; take one or two perfectly formed leaves, and with another wire attach them firmly to the base of the calyx. This helps to conceal the first wire. Flowers other than Roses are wired by the use of No. 22 twelve-inch wire used in a similar way to that which held the Rose leaves near the base of the calyx. Lilies of the Valley, Roman Hyacinths and usually Sweet Peas need to be wired.

In putting the corsage together, the same principles should be observed as in arranging any bouquet. It should be a compact yet not crowded arrangement. As a rule, the large, fully-blown and brilliantly colored flowers should be near the center and at the base of the corsage, and the smaller species or buds above. A bow of ribbon at the base helps to give the corsage a better proportion. In making a corsage, take a few sprays of Asparagus plumosus or Maidenhair fern in the left hand. If they are wired they form a stronger support for the flowers. The finer flowers are next placed over the ferns so as to form the general outline of the corsage. Delicate sprays of Maidenhair or plumosus may be placed between the flowers to cover the wires, if they have been used, and also help to elevate the area for the larger flowers which are next put in position, and the base finished with one or two nice sprays of Maidenhair. The Farleyense fern makes a rich, delicate foliage effect for the base of the corsage. The stems are then wound with silkaline to hold all the material in place. If the corsage can be placed with the stems in water for a short time after making, the tissue becomes full of water and the flowers revive. When taken out, the surplus water should be absorbed by a cloth and the stems wrapped neatly and evenly in green tinfoil. The method suggested by Harry is very satisfactory: "Cut in squares, about 3 1/2 in. by 3 1/2 in. Place the corner of one of these squares up the back of the stems and then turn around the stems with the thumb and finger. By starting at the point first, it will twist to a point at the end of the stem." Most frequently a waterproof, silk shield of lace-like material is used at the back to protect the gown from any moisture, or the stain which may come from crushed flowers or foliage. A kid cot may be used over the tinfoil and the ribbon attached. It may be tied about the cot or tinfoil, and a double-looped bow carefully adjusted among the flowers and foliage. It is sometimes difficult to adjust the bow in the position desired and it is then preferable to tie the bow and fasten it to a wire. The wire may be thrust through the corsage at the exact point it is desired to place the bow, drawn through from the back and securely fastened. The ribbon, however, should have the appearance of being tied around the stems.

(b) Colonial Bouquet to Be Carried in the Hand

A colonial bouquet is the formal type of our grandmother's time. In the earlier periods of the retail flower store, there were few long-stemmed flowers offered for sale. Consequently, bouquets were masses of flowers put together without regard to form. Now, colors of contrasting harmony are selected in considerable variety, so that the bouquet may be formed in a regular manner. The smaller flowers only are used, and the stems are discarded and replaced by wires, unless they are very slender. A small Ward, Bon Silene or even a tiny Cecile Brunner or George Elgar Rose may be selected for the "point of emphasis" in the center. It need not be wired, but the foliage is entirely removed. Next, individual bells of Roman Hyacinths may be wired, carefully using No. 36, and circled about the Rose. Enough tiny Forget-me-nots to make a circle around the Hyacinths may next be wired; then petals of white Carnations, Violets, tiny sprays of Asparagus or other green, may be inserted; then circles of other flowers of varied colors may be arranged one after another. All the flowers should be selected and wired before the making of the bouquet. Green silkaline or fine wire is used for binding the flowers togethers and these should be wound very tightly.

When the bouquet is finished, the wire stems are thrust through the center of a paper frill, of a size suitable for the bouquet, drawn tightly around the flowers and held in place with short pins. This helps to hold the flowers in the massed position necessary to bring out the formal color pattern of the design. The wire stems are wound with green tinfoil as in the corsage bouquet, and if a glove cot is used it makes the bouquet more comfortable to carry. A ribbon tie may be used, if desired. It often adds to the attractiveness of the bouquet if several strips of "baby" ribbon, in pastel colors and about twelve inch long, are knotted to the middle of a No. 22 twelve-inch wire. The wire is then bent over, thrust through the bouquet just at the union of the bouquet and the frill, drawn. down and securely fastened.

The bouquets may be made of any size, depending upon the occasion. Delicate ones with pink or blue pre-dominating make dainty birth gifts. Occasionally a bride's bouquet of colonial type is ordered and should, of course, be quite large. They are appropriate presentation gifts for musical recitals, especially if the artist, in colonial costume, is to give songs of long ago or old-time melodies.

(c) Bridal Bouquets

(1) Formal

W. Cleaver Harry says of the bridal bouquet: "The masterpiece of bouquets is the wedding bunch. It requires more thought, more practice, more skill and resourcefulness to build a good wedding bouquet than it does to make any other floral arrangement.

"There is personality in bridal flowers, just as in the design of a gown or the style of a hat. Flowers for personal adornment require different treatment from those which decorate the dinner table or screen the music in the ballroom. While we have advanced the floral art to notable heights, there is still much to be done.

"Many wedding bouquets are merely clusters of second-grade stock, ill chosen, badly arranged and lacking in grace and proportion. They are finished only by a maze of ribbon showers, long identified with bridal effects.

"In studying the subject from the customer's view-point, we find that sentiment alone does not enter into the choosing of wedding flowers. The thing desired is correctness. In comparing a number of wedding bunches of the best designers, it was found that they were all in-correct in one important point, that they were not easy to carry. They were unbalanced and top heavy."

The making of bridal bouquets requires the utmost care and plenty of time should be allowed. They cannot be thrown together hastily if they are to be pleasing and satisfactory. The flowers must be fresh, and this is particularly true of the white Roses to be carried by the bride. The withering of none of the Roses is so apparent as is that of the white varieties, for the petals quickly blacken.

In a bouquet of medium size when Roses alone are used, from two to two and one-half dozen will be sufficient. For a formal bouquet of Roses and Lilies of the Valley, fifty Valley will be quite enough. It is usually best to wire the Roses, using No. 20 or 22 wire. It is best to arrange the flowers so most of the Roses will be at the lower part, next to the bow of ribbon, and to place the Valley among some of the Roses at the top. This brings the Valley against the gown and also makes a more balanced arrangement. In making, use no more green than is necessary to space the flowers and to give the desired finish. The bouquet should be as light in weight as possible. A glove cot should be used to cover the stems or they may be wound with ribbon similar to that which forms the bow. The grade of ribbon used should be of the best.

(2) Shower Bouquets

Shower bouquets, when artistically arranged, are very beautiful, but the secret of their beauty is their freshness. One person remarked she had never seen a shower bouquet which didn't look "too dangling," and to avoid such an appearance the bouquet should be made but a very short time before it is needed. The flowers should be arranged so there will not be a pronounced line of separation between the bouquet proper and the shower, but the flowers of the shower should be tied so near together at the top, that they will seem to extend the material of the more formal part of the bouquet and not to be tied on. For the shower, no flower lends itself more gracefully than does Lily of the Valley. Roman Hyacinth or white Sweet Peas may be used, but they are heavier in appearance. The flowers of the shower should be the same as the delicate ones used with the Roses in the more formal part of the bouquet. The length of the shower is governed by the height of the bride, and it should not come to the bottom of the gown.

(3) Arm Bouquets

Arm bouquets are easily and naturally carried and are often preferred, especially for bridesmaids. The Roses are wired, using No. 22, so they may be arranged quite loosely yet firmly, and assume a natural appearance. For a bride, the arrangement should be more compact than for a bridesmaid, and it may or may not be made with a shower.

(d) Boutonnières

White flowers are usually used for boutonnières and white only is proper for an evening function. The flower worn by a groom should be like one of the bride's bouquet, a white rose or Lilies of the Valley. The bride's father may wear the same species of flower as the groom, or a Gardenia; ushers may wear white Carnations, small white Chrysanthemums or white Sweet Peas.

It seems a very simple thing to make a boutonnière, yet skill is required if it is to be made attractively, especially when Lilies of the Valley are used. They must be compact. Select the smaller sprays of Valley and those which have the bells compact, and it may be necessary to strip the bells from the base of the clusters to make them so.

In making the boutonnière the flowers should be placed closely together and a fine wire, No. 22, used for securing them. Very little foliage should be used, but a Rose leaf may back the petals of the bud, or a tiny bit of Maidenhair fern may back the Sweet Peas. The stem should be just long enough to go into the buttonhole on the lapel of the coat. If there is no buttonhole the short stems should be wound carefully with green tinfoil.



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