Floral Arrangements have always been an art in my humble opinion, an art that I'm not that great at. I have improved over the years but when I see the arrangements the local florist puts together, well mine pale in comparison. However, our 19th Century Characters and Ancestors took great skill in making this bouquets for their homes, or to go courting, etc.
Below is a tidbit from the Detroit Free Press ©1881.
ARRANGING THE FLOWERS.
It seems an easy thing to make a bouquet as one looks over the garden and sees the beautiful flowers. But after all it is a difficult matter, and one sometimes forgets that flowers have their affinities and preferences as well as the human race. Above all give them room and not crowd them. When flowers are massed heavily together all lose their beauty.
When you cut the flowers for bouquets, provide yourself with a tin basin or dish having a little water in it. Cut them, never pull or break them; it bruises the stems and hastens decay. Flowers will keep best if gathered at night; the early sun seems to wilt them. Stand the flowers up in the dish and put those of one kind together, then when ready to arrange them you can easily tell what materials you have to work with, and avoid tumbling them over. The water prevents them from wilting, for flowers carried in the hand will wither in a short time.
When a flower is of good size and a fine one, it will look more beautiful if arranged by itself, the single flower among sprays of fern or feathery grasses, than if put among other flowers. Flowers are difficult to arrange in a shallow dish unless wet moss has first been put in; the flower stems can then be imbedded in the moss, and it will help to preserve them. If a shallow glass dish is filled with white sand and made up into pyramid form (as can easily be done by wetting it), and the flowers arranged in it, commencing with the tiny fine ones at the top, and filling out with larger ones as the base is reached, the effect will be beautiful, and if the sand is kept damp the flowers will keep fresh many days.
Some of the holders for flowers are very pretty; they have a saucer at the bottom and a slender single vase in the center; the lower one can be arranged as a flat bouquet, and with a single lily and fern sprigs or grasses in the vase, what can be lovelier! The white day lilies, their yellow centers, are very beautiful, and a single one will perfume the whole room with its fragrance.
Colors should be chosen wisely; pinks and scarlets should not be included in the same arrangement, and large flowers should not be mixed with very small ones. Yellow can be used sparingly, and white to blend the colors. Green should be used to separate the colors, as a bouquet not softened by grasses or vines is very glaring in its effects. Button-hole bouquets should always be small—conspicuous for their beauty, not size. A single geranium leaf, with a rosebud, a tuberose, or two or three small flowers put together with a leaf of green, is very pretty for these, as almost any flower is beautiful.
FOR VASES AND HAND BOUQUETS.
In selecting vases for flowers get those of a light or neutral color; cut glass, of delicate shape and color, are prettiest. Never put flowers in heavy vases, unless large sprays of flowers are selected, and then a tiny, delicate bouquet and vase is much prettier than these large, massed bouquets in heavy vases. A spray of ferns with a single rose or bud, or a saucer of ferns and pansies is much prettier than a large bouquet even if composed of beautiful flowers.
For small vases a very good way is to clip the flowers off and put them in carelessly as they come, then they will look natural; too much arrangement often spoils the looks of a vase of flowers. For either hand or vase bouquets do not put too many colors together.
For vases and bouquets of any sort there should be plenty of white for the foundation. Where stemless flowers are used, like a tuberose or a single geranium, stems can be made by putting the ends inside of straws and then wiring them in ; when arranged in the bouquet the straw cannot be seen", but the flowers can be kept fresh by absorbing the water. A pretty arrangement is to take a spike of scarlet gladiolus, with its brilliant coloring; arrange it with feathery grasses and gleams of white feverfew here and there and you will have a lovely spot of. coloring for some dark corner. Again, petunias and morning glories are difficult to combine with any flower, but give them a wide-mouthed vase and a few leaves and they are positively graceful. All lilies are prettiest if no other flowers are mixed with them.
It is generally understood that perfect whiteness is indispensable in all flowers used for bridal purposes, rendering jessamine, orange blossoms, gardenias, white carnations, white azaleas, amongst the flowers in most general use. And although white should predominate in the wedding bouquet, a few flowers of delicate tint may be sparingly used. Amongst exotics, the orchid class of plants, those tinted with pale mauve and blush rose, are most useful for such bouquets, The style of flowers should have some analogy to the age of the bride. Thus a bouquet composed of nothing but orange buds is appropriate for a young bride in her teens, whilst full-blown flowers are equally well fitted for a wearer of more mature age.
TO KEEP FLOWERS FRESH.
When cut flowers have faded, either by being worn a whole evening in one's dress, or as a bouquet, by cutting half an inch from the end of the stem in the morning, and putting the freshly-trimmed stalks instantly into quite boiling water, the petals may be seen to come smooth and resume their beauty, often in a few minutes. Colored flowers, carnations, azaleas, roses and geraniums, may be treated in this way. White flowers turn yellow. The thickest textured flowers come up the best, although azaleas revive wonderfully. Another very good mode of renovating cut flowers is to place them in water under a glass shade. For keeping flowers in water, finely-powdered charcoal in which the stalks can be stuck at the bottom of the vase, is excellent; it preserves them surprisingly, and renders the water free from any obnoxious qualities.
If you would keep flowers for evening wear, you must be up early, and gather them before the sun is on them, and, if possible, while they are still wet with dew. Place them in water in a shady place, and just before they are wanted cut a short piece off the stalk with a sharp pair of scissors—a knife will not do; then, if possible, keep them in one of the tubes used by gentlemen for their button-holes; if not, seal the ends of the stalks. Some persons can wear natural flowers much better than others; if the skin is hot and damp they will soon fade, and only hard-wooded plants should be chosen. For azaleas, scarlet geraniums, etc., a drop of gum should be planted in the center of each flower to keep them from shaking.
Or this: Mix a tablespoonful of carbonate of soda in a pint of water, and in this place your bouquet; it will preserve the flowers for a fortnight. This is a fact worth knowing, as in warm weather flowers fade and wither rapidly. Sprinkle the bouquet lightly with fresh water, and then put it in a vessel containing soap-suds; this will keep the flowers as freshly as if first gathered. Then, every morning take the bouquet out of the suds and lay it sideways, the stock entering first, into clean water; keep it there for a minute or two, then take it out and sprinkle the flowers lightly by the hand with water, replace it in the soap-suds, and it will bloom as fresh as when first gathered. The soap-suds need changing every three or four days. By observing these rules a bouquet may be kept bright and beautiful for a long time. The natural color of flowers may be preserved for any length of time by dipping them for a moment in clear glycerine. When the glycerine dries the various tints are seen almost as bright as before the flowers were plucked. Also a good way is to lay them in wet cloths; take them out of the vases at night, sprinkle with cold water and then wrap them in cloths made very wet with cold water. The weight of the cloth will not crush the most delicate flowers, while it keeps out the air and prevents their falling to pieces or opening still more.