Modern Valentine Flowers: 1911

Costly Flower Valentines

No one welcomes St. Valentine’s day more heartily than the florists unless it is the candy dealers. The modern valentine is a far cry from the lace paper and cardboard affair. Also it costs a lot more than the old-fashioned sort. The old time valentine was often a serious proposition—so serious that the sender never dreamed of inclosing his card, knowing that the recipient would have no trouble at all in guessing where it came from. The average young man sent one a year—that is, if he sent any at all. The modern way is different. Oftener than not the donor’s card goes along with the valentine, and if a leading florist is to be believed one young man will send half a dozen floral valentines.

This is speaking generally, of course. There are exceptions, as, for instance, a young man who the other day placed an order with a florist to be delivered to a certain young woman on St. Valentine’s morning by 8 o’clock. He was particular about the hour, wanting to be first in the field, he said. His valentine was to be of violets made into a heart-shaped design ten inches at its widest part, pierced with a slender dagger of solid gold bought at a leading jeweler’s. This was to be inclosed in a pure white satin paper box, tied with four-inch wide violet satin ribbon. The girl who didn’t like that valentine would be hard to please, the florist admitted, even though the donor’s card did go along.

 

Violets for the Girl

Violets, he said, are a popular valentine for the reason that they are a popular corsage decoration. They mean faithfulness, and it is easy to form them into a heart-shaped bunch. In one case instead of sending the usual long violet pin with the flowers, the florist put in a pin supplied by the customer, made of silver, topped with an enamelled Cupid.

“Corsages are in the lead for valentines, next come boxes of cut flowers, preferably roses, next fancy pieces combining flowers and china or silver or gold—the latter, though, usually going to older women,” said the florist.

“Some young men take the trouble to find out a girl’s pet flower and won’t take anything else. A 10-inch across bunch of lilies of the valley is ordered for one young lady and we have orders for gardenia, camellia, and orchid valentines made up in corsage size.

Pink carnations are the favorites of one young woman who will get two dozen of the finest we can send as a valentine.

“White lilacs are ordered for the valentine of a woman who is devoted to this flower, which is not easy to get at this season. I have the privilege of mixing white and pink lilacs if I can’t get really fine white ones.”

One of the most costly valentines ordered at this store is destined for a widow. This is made of the finest specimens of orchids, the sort shading from pink to lilac. It is a three-story affair, standing when finished about three feet high. The lowest round contains two gilded wicker oval baskets, between which rises a tall gilded rod adorned with two oblong gilded vases one above the other. Baskets and vases are lined with zinc and will hold water. When sent each receptacle will be filled with orchids and orchids will drop from one to the other, practically covering the whole frame.

Another orchid valentine is of the same order, but smaller, consisting of one oval basket with a handle following its widest part, and which covered with orchids gives the basket a two-story look.

China cupid in gondola Bonhams.com

China cupid in gondola Bonhams.com

Pink Roses Final.

“Valentines of silver gold or china receptacles filled with flowers did not originate with florists,” a Washington flower dealer said. “I don’t mean large pieces, but dainty, fine, often costly vases and small jardinières which may be used simply as art objects. One of these, in the shape of a gondola, a bunch of cupids sitting in the prow, the whole thing not more than nine inches long, represents a valuable kind of porcelain. I understand, and the article is almost a work of art. This, filled with violets, goes to a lady for a valentine. A silver box with a hinged cover, about 8 by 5 inches and 5 inches deep, was brought in last year to be fixed up with violets for a valentine. It was intended for a jewel box, I believe.

“All sorts of vases in all sorts of shapes are utilized to carry the flower valentine, some of them quite tall and not costly; others smaller and costing a stiff price. These, as a rule, go to older women. When fancy flower pieces are sent to young women the foundation is usually of fancy straw or wood.

“When a man comes in and orders a certain kind of roses and a good many of them sent to a young woman as a valentine I generally take a good look at him, for that sort of order oftener than most others indicates something really doing in the sentiment line. At other seasons to send roses to a girl doesn’t mean nearly so much as when they are sent on St. Valentine’s day. Roses by common consent mean love, and when a man picks out the deepest pink variety in the store—well, as I said before, it usually means something doing. Send his card with it? Yes, indeed.”

The candy dealers, too, have taken to using all sorts of china receptacles filled with bonbons for valentines. Some are low and flat; others two stories high; not unlike an airship, and each when divested of the candy is a pretty ornament for table or cabinet.

One variety of the two-story pattern has a hollow champagne bottle poised aloft and filled with bonbons. The lower part is decorated china and the bottle is removable.

In the leading confectioners’ exquisite example of Dresden and of Sevres china shaped as boats, pony carts, wheelbarrows, and automobiles are included in the novel candy holders provided for those able to pay pretty well for a valentine, and though the connection between sentiment and bric-a-brac is not very clear, at the same time this is the style of valentine the up-to-date girl is quite likely to prefer.

The Washington [DC] Post 12 February 1911: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Violets, in the language of flowers, mean modesty, love, and faithfulness. If they are white, “candor” or “innocence.”  They have long been a staple of Valentine’s Day; they are also associated with half-mourning. There is a moral there somewhere, but Mrs Daffodil does not care to dwell on it.

One does wonder what the language of flowers has to say about a three-feet-high arrangement of orchids destined for a widow? While orchids signify “beauty” and “refinement” in the language of flowers, Mrs Daffodil associates them with the nouveau riche and “stage-door Johnnies” of the Music Halls. Perhaps the giver of the orchids intends the recipient to exchange her weeds for flowers.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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