Category Archives: Gardening and flowers

“What Can I Do With Birch Bark?” Nature Crafts: 1890

 

A birch bark notebook painted with strawberries, given to HRH Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, on his 1860 trip to Canada. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/84321/notebook

FOR MOUNTAIN LAKE AND SEASHORE

Novel and Artistic Uses for Summer Spoils

What May Be Done with Birch Bark and Corn Stalks

Shell Portiere

Mermaid Scarf

“What can I do with birch bark?” writes a correspondent. “I spent last summer in the lake regions of Maine, and gathered quantities of beautiful pieces, some of them very large.”

There are so many beautiful uses to which birch bark can be put that I scarcely know where to begin. A piece 7 by 9 or of any desired size makes a nice cover for a blotter. Paint or draw with India ink some little sketch, and fasten to the blotters like a book by punching holes in the corners and running a ribbon through, with a bow at either end. Dark red makes a pretty contrast with the gray brown of the bark.

It will cover an old frame most artistically. Use pieces of any size, fastening them on with very small tacks and letting edges and corners curl up here and there. A bit of gnarled twig, a pine cone or a pretty piece of lichen can be placed at each corner. This would frame a woodland etching delightfully. Brackets and wall pockets may be covered with the bark alone, or with bark and lichens. Mounted on wide, handsome ribbon it makes the daintiest sort of souvenir menu cads. Write the menu on the bark with India or brown ink in quaint, irregular letters and tack the pieces on ribbon a very little wider, and two inches longer on each end than the bark. Fringe out one inch of this. They may be mounted on white, pale green, pale or dull gold, light blue, dark red or golden brown.

AN ARTIST’S FANCY.

In the country home of an artist on the borders of Lake George is a room in which birch bark has perhaps found its artistic limit. As in most country houses the room is a low one. About two and a half feet from the baseboard a narrow moulding of plain wood runs around the room, and the ceiling is of beams stained to represent old oak. A dado is formed of golden corn stalks cut into regular lengths and nailed to the baseboard at the bottom and the moulding two and a half feet above. The top is finished by running lengths of stalks horizontally, thus hiding completely the strip of moulding. A sharp, small saw must be used to cut the stalks into equal lengths, and as straight, firm and even stalks selected as possible. The side walls are covered with a greenish gray or grayish green cartridge paper. The frieze, ether or ten inches wide, is formed of irregular pieces of birch bark nailed to the wall with small brads. The joinings are hidden or emphasized by trailing bits of Florida moss or pieces of beautifully colored lichens form tree trunk and fence rail. It is finished top and bottom with a moulding of corn stalks. Long, slender brads are used to nail the stalks that form the dado.

You may make a pretty card receiver for the hall or for a corner of the parlor. Take three long, strong cat tails and cross them as in the illustration, fastening in your last season’s seaside hat, of which you have covered the brim and crown with birch bark, with a rim of lichens or Florida moss. Tie a huge bow of golden brown ribbons were the stalks meet. Laundry lists, card cases, and many such articles can be covered with birch bark, as well as glove and handkerchief boxes.

FOUR SEASONS’S TABLE COVER

Ladies who are making read for a summer in the mountains or by the seashore may be glad of the following idea for fancy work from “M.U.S.:”

“This table cover is made of one yard each of olive and light blue felt. Taking the latter for the centre, I cut the former into four equilateral triangles, couching the same onto the blue centre with a thick strand of pale yellow filoselle.

“After painting in oil with a good deal of spirits of turpentine the appropriate designs on the corners—viz., dogwood bloom for spring, wild rose for summer, oak and maples leaves in red, bronze and yellow for autumn, and holly and mistletoe for winter, I drew with a white chalk pencil a line two inches from the edge of the tablecloth as the depth of the fringe, into which the felt was to be cut after everything as finished. Above this was embroidered a heading for the fringe using two shades of gold colored silk, the darkest a burnet sienna, and the lightest of the same shade as that used for uniting the two tints of felt as already described. Do not attempt to cut the felt for the fringe until the painting and embroidery are done, as it gets unnecessarily beaten about in pinning the felt to the stretcher and would make the embroiderer frantic by catching into her silks.

“Of the embroidery, by the way, although it looks like a bona fide netted heading to a fringe, it is only one of the simple ‘crazy’ stitches—just a line of ‘cat stitch,’ then in the subsequent line each stitch is taken loosely linked to the bottom of the upper stitch—not through the felt, save at the bottom of the stitch.

“This table cover looks exceedingly artistic and expensive, which latter it is not—that is, if you can do the painting yourself.”

If you cannot do the painting you can at least embroider the designs in outline or long and short Kensington stitch with very good effect, almost equal to painting, in fact, if the Kensington embroider is used.

SEASIDE OCCUPATION

“An ingenious girl of my acquaintance,” writes “Bo-Peep,” “has added to her cosey parlor at a trifling expense two artistic and novel specimens of her handiwork. When I describe them to you and tell you the actual cost I am sure all of you who go to the seashore this summer will have next winger a ‘shell portiere’ and a ‘mermaid scarf.’ Do you remember the thin, yellow, almost flat shells which are so abundant on all beaches? Of course you do, but when you saw them by hundreds in the white sand I am sure you never imagined what a beautiful portiere could be made from them. Yet to this use have they been put by my young friend. She pierced each shell with a hot wire, and then with a delicate wire fastened the narrow end of one to the wide end of the next until a string sufficiently long to reach form the curtain pole to the floor was made. Enough of these were fashioned for the entire portiere. At the top they are held in place by a narrow strip of cloth of the same color as the shells. The effect is something like the Japanese portieres, but the coloring being Nature’s own is prettier, and then the cost—twenty cents, the price of the wire, and twelve cents for the strip of cloth.

“For a scarf dainty enough to grace the home of a sea nymph, buy a yard of Nile green India silk. Sew the shells on either end in artistic confusion, putting here and there a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed. Make a fringe of the shells in the same manner as you made the portiere, only join them with Nile green embroidery silk instead of the wire. The scarf shows to particular advantage thrown over a highly polished antique oak frame enclosing a delightful water color of Maine’s wild coast.”

New York [NY] Herald 18 May 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil feels that the correct answer to the question “What can I do with birch bark?” is “It makes excellent tinder for lighting the fire or stove.”

Behind stories like this is the notion that the “ingenious girl” must do something with every scrap of birch-bark and sea-weed  picked up in an idle moment. Ladies’ magazines are chock-a-block with ideas for making sea-weed pictures, shell ornaments, and all manner of natural fancy-work. Even on holiday, ladies were not permitted to be idle:

If women staying at seashore resorts will spend part of their idle time in collecting a variety of shells, they may utilize them in the fall for a unique door drapery. Fasten the shells thickly on fish netting, then drape of the netting over a door casing and let it hang down at the sides. The shell trimmed netting also makes an attractive portiere by lining it with a light shade of sea green silk finished material. The Ypsilanti [MI] Commercial 12 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil has nothing against shells, but suggests that there is no such thing as “a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed” in a domestic interior.  And the very idea of birch-bark friezes, lichen trimmings, and corn-stalk dadoes would make any self-respecting parlour-maid shudder at their potential for collecting dust and harbouring insect life.

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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A Crown of Flowers: 1873

1908 Crown and shield funeral arrangement.

1908 Crown and shield funeral arrangement.

A CROWN, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.

It was a busy day with the florist. His counters were filled with bouquets, crosses, wreaths, and filling baskets. The florist, Karl Breitman, was at work himself superintending even his wife was pressed into service, and was making a bridal bouquet of fragrant orange blossoms. Presently a carriage stopped, and a tall, elegantly dressed young lady came into the shop. Karl stepped forward to take her order.

“I wish to leave an order for a crown of white flowers for a funeral to-morrow morning,” she said.

“I am so sorry, madam, but as madam sees, we are so busy. A wedding to-night, a funeral to-morrow, half a dozen parties, and so many baskets ordered—it is quite impossible,” answered the little German, politely.

The young lady looked disappointed, but as she turned to go Mrs Breitman stopped her. “I will see to it, miss, that your order is filled. Only leave it with me. He’s so busy,” pointing at her husband. To speak truthfully, Mrs Breitman was a miserly soul, and could not bear the thought of losing the prospective money, for she saw by the carriage at the door and the young lady’s appearance that this was a wealthy customer.

“Thank you,” said the lady. “It is kind of you. I want a crown of pure white flowers.” “That will come very expensive, miss,” observed the florist’s wife, anticipating the ready answer—”never mind expense. I want it just so, and as handsome as you can make it.” “Perhaps a little cross of violets on the top would suit you, we make so many;” suggested Mrs Breitman, her eyes sparkling as the lady assented, for violets were just coming into season and very expensive.

“Yes, that will look well. Here is my card, which you must tie on it, and shall I write my address?” Being supplied with a card for that purpose, she drew off her glove, displaying a shapely white hand, on which glittered diamonds, and wrote the name and address. “The funeral is to-morrow at ten, and I shall expect this to be very handsome. Mind, I shall be there and see it.”

“Yes, miss,” replied Mrs Breitman, glancing at the book. “Oh, in Thirty fifth street! I thought, maybe, it was for Mrs Willis’ funeral; that is to-morrow morning, and we have a large order for that.”

“Yes,” said the lady, drawing on her glove, as she carelessly looked, “I see you are very busy. Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon, miss. Shall I send you the bill?” inquired Mrs Breitman, following the young lady to the door.

“No I will call and pay you.” Then as she went out and got into the carriage, the florist’s wife heard her order the coachman to drive to No.__ Fifth Avenue and as she went back to her work of arranging the flowers, she picked up the card, saying,”I wonder who she is?” On the pasteboard she read in old English letters the name, “Mary Lester, Fifth Avenue.”

“Ha, Karl,” she called, I have gained a customer—one who does not care for expense.”

“Thou wilt have to arrange the flowers thyself, Katrine,” answered he crossly. “We will be up half the night before.”

Katrine nodded. When the bridal bouquet was disposed of and her husband had gone off to superintend the floral decorations of the church, where the marriage was to be, she began to make the crown. “Life and death.” she muttered, as her deft fingers wove the creamy roses and the snow white ones, arranging the odorous sprays of lilies with dentzia. “Brides and corpses! We florists deck them both, and flowers serve for one as well as for another.”

Then she fell to thinking of the lady, Mrs Willis, who was to be buried to-morrow. “Four crosses, six wreaths, a crown and loose flowers,” said she to herself. “He loved her well. It’s not two years since I made her bridal bouquet. Dear heart, I wish tonight’s bride a longer life.” When the cross of violets was made, surmounting the crown Mrs Breitman surveyed her handiwork with true artistic pleasure. It was beautiful indeed. The absence of the stiff japonicas and heavy tuberoses gave it less of a funeral look and more the semblance of a heavenly crown. After tying Miss Lester’s card on, her work was complete, and she had time to assist with the other crosses.

It was with a sigh of relief that Miss Lester threw herself back in the coupe beside a portly matron in black velvet “Oh, mamma,” exclaimed she, “I do hate this unreal, foolish fashion of sending flowers to dead people. They have a large order for a Mrs Willis’ funeral there at the florist’s, and our flowers might just as well go to her as to Cousin Marianne’s. We didn’t know George; we don’t know Mrs Willis.”

“No, love,” replied Mrs Lester, “but it is expected of us in one case and not in the other, and Marianne would be hurt and vexed if we sent no flowers for her husband’s funeral, and although I deprecate the custom as much as you, still it is well to do as all the world does.”

“The world shall never lay down laws for me,” said Mary energetically. “I think for a friend to strew flowers on the person of a loved one who has gone is beautiful; but, oh, this reduction of poetical sentiment to fashion’s edicts,” and she smote her little palms together so violently as to make her mother start.

“Don’t do that, Mary. It’s not lady-like. Tell me did you order the crown made as I desired?” Then they drifted off into a conversation upon the quality, style and flowers. “Making up orders for Mrs Willis’ funeral?” observed Mrs Lester at last, “I wonder if that is Clara Spencer, who married about two years ago to Williard Willis. You have seen them at church, Mary! Their pew is three ahead of ours?”

“Yes, I remember,” answered Mary, thoughtfully. She spoke little on her way home, and was rallied by her mother for her absent air. “I am thinking,” said she briefly. She did not like to say that her thoughts were full of that tall handsome man, with his little blonde wife, who had sat just before them in church. Sunday after Sunday. Mary had seen them together, and she was wondering if he had loved her much; if he grieved sorely for the lost.

How sorely Mary did not know.

Williard Willis was bowed in grief for the loss of his wife, his little Clara. He felt deeply too, now that she was gone, that he had not valued her enough, had treated her too much like a child, had been often impatient with her waywardness. Now that Death has laid his cold seal upon her, all her faults were forgotten and only the winning, loving ways remembered which had won his heart before marriage. It was the morning of the funeral. The air was heavy with the scent of flowers. His sister, Mrs Carr, was arranging the floral devices about the fair marble figure in its last resting place.

“How many beautiful flowers there are!” said she, through her sobs, to some of the other relatives. “Look, Sarah, what a beautiful cross James Hubbell has sent her. You know people said he wanted to marry her. And this crown—l never did see anything so perfectly beautiful! Look! All roses, and none of those horrid japonicas, See these violets in the little cross.”

“It is handsome,” said Helen Willard, turning the card over, “Mary Lester! Who is she, Sarah?”

Sarah Spence, the sister of the departed one, shook her head. “I never heard Clara speak of her.”

“She ought to be either a very intimate friend, or a relative, to send anything so handsome as this. It never cost less than forty dollars.”

“I’ll ask Willard,” said Mrs Carr, starting forward with the crown in her hand.

Helen pulled her dress. “Not now.’ It is almost time for the funeral services to begin, and he feels so bad, and I wouldn’t if I were you.”

“Well, I’ll put it aside, and after the service I can ask him. Here comes the Bishop;” and up went Mrs Carr’s handkerchief to her eyes, as she sailed forward in her new mourning to meet the venerable prelate.

When the last sad rites were over, Willard Willis returned mournfully alone. The first thing he saw was the crown standing upon the mantle, where his sister had placed it, All his loss rushed over him at the sight of it, and scalding tears filled his eyes. Who can despise his weakness? None that have known grief such as death brings.

Willard found his once pleasant, cheerful home now so lonely and desolate without its presiding genius that he could no longer bear it, and about six weeks after his wife’s death he left for Europe, seeking oblivion and interest in new scenes of interest. At first he grieved much, but his wife had been really childish, foolish and frivolous. His greater intellect was caught by her extreme beauty and winning ways, but these charms were beginning to lose their power before her death, and he felt now a sort of freedom for which he often reproached himself. After a year of absence he returned to America and re-opened his house. Mrs Carr had kindly consented to take charge of it for him, but the offer had been declined. One day as he entered the long unused and darkened parlors, he saw on the mantle the wire framework of the once fresh and lovely crown with the faded flowers hanging from it. Detaching the card, he rang for the maid to remove it, and he stood by the window, in the flood of sunshine he had just let in, watching her. She was shocked. “To think of dear missus only gone a year, and he ordering that crown, which she was sure he had been keepin’ as a soveney, away to the ash heap!” Willard was trying to analyze his feelings. Were they grief or regret or relief? Which was uppermost he could not tell. Then he glanced at the bit of pasteboard be was toying with, and read, “Mary Lester.” All at once he remembered his sister writing to him of the mystery attached to the crown, which he had just ordered away, how neither his wife’s family nor his knew Miss Lester, and how very singular it was for a young lady to send s widower funeral flowers for his wife! Yes, he was a widower? He smiled, and looked in the long mirror. The title had been associated in his mind with grey hairs and old age, and he saw the reflection of a man still young and handsome,

His reverie was interrupted by Mrs Carr. “Oh, Willard, I am glad you are at home. Now, do be a good brother, and take Helen to Mrs Hubbell’s party this evening, I cannot go, and she has set her heart on it, Don’t disappoint the child. Oh, I know you are in mourning,” seeing him glance at his dress, but Clara has been dead over a year now. Sarah Spencer is going, and she was Clara’s own sister. Don’t disappoint your little Helen.” Willard was just going to say “No”— the word was trembling on his lips, when Helen herself came running into the parlor, and looked up appealingly at her brother, with tears in her eyes. He could not refuse his favorite little sister, and promised he would go, although he feared he would be out of place in a gay assembly. But when, once more clad in evening dress, with his pretty sister on his arm, he entered Mr. Hubbell’s parlors, and met with gentle greetings on every side, he felt as if he were again in his element.

After supper, as he was leaning against the parlor door, watching the waltzes of the German, his hostess captured him, saying, “Mr Willis, I am going to introduce you to a lovely young friend of mine who does not dance,” and leading him to a lady in pink she pronounced the cabalistic words, “Mr Willis allow me to present you Miss ___.” The name was lost in the crash of the band.

Willard gave her his arm and led her to a little reception room on the other side of the hall. “Here at least we can talk without splitting our throats in trying to overtop the band,” said he, and talk they did, until Helen, a most exhaustless dancer, came for her brother to take her home. Willard found the young lady a most delightful conversationalist, witty, piquant, intellectual, and original, and could hardly believe they had been talking two hours until convinced by his own watch.

The next Sunday Willard joined his new acquaintance coming out of church, and accompanying her home, received an invitation to call, which he availed himself of very soon. He discovered her name to be Miss Lester, and soon found himself identifying her with the lady who sent the crown. One evening bearing her mother call her Mary, these suspicions grew stronger, and they were confirmed when he compared the address on the card in his possession with her residence.

He found Miss Lester occupying a large share of his thoughts. If he was pleased with a book, she must read it; no plan was undertaken without her approbation; and as Willard knew all the symptoms, he soon knew he was in love, deeply in love with Mary Lester.

“It is all those flowers!” thought he, “If she had never sent them I would never have thought of her again after our casual meeting, but I wonder—-” Then he asked himself for the thousandth time. “Why did she send me this crown?” Finally he concluded to ask her, which was, after all the wisest plan. To his great disappointment, she denied all knowledge of it; but when convinced by her card, she recollected sending a crown to her cousin Marianne on her husband’s funeral.

“It was some fearful mistake of the florist,” said she at length. “Oh, Mr. Willis, what must you have thought me capable of! Setting my cap at you the moment you were available!” and she buried her face, suffused with blushes, in her hands.

“To speak truly, I did not put that construction on, but it does look like it. Oh, Mary, how could you do it! And I, a poor, helpless innocent man, have walked right into the snare, for you have caught me. Mary, my darling, I love you truly,” taking her hands down. “Don’t hide your pretty face, or, if you must, hide it here,“ drawing her head to his shoulder.

Need the rest be told? Mrs. Willis, No. 2, thinks widowers very bold wooers, but her husband says she encouraged him at first before he ever dreamed of marrying again, and this is the only rock on which the happy couple split. And in their happiness the dead is not forgotten for a pretty rosy-cheeked little girl bears the name of Clara Spencer.

Press, 14 March 1873: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There was a delicate art to the etiquette of funeral flowers. In many communities the floral tributes were listed in the newspapers with the donor’s name so that everyone might see how generous they had been.  A crown–or wreath–was perhaps the most common floral tribute, although they came in all shapes and fancies: crosses, sheaves of wheat, urns, pillows, and shapes representing the deceased’s profession or fraternal affiliations, or perhaps a phrase from a hymn such as “the gates ajar.” These tributes became more and more elaborate until they were ridiculed as vulgar in the very press that had, shortly before, listed them reverentially.

Miss Lester was quite right to be mortified; if she as a single woman had sent a floral crown to a widower, it would have been unspeakably forward, as she rightly observed. But a happy ending, we hope, all round. Mrs Daffodil was struck by the delicate insinuation that Mr Willis was not so much mourning his childish, foolish, and frivolous wife as his own foolishness in his “greater intellect” being “caught” by her beauty and “winning ways.” One hopes that he did not regret being “caught” a second time by a woman to whom, he admits, he would not have given a thought except for that crown of 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.

 

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

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.

The Black Rose: 1910

THE BLACK ROSE

Triumph of Botanical Chemistry, but Who Would Want One

(from the New York Times)

The inventor of a process for growing black roses naturally takes pride in his achievement. The black rose is new in agriculture. Nature, within the knowledge of man, has produced no rose of that color, and the black rose, if it is a shapely, full-grown flower, will be cordially received. If it have the perfume of the garden rose, its value will be greater. Some of the most esteemed roses of the florist’s shops are almost odorless. The inventor of the black rose is to be congratulated. Black diamonds and brown ones are esteemed far above their intrinsic value. Mr Burbank’s horticultural hybrids are highly prized. It will not do, in this scientific era, to condemn the gardener or agriculturist for using his wit and art to produce freaks in defiance of nature. The freakish tendencies of nature are now too well understood. The cunning of man cannot outdo them. Only nature has not yet produced a black rose, and the first of its kind will surely command a high place in the market for curiosities.

The utility of a black rose is questionable. It will never satisfy the eye like the red, yellow or white rose: a new poetry of roses must be made to fit it; no lover will come to use it as a symbol of his passion. At its best it will seem a thing of mystery. A bunch of black roses carelessly laid on the rail of a parterre box at the opera will not necessarily charm the vision of the unfortunate lookers-on in the stalls. The near-sighted ones may fancy that the principal occupant of the box is displaying her overshoes. A black rose in a lovely woman’s hair will resemble a rosette of silk or velvet. As a gift the black rose, after its first novelty has worn away, will fit only funeral occasions. Even then its oddity and the extravagance its presence implies, will serve to make it seem unsuitable.

The advent of the black rose will be an event, a triumph of botanical chemistry, a subject for learned discussion, and some more or less tedious frivol. But, after that—what? Who really wants a black rose?

Charleston [SC] News and Courier 17 February 1910: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To-morrow is, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, World Goth Day. While previously Mrs Daffodil thought that the day was to celebrate European barbarians who opposed Imperial Roman rule, this year she knows better and was ready with this post about the Goth’s favourite posy: the black rose.

It is curious that the alleged inventor is not named in the piece above; Mr Luther Burbank, the distinguished American horiculturalist was always cited as the ne plus ultra of plant breeders, but even he did not breed a black rose.

Two gentleman, both Russian, were named in the British and United States press as the inventor of the black rose.

The honor of making the black rose belongs to an amateur horticulturist—Mr. Fetisoff, of Voronezh, Russia. Mr. Fetisoff has accomplished what professional horticulturists for fifty years have been striving for. They have tried again and again and the wisdom of years has been combined in their efforts and yet they have never succeeded in producing a rose whose petals were absolutely black.

Mr. Fetisoff is guarding the secret of the existence of his black rose with religious care. The Evening Times [Washington DC] 2 July 1898: p. 6

and

A Russian nurseryman, named Seraphimoff, has actually produced a black rose….One would suppose that the admixture of manganese in the soil in which roses or tulips are grown would produce a purple shade in the flowers, but how black, which isn’t recognized as a color, can be developed, one utterly fails to understand.

The name Seraphimoff, is suspiciously religious. One fears that a sacrilegious nature faker is abroad. The word “seraphim” is one not to be used in jokes. The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 19 May 1908: p. 20

Experts who commented on these stories suggested that a black rose might be produced by intensive cross-breeding, or “culture in highly medicated soils.” The cultivar is said to exist in nature in Tibet and in Turkey; outside of nature, they may be purchased at Cartier, in onyx.  If Mrs Daffodil had to guess its meaning in the “language of flowers,” the black rose might signify, “I adore your skull jewellery and your jet lip-stick.” or “You are dead to me.”

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.

 

A Haunted Apple Tree: 1800s

A HAUNTED APPLE TREE

Murder Committed Under It and Now Its Fruit is Streaked Blood Red.

“It is probable that the town of Douglass, Mass., alone belongs the reputation of having a haunted apple tree,” writes Samuel S. Kingdon, in the Ladies’ Home Journal. “The tradition of the town is that a foul murder was committed in the orchard many years ago, and that since then it has been haunted by the spirit of the victim. As the story goes, a peddler, whose custom it was to sell goods from house to house from a pack, laid down to rest at midday under a tree in the orchard, and before the day was ended he was found with a cruel gash in the neck, from which his life blood had ebbed away. Suspicion rested on the owner of the orchard and he was said to have been constantly followed by the spirit of the victim. In an attempt to escape from its dreaded presence he moved away. Then the apparition became a terror to all who had occasion to pass over the road at night. So potent was its influence—standing, as it had a habit of doing, under the apple tree, with one hand at its throat and the other extended as though seeking aid, and uttering shrill cries that could be heard half a mile away—that the location of the highway was changed, and it is now a long distance from the orchard. The old trees still bear fruit, and the apples from the one beneath which the peddler was killed are said to be streaked with red, resembling blood, the streaks extending from skin to core.”

Our Horticultural Visitor: A Quarterly Journal Devoted to the Individual Interests of the Practical Horticulturists Everywhere, August 1900

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, good gracious. We all look forward to the spring blossoming of the apple trees, but one does not expect to find one’s pippin Exhibit A in a murder trial.

It is curious how often peddlers are murdered and then haunt the spot of their demise. Given their peripatetic nature, one would expect them to gather up their spectral packs and continue their rounds, but no—they must needs annoy the people in the neighbourhood of their death, such as the Fox Sisters, who called up the rapping spirit of a murdered peddler buried in the cellar. The sisters launched Spiritualism on the strength of this phantom peddler. Some say (and the sisters both confessed and recanted) that they made the rappings by popping their toe joints. Still, when the cellar of the Fox homestead was dug out many years later, a skeleton and a tin peddler’s box were found concealed in the walls…

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.

 

Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914

1906 Floral Tribute for a member of the Elks.

1906 Floral Tribute for a member of the Elks.

To-day, Mrs Daffodil (since she cannot exactly say that she is “pleased to welcome”) once again yields the floor to that funereal person over at Haunted Ohio, Chris Woodyard.  One supposes it is useless to suggest a change of climate, subject, or temperament to a writer so entrenched in the subfusc world of Victorian mourning, but Mrs Daffodil will gently note that a holiday in some sunny Mediterranean country might be cheering.  Mrs Woodyard will address the history of grave concerns over grotesqueries in funeral flowers.

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Flowers are an appropriate symbol for the excesses of the Victorian funeral. Newspapers documenting large funerals would note the details of these sometimes bizarre floral arrangements and their donors as if keeping score and setting a societal standard for the next bereaved family. The florists claimed that floral excess was a result of customer demand; the public, in turn, said that the pressure arose from over-zealous florists. There were also dark whispers about innocent flowers being tortured into strange and unnatural shapes.

Some trade journals made an effort to stem the tide of truly hideous design by publishing the damning details of floral tributes that they felt were beyond the pale. A Chicago correspondent to The Garden minced no words about current trends:

Floral Gargoyles.

 Here, in America, is the home of the grotesque as well as of the picturesque. Aristocracy and democracy jostle each other, and aristocracy gets the worst of it. We had a bad boiler explosion here lately, and among the emblems sent to a victim’s funeral was a floral clock set for the hour of the explosion! A theatrical treasurers’club sent a floral pass, ‘Admit one.’ Let us hope it was recognised. Gates ajar, open windows with plaster doves thereon, and tawdry wire frames showing through pillows of red and yellow flowers, all tend to vulgarise funerals, and to inspire the words ‘no flowers.’ When the city council is inaugurated, then are the florists busy. Gigantic keys, Indian clubs, desks, chairs, all are on hand, all of natural flowers distorted to suit perverted tastes. We need a renaissance in art to strike the florists here, and strike them hard. The Garden 1 June 1901: p. 385

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Funeral “set pieces” generally fell into several categories: wreaths, pillows, and sprays—and, said the critics, monstrosities. Some of the latter had evocative titles and florist supply catalogues carried wire frames to create the more elaborate arrangements such as “Faith, Hope, and Charity,” (an anchor, cross, and heart) “The Sad Hour” (a floral clock); “The Broken Wheel,” “The Harp,” (or lyre) and “Gates Ajar,” an exceptionally popular design. Stuffed doves, often used to accessorize the “Gates Ajar” arrangements, could be purchased or leased.

"Gates Ajar" arrangement topped with a star.

“Gates Ajar” arrangement topped with a star.

For this next story of a client who desired a floral horse’s head with real glass eyes, I’m afraid I do not have an illustration. Perhaps these rather ghastly arrangements for deceased members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will give an idea of what the ultimate effect might have been.

A floral arrangement given by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks for a deceased member. 1906

A floral arrangement given by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks for a deceased member. 1914

elks-head-funeral-flowers

1906 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks floral tribute.

 

A short time ago a certain prominent and popular business man of Cleveland died after a short illness. A day or two prior to his demise one of his business associates went into a florist’s establishment and made some inquiries concerning funeral flowers, and finally placed an order that to his mind embodied all the desirable attributes of such a piece of work. It was to be emblematic of the business in which the deceased had been engaged, and it had occurred to the would-be purchaser that nothing could better represent that idea, than a floral horse’s head! But being a far-seeing business man, accustomed to keeping his eagle eye on the dim and uncertain future, and knowing that such a novel and original design might present some difficulties to a florist when it came to working out the idea, he had thought it best to take time by the forelock and get things moving in good season! The unhappy florist dodged the issue as long as possible by suggesting that the man might get well, but without success. The businessman knew what he wanted and pretty nearly when he wanted it and so the florist had to go ahead with the monstrosity. It seems to me that for downright grim, ghastly, provident, cold-blooded unsentimentality this party is entitled to the pie foundry. But about the time that a sufficient quantity of black cloth had been laid in, and whilst the florist was racking his brain to obtain a life-like wire frame and fiery and spirited glass eyes to go with the same, the order was changed for something not quite so startling. Possibly the man of unique ideas was sat upon by his colleagues. The American Florist 8 June 1895: p. 1148

The employees of the Postum Cereal Company did not have far to look to find inspiration for a floral tribute for the company founder:

Floral tribute for Charles W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company.

Floral tribute for Charles W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company.

Among the set pieces [at the funeral of Charles W. Post] none attracted more attention or expressed more sincere love than the floral piece given by the employes of the Postum Cereal Company. This is the piece we mentioned first, and which is shown here. The design was made to represent the little barn in which he first began making his food products in 1895. This little white building was carefully cherished by its late owner, and still stands in the beautiful grounds surrounding the Postum Cereal Company’s administration building and general offices at Battle Creek, and is always pointed out to visitors as the place where the business began. Doubtless many of our readers have visited the Postum plant and have seen this little building. The floral design was an especially difficult one to bring out because of the demands of perspective. The piece was made by S.W. Coggan, florist, Battle Creek. It measured 6x5x2 feet, and in its construction 2,285 flowers were used. The background was dark pink carnations; the barn proper white carnations. The outlines and roof were of forget-me-nots; the frame effect of American Beauties, adiantum and asparagus green. Corners of frame over roof, Easter lilies, lilies of the valley and pink Killarney roses. The piece bore the inscription, “From his Employes”

The American Florist, Vol. 42 23 May 1914: p. 936

This “bag-man’s” traveling valise was railed against in 1903, yet was still being included in the pages of funeral flower albums in 1914.

freak-traveling-bag-funeral-flowers

Freak Floral Designs

As an example of how not to do it, the accompanying illustration of a floral traveling bag may be worth a place. The design from which the photograph was taken was made by the Iowa Floral Co., Des Moines, for some local traveling men and gave great satisfaction. The body was of Enchantress carnations, the ribs on top and ends of Lawson, while the handle was of violets.

When an order of this kind comes along it has to be filled, but such freak things are in every way to be deprecated. They are a good deal of trouble to make and use a lot of stock lessening the retailers’ profit unless a very big price is paid. But as to anything pretty or artistic there is absolutely nothing in them. It is not even possible to see a good flower in the whole thing for the carnations are cut short and stemmed and packed just as thickly as possible together. It is devoid of all beauty and no retailers with a sense of the artistic or the uplifting of the trade at heart will encourage the making of such flat, ugly and unprofitable things. As hinted above retailers have not always the last word on such points but the making of this class of goods should be discouraged as far as possible. How much more satisfactory in every way would a pretty wreath or other design be than this, supposing the same amount of money was spent. This kind of “art” is best left to the candy makers and confectioners. It is unworthy the attention of florists.

The American Florist: A weekly journal for the trade, 23 January 1909: p. 1290

The demand for special funeral emblems applicable to the vocation of the deceased oftimes taxes the inventive genius of the florist, and some of the pieces suggested by the surviving friends frequently seem very ridiculous. A butcher in our vicinity, being in condition for a funeral, one of his intimate friends came to order a floral offering and insisted on its being in the form of a cleaver. It occurred to me that such an implement was hardly the proper thing. But no one could tell the road he went or the conditions he would encounter at the end of his route. Perhaps it was the very thing he would need.

A commercial traveler having been assigned a new territory, in the unknown world, I was asked to make a floral grip for his funeral ornamentation, by some of his friends. Did he die of the grip, I asked. Oh, no! but as his satchel was his constant companion, one said, we thought it would be a very appropriate emblem for this sad occasion. Alright, I replied, it shall be made, but will I fill it with light underwear, or do you think something heavier would be needed? Not knowing his destination, they failed to advise, so as a precaution, the man being an acquaintance of mine, I filled the grip with wet moss, which you know has a very cooling effect.

American Florist, Volume 21 1903

And how I wish I had a photograph of this postmaster’s novel floral tribute. Truly something for the dead-letter office!

A Novel Floral Design.

P.R. Quinlan & Co., Syracuse, N.Y., made a novel floral piece, the gift of the employes of the Syracuse post office in memory of Edwin H. Maynard, assistant postmaster. It was a 4-foot panel 24×42 inches containing a canceled envelope. The stamp was in pale colored Lawsons and the cancellation which bore the date of his death was in small blue chenille lettering. Upon the floral letter where the address is usually placed was the inscription, “To our beloved assistant postmaster.” The outline of the envelope was maroon carnations representing the envelope in mourning. The groundwork of the panel was Enchantress carnations trimmed with roses, lilies and swainsona. A.J.B.

The American Florist 30 June 1905: p. 1044

1914 seems to have been a particularly fertile year for bad taste in funeral flowers. Here are a few unusually elaborate specimens:

sad-hours-clock-and-doves-funeral-flowers

This “Sad Hours” arrangement is fully seven feet high.

immense-lyre-funeral-flowersa

To judge by the cupboards on the right, this lyre arrangement is at least five feet high.

Fraternal orders, trade unions, and vocational groups often clubbed together to provide floral tributes with the appropriate theme.

his-last-alarm-fireman-funeral-flowersa design-for-master-house-painters-funeral-flowersa 174a-floral-chair-funeral-flowersa

I cannot read the lettering on the floral chair above–it looks as though someone draped foliage and moss over an actual swiveling office chair and wired on a stuffed dove. Possibly the writing says “Our Mayor?” or “Our Mary?”  Another in the “floral chair” genre was labeled “The Vacant Seat.”

Garish as these arrangements are, they pale by comparison with this last example, a floral tribute to a man whose life was cut short in a terrible accident.

Derrick funeral flowers.

Derrick funeral flowers.

THE PENULTIMATE DESIGN.

In the collection of unique designs, the one shown in the illustration on page 11 is entitled to a place at the front. It represents a derrick in flowers made by Lester F. Benson, an Indianapolis florist, on the order of a committee representing the Structural Iron Workers of America, for one of their members who was killed as a result of his gauntlet catching on the hook as the engine started. The man was lifted thirty feet from the ground before his cry, “Slack down,” was heard, and before the order could be obeyed the glove slipped from his hand, resulting in a fall which broke his neck. The design was made sectionally, to work the same as a real derrick, and the committee insisted on the florist placing a glove on the hook!

Of course no florist maintains that such a design is in anything but the most execrable taste; such gruesomeness is an utter perversion of the idea which prompts the sending of flowers to a funeral. The flowers should carry a message of sympathy, and by their purity and beauty should speak of the life beyond, should contain no suggestion of mundane things, least of all a reference to the route of departure of “the late lamented.” The derrick design appears to be just one step removed from the limit. The man who wishes to accomplish the ultimate no doubt will make for a murder victim some such design as the following: Take two clothing-store wire dummies; fit them out with suits of flowers, instead of cloth; raise the arms of each, one figure leaning forward in the act of firing a flower pistol; bring the left hand of the other toward where a man’s heart is supposed to be, and the right hand to his uplifted head; lean this figure backward. Mount the two figures, in the relationship that will suggest itself, on a base of boxwood or galax and there will be nothing further that can be demanded of the florist, unless with such a design the widow fails to survive the shock.

For the florist who makes monstrosities in flowers it is to be said: Hardly any florist has so poor a conception of the uses of flowers that he suggests any such designs; the florist nearly always simply is carrying out the instructions he receives from his customers, and must either do this or see an order involving a goodly sum go to a competitor. Florists are like others—they are likely to do that which they are best paid for doing, but it is in line for every florist to do something toward turning customers to better things in flowers.

The Weekly Florists’ Review 20 April 1911: p. 10

So much for the customer always being right…

Still, one suspects that, despite the florists’ repeated and bitter condemnation of bad taste, there was money to be made by catering to the vulgar whims of the customer.

These set-piece shaped floral arrangements began falling out of favor around the time of the First World War when Victorian mourning conventions were thought to be less relevant in the face of so many deaths. Immense and garish floral tributes still had their place—at the funerals of gangsters and film stars, but by the mid-1920s they were considered thoroughly old-fashioned.  The only pieces I’ve seen recently which seem to carry on the tradition of shaped floral tributes are U.S. flag panels and floral rosaries designed to hang inside the casket lid.  I have not had the opportunity to ask any modern florists if they ever get requests for flower lyres or for  “Gates Ajar,” but in this Age of Individualism, I suspect that there are still orders for the unorthodox and highly personalized funeral arrangement, sans the stuffed doves.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is sure that we are all very grateful to Mrs Woodyard for revealing these examples of vulgarity in funeral flowers, thus enabling us to avoid embarrassing faux pas at our own obsequies.

For more on funeral flowers, see these posts: “No Flowers” and Corsets and Beer Wagons: Floral Vulgarities, which also appear in The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

 

“No Flowers”: 1891

"Gates Ajar" funeral flower tribute. [private collection.]

“Gates Ajar” funeral flower tribute. [private collection.]

NO FLOWERS AT FUNERAL

But You Can’t Defeat an Enterprising Florist

[Chicago Mail.]

“Remember that that ‘Gates Ajar’ must go up to Brown’s before 9 o’clock to-morrow morning,” said a Wabash-avenue florist to one of his employes the other afternoon, “and don’t forget that it is to be an n.f. affair and that you’ll have to keep our eyes open.”

“What is an n.f. funeral?” I ventured to ask, after the young man addressed had left us.

“No flowers,” sententiously answered the proprietor.

“That means, then, that you are taking flowers to a funeral where they are prohibited?”

“Precisely.”

“Do so frequently?”

“Every day.”

“Then ‘no flowers’ really doesn’t mean no flowers after all, does it?”

“It doesn’t if we can help it—rest assured of that. We are here to sell flowers. The funeral trade forms an important part of our business, and we have to protect ourselves against the anti-floral cranks as best we can. The ‘no flowers’ order is a fashionable fad and nothing else. It originated in New York years ago at a funeral of one of the Vanderbilts, who requested that no flowers should be displayed during his obsequies. I was working for a new York florist at that time, and I well remember what a flutter this innovation caused among the tradesmen in our line of business. They did not care about losing the single Vanderbilt job, but they feared that such an example in the ultra-fashionable world would be followed by its general adoption. Thus a whim of fashion might deal a severe blow to the floral trade. The leading florists immediately held a conference and it was unanimously decided that the great funeral must not be permitted to set the fashion and inaugurate an anti-flowers era. Several very costly and elaborate floral pieces were prepared, but I spite of all we could do the orders of the deceased were obeyed to the letter and we were unable to get a solitary flower inside the Vanderbilt residence. An attempt to bribe the servants failed, as they had received ironclad instructions not to permit a floral offering of any kind whatsoever to be taken inside the house. This ultimatum fell like a wet blanket upon our hopes, but still we determined not to quit the field without making one last bold ‘bluff.’ A magnificent ivy cross was made—one of the finest that ever was seen in this country. I was about six feet high and was composed of a mass of English ivy leaves and tendrils. It represented a good round sum, let me tell you, and a good deal of work. But there was not a bud or a flower in it anywhere. Just before the time appointed for the exercises to begin we took the cross to the Vanderbilt residence, and, as we expected, were stopped at the door by a liveried lackey, who denied us admission.

“But there must be no delay about this matter, we insisted. ‘It must go in and at once. Come now; we have no time to parley with you.’

“’You can not come in.’

“’We must.’

“’I have strict orders not to admit any flowers. I can not do it.’

“’But there are no flowers in this. Look at it for yourself. It was built entirely in accordance with the wishes of the family. You have no orders against admitting ivy, have you?’

“He hesitated. Just then something round and hard dropped into his hand. He was lost. A moment later that beautiful cross stood at the head of the casket. I shall always remember the remark of my companion as we left the house: ‘Well, Jim. We’ve beaten the old man cold at his own game.’”

Talk about push and business enterprise! Are there any limits beyond which they can not go?

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 8 August 1891: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “anti-flower cranks” came in several flavours:  reformers who felt that the tributes contributed to the extravagance of Victorian funerals; those who found them vulgar; and those who had medical grounds. Here is an argument from the latter:

The reformers suggest that the notice of the death which appears in the papers should end with the announcement: “No flowers.” A novel argument against the sending of these tributes is that the petals of the flowers serve to keep the germs which are given off from the dead body, and in the case of people who died from infectious diseases they may become a positive source of danger, and…be absolutely death dealing. Then again the custom of preserving these wreaths is denounced by many medical men, who contend that they, containing as they do morbific bacteria, are a constant source of danger and a menace to the healthy life of those who afterward occupy the rooms. Evening Star [Washington, DC] 14 February 1891: p. 12

“No Flowers at Funeral” is an excerpt from The Victorian Book of the Dead, which contains other stories about floral tributes at funerals in its look at the popular culture of Victorian death and mourning.

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.