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Bouquets / Flowers

Better Homes and Gardens, February 1933

Author: Helen Field Watson .... South Dakota

ONE may have bouquets the year round and not feel wasteful. I might mention that I have some memories of bouquets which are quite as vivid as the flowers I looked at but half an hour ago. Perhaps they were accidental masterpieces or maybe some one feature in their makeup - the color, or the fitness of the flowers to the vase, or often, I suspect, an appeal to the fragrance, or a special affection for the person who presented them - commended them to my attention while they lasted and fixed them in my memory long after they faded.  There is one bouquet, I say "is" intentionally, for it seems to be ever - lasting, of a clump of Choke Cherry catkins and one pink tulip. Another is a fragrant, pink - white mass of apple blossoms, just as a student brought them in and pressed them into my robin's -  egg blue pottery vase till I should have time to arrange them. The bouquet was perfect with one scraggly twig reaching far out to the side. I did not rearrange them nor do I now in my memory.

     Another of memory bouquets is a gorgeous mass of happy sprays which two happy boys and I collected on a jaunt, by a lazy, leaf - covered creek. There are dogwoods, sumach, wahoo, gooseberry, currant, bittersweet, with all the shades of yellow, coral and red - a mass of ripened sunshine. I remember that I was jubilant as I carried it to my room the next morning. I met an early visitor with "Isn't this a marvelous bouquet?" His reply, "I don't see the flowers" may have been intended for a rebuke to my enthusiasm. Must bouquets be made of flowers?

Have you ever watched larch leaves grow? Perhaps you have felt the wonderment which I saw expressed on the face of a boy who brought me, one March morning, some of these dry, gray, very dead - looking twigs with tiny barrel - like protrusions at frequent intervals. They bore, dainty, half - inch cones. "They're dead, aren't they?" he asked. "We'll put them in water," I said, "and wait." We had not long to wait, for they soon began to draw up water. One day I called Bernard's attention to the larch twigs. Tiny bunches of needles like soft, round, green brushes protruded from each little gray "barrel".  He had the same expression which I am sure the hostess at the wedding of Cana wore. He, too, had witnessed a miracle.  Not long ago I saw a stage of the cultivated larch which delighted me almost as much as Bernard had been delighted. I had used twigs bearing the tiny cones for winter bouquets, but not till that morning in early June had I seen the new cones. They are like rose-colored wax flowers all ready for the Christmas candles to be inserted. The larches are our only deciduous conifers.

     The little staminate catkins of the birch form in the autumn and hang on the trees in the winter, hard and brown.  In spring they continue to lengthen, become pendant and graceful; the tiny scales open and emit a quantity of pollen.  If young people do not understand the process of seed formation in plants, the birch has excellent flowers to use for observation of this happening. They will be eager to know the details of these two kinds of flowers, of the pollen grain, of the staminate flower growing into the ovule of the pistillate flower before a seed can be formed.

Even more graceful than the catkins on these frail brown-birch twigs are their fine - cut,  pale green leaves when they begin to unfold. Why we think we must have Pussy Willow catkins in the spring rather than birch, or aspens, or white poplar, I cannot understand. Perhaps it is because willows are common to most localities. Certainly birch twigs have an ease of arrangement and a grace of fragility which the willows do not have.  But get acquainted with the poplars which are also of the willow family. The Aspens and the White Poplar, so commonly used for street planting, also have showy catkins, more furry, pinker, and more pendulous, than the willow pussies. In early spring I like to find a clump of aspen trees on top of a rise of ground. Dressed in their catkins they sway in their spring breeze with all the grace of slender young girls who play but do not know what they are seen. If you cannot stay with them out - of - doors, gather a few twigs for a vase which has lavender or pink tones.  The early spring is the time to use these vases which are impossible for most summer flowers because of their excess of color.

     In March in our Northern States bring some bare elm twigs and the rich red Soft Maple branches with their tiny red buds. Evenly the slovenly boxelder has a place in my spring bouquets. I can feel almost gentle toward a boxelder in spring because it blooms earlier and bears leaves earlier than any of its more aristocratic neighbors. Elm blossoms, maroon and gold, are even prettier than those of the boxelder, and the twigs are far more graceful.  If you have placed twigs of apple, plum, cherry or peach trees in water in March you should have blossoms by April.  They will not be the large - fragrant blooms you get out-of-doors. Yet they are lovely.

     If you gather bittersweet you need three sprays, two upright ones of different lengths, and one drooping vine.  Cut it - do not twist if off - in July, or as soon, at least, as the green berries are fully grown.  They will open later and disclose the coral - colored berry. But the three - parted outer husk always stays green. The effect is of tiny roses. I recall a bouquet of this early harvest of bittersweet in a Rook - wood vase of dull gray with a tinge of green.

     One can get very little inspiration from the empty seed pods, the dried grasses, the paper posies, and the wax curiosities that recently had a period of popularity in some localities. A bouquet has two values, the charm of beauty expressed in color, form, texture and size - and the idea or impulse conveyed to the one who sees it. Dried empty seed pods express service done. The flower imitations signify the absence of life. They may have all the qualities of beauty (a rather remorse possibility), yet in suggesting no purpose and arousing no impulse,  or worse, in suggesting something unpleasant, fail to fulfill the purpose of a bouquet. Bare twigs have some or all of the qualities of beauty and in addition hint of life in repose about to unfold; they suggest usefulness. Holly, bittersweet, dogwood, and the other berries speak of matured usefulness, fullness. So they bring inspiration. But I like best the spring bouquets with their message of renewed life.

     Bouquets, like people who arrange them, must differ from every other of their kind. That is individuality, personality.  There should be a suitability of the whole arrangement to the occasion and to the material setting. For the aim of art is beauty.  At such a time, Channing's statement, "Beauty of the outward creation is intimately related to the lovely, grand, interesting attributes of the soul," is gratifying.

     Why, is it that students in school and guests in a home notice a bouquet almost as soon as they notice the other people in the room?  You answer this, my answer "We need bouquets" is an evasion.

 

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