Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/February 1890/Chrysanthemums
EVERY season has its peculiar flowers. Even in our extremely irregular climate there are few times in the year when we can not have some pretty blossom to admire. The explorations that are made into all the quarters of the globe, with importations that have followed them, have endowed our flora with such a number of varieties that we may say we have only to choose from among them to get the handsomest there are. There are few flowers that do not wear an infinite charm, and very few are those which fail to make an impression with their elegant form and fresh colors. Some among them, however, unite in themselves such combinations of qualities that they are lifted above their fellows, and occupy a place of honor among Of these, those that are late in blossoming offer a special interest. Among the plants of this class which the public justly regards with the highest favor are the chrysanthemums. Few plants combine so many desirable qualities as they; abundance of blossom, richness in coloring, elegance of form, and long duration, are some of their leading qualities.
The plant has been known from very ancient times, and the beginning of its cultivation among us dates from several hundred years back; but it was for a long time neglected, and only a few varieties were known, whose small, imperfectly shaped flowers gave no indication of what could be made of them if special attention were given them. Now the varieties are counted by hundreds. Some have been directly imported from China and Japan, but the most of them are of French or English origin. Intelligent sowing and careful selections have given unanticipated results; and several types have been developed which are quite distinct in the form and arrangement of their flower-rays.
The flowers are originally of a similar disposition to those of the field daisies. By cultivation they have been made double that is, all the minute flowers in the center have been endowed with large corollas like those constituting the white border of the daisy. Then the form of the corolla has varied so as to appear under very distinct types. Sometimes the petals curve upon themselves, so as to form a regular large head, as in what are called the Indian chrysanthemums. Others curve outward and give a more open form to the whole, as in the Chinese chrysanthemums. In others, again, the corollas deviate in every direction, constituting an odd, irregular type, but marked with a special artistic elegance, as in the Japanese chrysanthemums.
Chrysanthemums were formerly regarded as garden plants; they are equally house plants. There are few plants so well adapted to the ornamentation of our dwellings, whether they are treated as cut flowers or pot plants. For bouquets, only the orchis can rival them in lasting qualities. If cut in full bloom and kept in water, they will last two or three weeks; but the water should be renewed often, and kept pure with charcoal. Bouquets of exceeding elegance can be made of chrysanthemums. The flowers should be cut with as long stems as possible, and placed, after stripping the leaves from the lower ends, in a wide-mouthed vase (Fig. 1). The bouquet then has the appearance of a sheaf in which each flower displays its full beauty, and, by contrast of color and form, heightens the effect of its neighbor. A special business is made of growing flowers for these bouquets. In this cultivation all the flowers except the terminal one are suppressed on every branch, whereby the flower that is left reaches a large size. The plants thus treated are cultivated under glass, and copiously manured in order to give them great vigor. Flowers have Fig. 1.—Bouquet of Chrysanthemums. been thus produced measuring not less than twenty centimetres in diameter (Fig. 2). Assiduous care is given to all the details in raising these flowers. The petals are fashioned by hand, and are given the desired curvature, and put in determined positions by the aid of ivory pincers. A single flower thus produced will bring from two to four shillings.
The effort to produce such exaggerated specimens can, however, not be regarded as a well-directed one. Overgrown flowers lose in beauty, and extreme regularity of shape is obtained at the expense of grace, and of the great charm of the flower, which lies chiefly in an unexpected novelty of form, and the special stamp of Fig. 2.—Large Chrysanthemums (reduced). originality that gives each blossom an expression of its own. We might as well make them out of paper at once as treat them so that they shall all be alike.
The November chrysanthemum exhibitions of the horticultural societies are growing in. The superb plants that are now shown at them are counted by the thousand. The house of Levêque, which obtained the chief prize at a recent exhibition of the National Horticultural Society of France, had six hundred distinct varieties.
Europeans are not alone in their admiration of beautiful flowers. Some other people, having a fine artistic taste, entertain an enthusiasm for them that rises to a passion. With the Japanese, who love flowers above every other decoration, the chrysanthemum holds the place of honor, and, as the golden chrysanthemum, is the highest national decoration. It is usual with them to name women after flowers, and "Madame Chrysanthemum" is much favored. A custom prevails among them at chrysanthemum-time of covering human
figures with a coating of clay and arranging chrysanthemums upon them, in colors, in imitation of their dress-goods; these manikins may represent men playing some scene of action (Fig. 3), or women making or offering tea (Fig. 4). The figures are placed on exhibition, and an admission fee is charged for seeing them.
Not all chrysanthemums can be cultivated here in the open air. Some of the choicest varieties, true to their Eastern origin, are too tender for our chilly autumns, and need to be sheltered. But they pay well for the attention, by preserving a brighter verdure, and fresher and more brilliant colors. Some effort has been made, by heading in and otherwise trimming the plants, to make them grow into particular shapes, but the practice has not become very extensive.
Chrysanthemums thus combine the advantage of blooming in the autumn and late into the winter, and submitting to various trimmings, and assuming diverse aspects. The cultivation of
them will, no doubt, go on increasing, for they are justly, on account of the many desirable qualities they combine, appreciated very highly.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from La Nature.