Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1889

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The Decoration of Tables at the present time is almost universal, and so does the taste for it grow and develop, that what was formerly left in the hands of the head servants in large establishments, who had no difficulty in packing the heavy epergnes with fruit or flowers, now forms a wide field of labour for artistic taste and skill. Hostesses in the season vie with each other as to whose table shall be the most elegant, and often spend almost as much upon the flowers as upon the dinner itself, employing for the floral arrangement people who make a profession of this pleasant occupation. Home decoration is practised by those who have the time, and we can imagine no household duty more attractive to the ladies of the house than that of making their tables beautiful with the exquisite floral produce of the different seasons, exercising their taste in devising new ways for employing the materials at their command. Young people should have the task of arranging flowers encouraged, and be allowed to assist in decorating the table. Care should be taken not to overload the table with flowers and ornaments.

Plant Decoration.—Where the means of the housekeeper or the supply of flowers is limited, delicate-looking ferns, Japanese dwarf trees, and other plants suitable for table use may be employed, for they look in many cases as pretty as flowers, unless the latter be most tastefully arranged. Maidenhair looks perhaps prettier than ordinary ferns, but will not stand the heat of a dinner-room so well. The plants should be placed in vases, which may be of any material, preferably china, and, if possible, of a pattern that will match the dinner service. Although rather old-fashioned, the rustic glass stands, lined with plate glass, are extremely pretty. Other pretty small plant or fern vases may be had of terra-cotta and coloured china.

Flowers for Decoration should be those which are not very strongly scented. To some the perfume of such flowers as gardenias, stephanotis, hyacinths and others is not offensive, but to others the strong scent in a heated room, especially during dinner, is considered very unpleasant. Otherwise, there is no dictating what the flowers should be. It is well to avoid many colours in one decoration, for, even if well grouped, they are seldom as effective as one or two mixed with white and green. It is a fashion to have a single colour for a dinner-table decoration, this being often chosen of the same tint as the