The first thing to be considered in arranging cut flowers is the vase.
If it is scarlet, blue, or many-colored, it must necessarily conflict with some hue in your bouquet. Choose rather pure white, green, or transparent glass, which allows the delicate stems to be seen. Brown Swiss wood, silver, bronze, or yellow straw conflict with nothing. The vase must be subordinate to what it holds.
A bowl for roses. Tall-spreading vases for gladiolus, fern, white lilies, and the like. Cups for violets and tiny wood flowers. Baskets for vines and gay garden blossoms. A flower-lover will in time collect shapes and sizes to suit each group.
Colors should be blended together with neutral tints, of which there are abundance: whites, grays, purples, tender greens, and which harmonize the pinks, crimsons, and brilliant reds into soft unison.
Certain flowers assort well only in families, and are spoiled by mixing. Of these are balsams, holly-hocks, and sweet peas, whose tender liquid hues are as those of drifting sunset clouds. Others may be massed with good effect. In arranging a large basket or vase it is well to mentally divide it into small groups, making each group perfectly harmonious with itself, and blending the whole with green and delicate colors.
And, above all, avoid stiffness. Let a bright tendril or spray of vine spring forth here and there, and wander over and around the vase at its will.
The water should be warm for a winter vase cool, but not iced, for a summer one. A little salt or a bit of charcoal should be added in hot weather, to obviate vegetable decay, and the vase filled anew each morning. With these precautions your flowers, if set beside an open window at night, will keep their freshness for many hours even in July, and reward by their beautiful presence the kind hand which arranged and tended them.
– Taken from Scribners monthly Aug 1871