(posted for future reference)
I was reading the New York Times account of "the" Mrs. Astor's daughter's wedding in 1884
*. The wedding description included descriptions of all the flowers**. The front parlor held "two bunches of choice pink roses set off with the costly Farleyeuse [sic] fern." I was curious about that costly fern, so I decided to track it down . It took some doing because of the misspelling. Somewhere in the transcription and transmission process a "u" turned into an "n".
Farleyense is now known to be a cultivar rather than a species; it was discovered in Barbados in 1865
. I found pictures
in the Online Plant Guide. It's an exquisite thing, densely packed with leaves and with each leaf subtly shaded from green to pink tips. You can see that it would be very pretty with pink roses.
The American Journal of Horticulture and Florist's Companion v. 6
(no date) comments that it "must for many years continue to be valuable; for it can only be increased by division, and the few who have plants rather prefer to keep them intact as specimens than to tear them up for multiplication." This, together with the slow growth habit mentioned in the Online Plant Guide, would explain its rarity. I assume that the ferns mentioned in the wedding notice must have been in pots surrounding the cut roses.
* "The" Mrs. Aster was Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, who came from an old Dutch family, then the highest society in New York, and married into the then-upstart new-money Astors. She was the lady whose associate, Ward McAllister, coined the idea of the 400, the most elite people in New York. 400, not so coincidentally, was the number of people her ballroom accommodated.
** The reporter lays emphasis on the expensiveness of the flowers: "Palms and ferns and creeping plants, roses and orchids, lilies and violets, carnations and marguerites, filled every part of the house..." The wedding was in mid-November, so the garden plants listed would have been out of season. Carnations used to be one of the most expensive of flowers rather than, as now, one of the cheapest. I wonder what changed in cultivation.