Like the Victorians before them, Edwardians were lavish in their use of plants and plant materials for décor. In these great houses, nearly every table and mantelpiece bore flowers or other ornamentation. In fact, flowers were so adored during Victorian times that the Language of Flowers grew to cult status and every floral bouquet carried specific messages and meanings.
In our Dining Room the Language of Flowers takes center stage, with individual floral arrangements gracing each dining chair that were fashioned to share a bit of insight into the personalities and inter-relationships of the six diners at this sumptuous table.
Eva Scott Fenyes
We see Eva as adventurous, curious, astute, and humorous. She had a great love for her family. Her bouquet includes Baby’s Breath for happiness – a trait she shares with Adalbert; a single Magnolia blossom, indicative of dignity and splendid beauty; Larkspur for an open heart; Stephanotis reflecting her love of travel; and Thyme for her strength and courage.
Dr. Adalbert Fenyes
An intellectual with a loving and kind nature, Dr. Fenyes is represented by a selection of Baby’s Breath (happiness) and Stephanotis (love of travel). Camellia indicates our admiration of his achievements and was included in bouquets as a good luck gift to a man. Eucalyptus, indicative of protection, reflects his professional status as a physician.
Leonora shared many of her mother’s traits – adventuresome, independent, and daring. Her bouquet includes Baby’s Breath (happiness), Stephanotis (love of travel), and Thyme (strength and courage). Widowed at a young age, Leonora never remarried, so we have included Forget-me-not for true love and memories.
Leonora “Babsie” Paloheimo
Babsie brings a youthful presence to our table. We have selected stems of Baby’s Breath and Thyme, for the happiness, strength, and courage she derived from her mother and grandmother. White Carnations reflected sweetness and innocence, and were a woman’s good luck gift, and White Hyacinth indicates loveliness.
Miller was one of a select group of artists that Eva Fenyes championed. He used Eva’s studio for several months, and two of his paintings – a portrait of Babsie and a garden scene – are on display in other rooms here. He was apparently happiest when painting lovely young maidens (preferably nude!), so our bouquet includes Baby’s Breath for happiness, Geranium and Ivy for friendship, and a Rose in full bloom for gratitude.
Brown, a painter, was a close family friend. His floral decoration includes Baby’s Breath for happiness, and Geranium and Ivy for friendship. In addition, the Poppy reminds us of the flowers he became known for painting, and the impressive garden at the Brown family’s home. One of his paintings, California Poppies (circa 1920) is on display in Eva’s bedroom in the Fenyes Mansion. Another Brown painting of a young Leonora Curtin is also on view.
Although Poinsettias were introduced to the U.S. from Mexico at the inaugural Philadelphia Flower Show on June 6, 1829, these were aggressive, large plants, not suited to pots. They were sold as long stemmed flowers by Paul Ecke from his shop in Hollywood. He also sold bare root cuttings so that people could grow them in their yards. It took Ecke and his workers years of genetic modification to create the multi-branch, short-stemmed plants we now use in such proliferation during the holidays. Therefore, you will see no potted Poinsettias in Fenyes Mansion, but rather the bright red beauties used for accent as individual floral heads and stems.
Appropriately, Poinsettias are the perfect floral tribute to this festive season, for their meaning is “be of good cheer.”
Edwardian Christmas Décor: Part I was posted on December 6.
– Jeannette Bovard
Experience the elegant 1906 Beaux Arts Mansion with your relatives and friends on a one hour and fifteen minute docent-led tour this holiday season. From now through January 7, 2018, Edwardian style Christmas trimmings embellish the original furnishings downstairs.
Tickets: Members Free; General $15. If you would like to purchase tickets online, click here.