This guide explores the career of the fashionable Fifth Avenue florist and seedsman Max Schling (1874-1943). During the first half of the twentieth century, Max Schling, Inc. of New York, New York was the undisputed aristocrat of America's floral industry. Schling, a master of self promotion and targeted marketing, deftly served the extravagant demands of his wealthy clientele, including many stage and screen stars, for opulent and outrageously expensive bouquets. His customers from Wall Street to Broadway helped to make Max Schling a rich man, but his colorful and irrepressible personality never changed. Schling's impact on the lifestyle of New York's urban sophisticates is best summarized in one line found in the text of James McCourt's celebrated book Queer Street: Rise and Fall of an American Culture (W. W. Norton, 2003) where McCourt writes of those times: "And of course flowers by Max Schling-nobody else will do."
Max Schling's florist store and office were located in the Savoy Plaza Hotel (now the site of the General Motors building and Apple store) with branches in the Hotel Plaza and Essex House. His seed business was located nearby at 618 Madison Avenue. He also owned the Crestwood greenhouses in Yonkers, New York. The neighborhood of New York's Grand Army Plaza at the intersection of 59th Street and 5th Avenue, from which Schling conducted business, is often regarded as the most elegant urban landscape in the Americas. In the era between the two world wars, Max Schling held court in midtown Manhattan and his magnificent floral displays at the annual International Flower Show at the Grand Central Palace were celebrated events not to be missed.
Schling was an expert horticulturalist and chairman of the Foundation of Floriculture of the New York Botanical Garden Floriculture Association. He was particularly devoted to the education of young people. He established a scholarship fund at Cornell University for students of horticulture and also sponsored vocational training for florists in the New York City high schools. Schling was a close friend of Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954), the partiarch of botany at Cornell. The Max Schling papers are on deposit at Cornell and a cataloging record of his papers is available here. Max Schling married his wife Louise, an immigrant from Germany, in 1904. The couple was married for thirty nine years and had two children, a daughter and a son. His son Max Schling, Jr. continued the business after his father's death in 1943.
Now through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the seed catalogs of Max Schling, Inc. have been digitized, cataloged and added to the web site of the Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden, providing garden lovers around the world with inspiration and enjoyment. The complete holdings of the digitized seed catalogs from Max Schling, Inc. in Mertz Digital and BHL may be viewed here and here.
Max Schling was born on March 1, 1874 in the town of Oberzerke about seventy miles from Vienna, Austria. A childhood illness temporarily affected his vision and outdoor work was prescribed by his physician. His parents enrolled the young Max in the Vienna Agricultural School from which he graduated in two years. No longer affected by impaired eyesight, Max's talent and skills impressed several botantists at the school whose favorable references secured a job for Max at the Vienna Botanical Gardens. Max rose rapidly within the gardening ranks and was promoted to foreman by the age of sixteen. He spent his Sundays walking in the Vienna Woods, where he would pick flowers and artfully arrange them into stunning bouquets. He then placed his creations along the carriage roads in the woods where he hoped they would be noticed by the wealthy aristocrats of the Hapsburg capital.
As fate would have it, one day a particularly resplendent carriage was passing by a Schling bouquet when the occupants ordered their coachmen to stop. Attracted by the flowers, the lady asked her attendants to fetch them for her. Max Schling alertly bounded out from his concealed position behind some nearby shrubs and scooping up the nosegay dashingly presented the blooms to the lady in the carriage, revealing to her that he had himself artfully arranged the bouquet. At this a shout of indignation arose from the nobleman in the carriage who announced to Schling that he was the aristocrat who owned the park from which Max had been harvesting his flowers and that the lady was Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Emperor Franz Josef.
Empress Elisabeth, perhaps attracted by Max's impulsive nature which was not unlike her own, as well as enchanted by the teenage Max's talent with floral arrangements, soon hired him to fashion royal corsages at the Schonbrunn Palace. The Empress once asked Max how he had learned to arrange flowers so beautifully? Max responded simply: "I just put the ones together that belong together." Later Max would create the wedding bouquet for Grand Duchess Marie Valerie, daughter of Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth. Empress Elisabeth, endearingly called Sissi by her subjects, was a fairy-tale beauty who was portrayed by the artist Franz Winterhalter with diamond stars in her long, chestnut brown hair. Today her portrait is displayed in a place of honor in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. The memory of Empress Elisabeth continues to fascinate the Austrian people and her untimely death at the hands of an assassin in 1898 only added to her mystique. Long after her violent death her life was celebrated through the popular feature films ''Sissi" (1955) starring Romy Schneider and "Mayerling" (1968) in which Empress Elizabeth was portrayed by Ava Gardner.
The patronage of the Empress brought Max several important landscaping commissions from other members of the Austrian nobility. Impressively he spent over two years designing and executing the grounds of a one-hundred-and-fifty acre park near Vienna for a count. The death of Empress Elisabeth cut short Max Schling's tenure as imperial florist and motivated him to start a journey to the city that would be his destiny. Leaving Vienna in 1899 he booked passage on a ship bound for Brazil, intent on exploring the tropics for new plant species. The ship's first port of call was the City of New York.
Once again fate arranged for the extraordinary to happen to Max Schling. On September 30, 1899, as Max Schling disembarked from his steam ship on his first day in the New World, he saw a gathering of humanity such as had not occured on earth since the Triumphs of Ancient Rome. America's Great White Fleet had arrived in New York harbor steaming robustly up the Hudson River past Grant's Tomb, a scene commemorated on the covers of Peter Henderson's nursery and seed catalog for 1900. Admiral Dewey, his officers and sailors fresh from their overwhelming military victory in the Far East, received a spectacular heroes welcome home from an estimated five million Americans. The crowds lined the streets and promenades of New York City for miles hoping to catch a glimpse of their new national hero. The John Philip Sousa Band led the parade on land and Admiral Dewey acknowledged the cheers of his admirers from an elegant horse drawn carriage. Historians agree that on that day, while Stars and Stripes Forever resounded through the canyons of Wall Street, the City of New York became the world's greatest stage and Max Schling knew that the world's greatest stage would need flowers!
Impressed by the Dewey Victory Parade, Schling gave up any idea of continuing his journey to Brazil. Instead, that day, Max vowed to go to City Hall and apply for American citizenship. Many years later, in 1941, the New York World Telegram published an amusing anecdote of Max's first day in New York. Max was reported to have acquired a working knowledge of English from reading an English language book during his voyage to America. Max immediately applied his new language skills by asking a stranger: "As party of the first part, could you direct the party of the second part to City Hall?" Max had learned the English language from a law book.
With little money but blessed with an irresistible smile, a Viennese accent, and a sunny disposition, Max Schling went to work in New York's flower district. He soon saved enough money, about $35, to rent his own flower shop at 6th Avenue and Fifty-sixth Street. He cultivated his first customers from among the nearby young artists living in the legendary Sherwood Studios of 57th Street. Artists like James Preston, his wife Mary Wilson Preston and Robert W. Van Boskerck found Schling's color combinations and floral arrangements to be wonderful artistic subjects. ["Streetscapes/The 1880 Sherwood Studios, Once at 57th and Sixth; Building That Was 'the Uptown Headquarters of Art" New York Times, August 9, 1998.]
Max was an immediate success, earning over $10,000 during his first year in business. Among his innovations, Schling is credited with having introduced New Yorkers to the custom of decorating tables with a floral centerpiece, something that has become a standard decorative accessory at special occasions ever since. In fact one account has it that it was a Schling centerpiece that first brought him to the attention of New York's social elite. A recently hired delivery boy is said to have mistakenly delivered a Schling centerpiece to the residence of Mrs. Augustus D. Juilliard rather than the intended customer who lived nearby. Mrs. Juilliard was so impressed with the flowers that she called Schling and said that while she had not ordered any flowers she would like to keep the centerpiece. Schling recognized a good thing when he saw it and thereafter made it a habit to "misdeliver" his flowers to important addresses. Schling would then call and apoligize for the misdelivery and offer to take the flowers back, but frequently the offer was declined. The righthand sidebar to this LibGuide has illustrations and details about Max Schling's popular floral arrangements and centerpieces.
In 1909 Schling opened his florist shop at the Plaza Hotel (moving across the street to the Savoy Plaza in 1927) and his seed business at 618 Madison Ave in 1914. He was the first florist to grow pansies, sweet peas and snapdragons in winter. African daisies were first grown in America by Schling in 1905. He spent eighteen years breeding a four leaf clover variety that would not revert to the common three leaf clover. Max proudly introduced his four leaf clover discovery to the public by announcing it as "the latest triumph of horticulture." Perhaps the popularity of Schling's four leaf clover variety inspired songwriters Mort Dixon and Harry Woods in 1927 to pen the lyrics and melody of the song "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover".
In 1910 Max and a handful of other florists started the enormously successful Florists' Telegraph Delivery service or FTD. By recruiting hundreds of independent florists across the nation into a network linked by the new telecommunications technology of telephone and telegraph, Max transformed the industry. Max saw FTD not only as an American network but also as a global enterprise. Max recruited florists around the world for FTD by writing to every American consular office in the world asking them for the names of the best florists in each foreign city. Many years later, telephone orders remained the mainstay of Schling's business. Life Magazine, which published an article about Max Schling's shop at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in its June 12, 1944 issue, reported that Schling's store is rarely crowded since 95% of its orders are by telephone. [Life visits a flower shop, Life Magazine, June 12, 1944 pp 118-121] The Life article featured memorable photography by Alfred Eisenstaedt that showed New Yorkers peering into Schling's iconic store windows on Fifth Avenue. (Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph "The V-J Day Sailor and Nurse Kiss" was printed about a year later also in Life Magazine.)
While success didn't always come right away to Max Schling, usually his good taste and persistence paid off in the end. When Max Schling arrived in America men wore all sorts of flowers in their lapels including roses. However Max thought that only one flower/color combination, a deep dark red Bordeaux carnation was suitable. He tried to promote his idea by pining a dark red carnation to the lapel of every man who purchased anything from his store. Most men wore the flower for an hour then discarded it without a thought. Many years later in 1924 Max, who was by then the most important florist in New York and still not willing to accept defeat, sent the visiting Prince of Wales a dark red carnation. The flower appealed to the Prince and he wore it in his lapel all over the city creating a new fashion sensation. The lasting fashion consequences of this Max Schling episode is recognizable in the recently published biography of the late Oscar de la Renta (1932-2014), who recalled that at the start of his career "I became a señorito—an upper-class dandy with my custom-made suit, high starched collars, and always a red carnation in my buttonhole,” he laughed, adding, “But it had to be the right red: only very, very dark would do." [The Making of an Icon: Sarah Mower on Oscar de la Renta’s Early Years Vogue October 21, 2014]
Max Schling is also associated with an American celebration which seems timeless but is barely over a century old - Mother's Day. In 1907 Anna Jarvis promoted the idea of honoring Mom with a special day each year. Nobody was foolish enough to object and in 1914 President Wilson proclaimed the first national Mother's Day.
Anna Jarvis had initially advanced the idea of honoring Mom by writing a thoughtful letter to mother expressing the gratitude of the family. Others including the American War Mothers suggested presenting mothers with a simple white carnation. Max Schling would have none of it; a letter or even a single white carnation were both inadequate. Instead he proposed the gift of elaborate corsages and basket arrangements of flowers as much more suitable. To those who grumbled that Mother's Day was a commercial stunt by the florist industry Max pointed out that gifts of candy, jewelry and clothing are also frequently given to mothers on their special day and besides there was nothing wrong in turning a profit from an honorable tribute to America's mothers.
Max Schling's business continued to grow, eventually reaching 11,000 accounts at his florist shop and 47,000 accounts at his seed business. Among his numerous celebrity clients, according to an interview he once gave to the New York Sun, was the Broadway impressario Florenz Ziegfeld who often sent huge boxes of flowers to his wife Billie Burke and to the leading ladies of his shows on opening nights. The Mdivani brothers were also great customers. David, Serge and Alexis , known as the "Marrying Mdivanis" were wealthy aristocratic exiles who fled their native Georgia after the Soviet invasion of their country in 1921. The Mdivanis' penchant for marrying fame and money was a favorite subject of gossip columnists. Schling recalled in an interview that they thought nothing of sending twenty five or thirty orchids to their girlfriends. Schling's best customer was the American business tycoon F.W. Woolworth. Woolworth hired Schling to decorate a massive celebration held on the occasion of the opening of the Woolworth Building skyscraper in 1913. Max decorated an entire upper floor of the skyscraper for Woolworth and his 1,400 guests. There was a tent of foliage over the 250 tables, each table was decorated with red roses and each feminine guest was supplied with a corsage. In addition each guest got a potted four leaf clover plant as a souvenir. Schling managed the job on three days notice and his bill was in excess of $75,000! ($1.78 million in 2015 dollars [US BLS CPI Inflation Calculator 1913-2015]. Perhaps Schling's most notorius customer was Barbara Hutton (1912-1979). Hutton was coincidentally the grandaughter of F.W. Woolworth. Barbara’s father was Franklyn Laws Hutton (1877–1940), a wealthy co-founder of E. F. Hutton & Company (owned by Franklyn’s brother Edward Francis Hutton), a major New York investment banking and stock brokerage firm. Max Schling was hired to decorate Barbara Hutton's debutante ball at the Ritz Hotel (Madison and 46th Street). Max transformed the hotel into a romantic woodland landscape filled with birch trees, moss, rocks and everywhere flowering woodbine. Guests included members of the Rockefeller and Astor families and entertainment was provided by Rudy Vallee and Maurice Chevalier. The ball took place in the depths of the depression on November 14, 1930, and Max Schling's bill was $18,000! ($426,000 in 2015 dollars) [US BLS CPI Inflation Calculator, 1930-2015] The resulting outrage by the American public at a time of mass unemployment and bread lines caused Hutton to be shipped overseas on a world tour by her parents to escape the threats and bad publicity in New York. Curiously in 1933, Barbara Hutton married Alexis Mdivani, the first of her seven husbands. As noted above Mdivani was another excellent customer of Max Schling's.
While Max Schling enjoyed the acclaim of society's rich and powerful, he also relished playing the role of Cupid. Romance, of course, has always been an essential ingredient in the florist's business yet somehow Max's charming Viennese accent and puckish personality made his performance so much more believable. A Max Schling Valentine's Day story printed in 1941 and pulled from the newspaper clippings file of the Mertz Library contains all the elements of sentimentality that we have come to associate with that day. Max recalled that on Valentine's Day in 1901 a handsome young Englishman dressed in a cutaway coat with cane and silk hat was walking on Fifth Avenue in New York when a gust of wind blew his hat off his head and into the carriage of a young girl. She was holding a bouquet of violets and when she handed him back his hat she dropped the violets. He asked if he could have them and she anwered yes and then drove away. Then the young man entered Max Schling's Fifth Avenue shop and asked Max to fill his silk hat with violets. Of course Max happily obliged and the young man sent his violet-filled hat to the young girl. The next Christmas Eve the couple married. Thereafter every Valentine's Day, Christmas Day, their wedding anniversary day and on her birthday, the Englishman returned to Max Schling's shop and had the old silk hat filled with violets for her.
Max Schling was a genius at self promotion and seldom missed an opportunity to cleverly grab the attention of his audience whether in person or in print. Schling once ran a large ad in the New York Times that was printed entirely in stenographic shorthand. Hundreds of puzzled New York executives clipped the advertisement and brought it to their secretaries for translation. The advertisement, addressed to those very secretaries, was quickly deciphered as "When getting flowers for the boss's wife, remember Schling's florist." The ad is cited by marketing historians as a brilliant piece of targeted marketing, masterfully engaging both the secretary and boss, his two target audiences, with an unforgetable message that produced instant and lasting sales for Schling.
Despite his success and position as a board member of the American Horticultural Society and chairman of the American Horticultural Society Legion of Honor, Schling remained a incorrigible prankster all his life. He relished performing a practical joke that involved traveling around the United States posing as an itinerant and jobless florist. While horticulturalists and florists around the world recognized his name, most did not know him by sight. Realizing this he would leave New York without notice and journey to another town, perhaps Washington, D.C. or Chicago. Once there he would seek employment as an aging but self-proclaimed talented journeyman florist. Max would knock on the door of the unsuspecting proprietor of a small flower shop and once inside he would try to convince the usually perplexed florist to hire him. When asked for his name he would invent a name or use his favorite alias "Johnny Garden." Often the door was slammed in his face; not infrequently his enthusiastic opinions on how to run a successful horticultural business received the reply of "you're a smart aleck" or "if you know so much why don't you open your own business?" Sometimes he was hired on probation and Max would dazzle his new co-workers and boss with lovely creative floral arrangements that he fashioned effortlessly and with amazing speed. Always he ended his stay in a few hours or at most a day, and then with a bow and a florish, learned from his youthful days on Vienna's elegant Ringstrasse, he announced himself as Max Schling, florist of New York. Simultaneously he handed his business card to the stunned owner of the shop and vanished.
In his book "Everyman's Garden" published by MacMillan in 1935 Max Schling invented a horticultural Roman a clef featuring himself in the guise of two complementary characters. In one role Max is disguised as a recently retired New York businessman turned perplexed Westchester homeowner and garden hobbyist named Peter Martin. Peter finds himself the new owner of Wildwood Farm a four acre property with a large Tudor mansion. (Max himself, in the 1920's, purchased a four acre property with a Tudor mansion in the Westchester hamlet of Scarsdale where he spent some of his leisure time for the rest of his life landscaping and gardening.) Peter wants to beautify his new property with appropriate trees, shrubs and flowers but is confronted with a seemingly endless array of problems and decisions on how to best go about doing it. Enter the remarkable Mr. Plant-Stick whom Peter meets in his local seed store. Mr. Plant-Stick is also called Johnny Garden. Johnny is the botanical deus ex machina Max Schling alter ego who dispenses just the right dose of horticultural knowledge and common sense advice whenever Peter is at a loss. Unbeknownst to Peter Martin, Johnny Garden is also the proprietor of a prestigious plant nursery business on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Besides running a lucrative seed and flower business Johnny delights in traveling incognito to the nearby Westchester and Fairfield suburban countryside rescuing exhausted gardeners from themselves. Like the real life Max Schling Johnny Garden also enjoys the beauty of flowers, the beauty of women and reciting the lyrical German poetry he learned as a youth.
Sometimes Max Schling would gaze out of his office across the showroom of his shop and conjure up a special image of the beautiful; mentally matching flowers with faces of his customers. As a result in one instance he found himself declaring to an elegant customer ,whom he had come to know over a period of many years, "I love you but it does not concern you." The lady, stunned, took a step back and Max explained "From the work of the poet Heine." In the copy of the book "Everyman's Garden" in the Mertz Library, Max Schling autographed the book to just such a friend with the lines:
No flower no matter how beautiful
with the charm of fine womanhood
with sincere good wishes
Flowers Made Schling a Fortune in Friends. New York World-Telegram 14 February 1941. Print.
Harriman, Margaret Case. Profiles: For Any Occasion, Max Schling. The New Yorker, July 18, 1936: 18-23. Print.
Life Visits a Flower Shop. Life Magazine 12 June 1944: pp. 118-121. Print.
McMillan, D.J. , et al. Sunday the World’s Rest Day. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916. Print.
Obituary: Max Schling Dies, Noted Florist, 68, 1874-1943. New York Times 13 February 1943. Print.
Recent Deaths: Max Schling Journal of The New York Botanical Garden Vol. 44 No. 519 March, 1943 p. 76. Print.
Schling, Max. Art in Floral Arrangements. Harrisburg,Pa: J. Horace McFarland Company, 1919. Print.
Schling, Max. The Custom of Having Christmas Trees in Homes. Scarsdale Inquirer [Scarsdale, NY] 22 December 1933. 4. Print.
Schling, Max. Everyman’s Garden. New York: McMillan Company, 1935. Print.
Max Schling, Inc. florist and seedsman, with a store and offices at Grand Army Plaza, New York at 59th Street and 5th Avenune, was a landmark destination for gardeners. Located in perhaps the most beautiful urban landscape in the Americas, his store windows attracted the gawking eyes of New Yorkers from all walks of life. Schling's talent for marketing and showmanship earned him the esteem of his customers and the envy of competitors. It was remarked that "A dozen glads, for which Max Schling extracts a transfusion in New York, sell for a dollar elsewhere." Now only the brittle pages of his catalogs give gardeners a glimpse of the fabulous blooms on display at his store where his regular customers included author Somerset Maugham and impressario Florenz Ziegfield. The captivating art shown here that decorated the covers of Max Schling's annual catalogs entitled "A Book for Garden Lovers" reflect the firm's most prosperous years. By 1937 the lovely domestic images were gone, replaced by a more austere cover that pointed to both the economic malaise of the American nation and the general forebodings of geopolitical developments elsewhere. The color illustrations reproduced below exemplify a distinctive style of botanical art which Americans to this day associate with vintage nursery and seed catalogs. The New York Botanical Garden Mertz Library collection of nursery and seed catalogs is unsurpassed, and now, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, many seed and nursery catalogs from the Mertz Library collection, including those from Max Schling, Inc. have been digitzed and made accessible on the web.
Max Schling catalog covers from the years 1926-1937. Covers from 1926-1936 feature colorful images of homes and gardens. The 1937 cover is plain, featuring only text and no images.
Images LuEsther T. Mertz Library
Max Schling delighted in traveling anonymously from town to town masquerading as the roving plant expert - Johnny Garden.
In his book Everyman's Garden Schling drew on his many years of experience both as a trained horticulturalist and as a wise observer of human nature to write a charming story about gardens and the people who love them. In one episode in the book Max Schling's alter ego Johnny Garden, while on vacation, turns a chance encounter with an exhausted gardener and her twelve year old daughter into an enduring friendship. While the book "Everyman's Garden" was published in 1935 its copyright was not renewed by the publisher and is now in the public domain.
The Gardener by Maxfield Parrish 1906 public domain image - Wikimedia Commons
"Johnny Garden's Vacation"
The name Johnny Garden seems to fit him better than his real name. One of his intimate friends told us a story out of his life, and since that time we feel he is closer to us and our garden. It seems that when he was quite a bit younger he and Mrs. Johnny Garden (as we came to call her) went with their little daughter to a summer resort. In the morning he used to pick wild flowers and had fun in making centerpieces for the different tables in the hotel dining room, or in arranging vases of different kinds of foliage for the lobby. Then he took his wife and his little girl rowing on the lake for a couple of hours. After lunch he spent an hour or so telling stories to his own and other children in the hotel. By two o'clock his youngster was put to bed and her mother was chatting with other women; so he started to wander around the woods. One afternoon he went a distance around the lake where there was a very nice bungalow with a low picket fence. He stepped up to the fence to see the flowers and saw a lady loosening up the soil in the flower beds with a hoe, quite awkwardly. While he was watching her she turned around and said, "It is pretty hard and I am not used to it." He offered to show her how to do it more easily, how to handle the hoe better, and she said she would be glad to have him do so. He jumped over the fence, and before he knew it he had that flower bed finished. While he was doing it she was telling him her troubles. She had had a man coming three times a week for a couple of hours to attend to her flower beds, her paths, and keep the shrubbery group in order; "but," she concluded, "he was a drinking man, and the last week he was worse than ever and I simply could not have him around; so I had to let him go. And now I cannot get any one to take his place. There is no one to hire." "Why, that would be just the thing for me," Johnny Garden said to her. "Only three times a week for a couple of hours-I should like to have a job like that." "Well, could you do it?" she asked, delighted. "I should like to have you if you have the time." He told her that he had a job down the lake in one of the hotels just during his vacation and plenty of time to come over two or three times a week to keep her garden in order. He started right in to work. The lady asked him about the pay. It was a delicate question for Johnny to answer. She helped him by asking if he were a student, and then he fell right in line. "Yes," he said, "it is my last year in college, and this will help me a little. I don't know just what to say. You pay me what you paid the other fellow if you think I am worth it; but hold the money for me until after the season is over, as otherwise I might spend it, and I will need it very much more next winter." Johnny looked younger than his age and the woman thought it was really fine that she could help a young man working his way through college. The lady had a daughter twelve or thirteen years old, by the name of Anne, and at his next appearance Anne was introduced into the picture and he was asked for his name. Not wanting to give his real name, he quickly answered, "John Garden." Johnny Garden carried on his work for three weeks. Off and on he taught Anne how to replant the many wild flowers into her garden, and how to arrange twigs of trees and shrubs with wild flowers in vases; and they became very good friends. One morning Mrs. Johnny Garden told him that she and the other women were invited across the lake to tea, and they would all go over in the launch together the next afternoon. Johhny Garden did not pay much attention to the details and said: "All right; I am going fishing." When Johnny went over to do his job as usual, he did not give the tea party any thought although the woman asked him to arrange a vase of wild flowers on the table in the summer house as she had not had time to do it herself. He went to the garden house to do this. There he found Anne, who had just finished placing some cups and platters of cakes. She followed him about, telling him: "Mother will have company this afternoon, and she is so glad the garden looks so well." Johnny had the last path finished when he heard the chuck, chuck of a motor launch. He looked up and saw it coming across the lake with five or six passengers. One of them wore a big Florentine hat that he recognized as belonging to Mrs. Johnny Garden. Too late it dawned on him--"tea party--tea table--flowers." He had to think quickly. "Will you please go down to the summer house and fill the vase with water?" he asked Anne. "I forgot to do it." Then he threw his rake and hoe in among the bushes, jumped over the fence, and made a bee line for home. The next day he received a telegram and had to hurry back to New York. About five years later, in his city flower shop, quite a large establishment, he was busily arranging flowers in a vase. Several clerks were waiting on customers, and two ladies were wandering about the shop, inspecting the flowers he was arranging. In answering he turned his face toward her, and was amazed to have two arms thrown round his neck and to hear a sweet young voice crying out: "Oh, mother, I've found Johnny Garden! Johnny, you sent me to fill the flower vase with water and then you ran away without saying good-by." Naturally they had looked everywhere for him, inquiring in all the hotels around the lake, but no one knew any one named Johnny Garden. They could not get rid of the money they thought they owed him, and finally it went to charity in memory of Johnny Garden. He is a quaint fellow, who loves everything that grows. It seems that he loves people as much as he loves flowers and does not ask either flowers or people for anything in return. He reminds me of what the poet Heine said to one of his friends: "I love you, but it does not concern you." This fits Johnny Garden to a T. To us, as to the lady at the lake bungalow, he came just at the time when we needed him most." -- Max Schling
Savoy Plaza Hotel NYC, the home of Max Schling, Inc. Source: Boston Public Library, no copyright restrictions.
The Grand Central Palace, on Lexington Avenue, between 46th and 47th Streets, was New York’s principal exhibition hall for over 40 years (between 1911 and 1953) and home of The International Flower Show. Max Schling always attended the show and his firm's exhibit attracted large crowds. The rare vintage film embedded below shows images from the International Flower Show at the Grand Central Palace where eye catching blooms in mid March of each year brought New Yorkers a welcome glimpse of spring.
Max Schling was always in attendance at The International Flower Show at The Grand Central Palace in New York between 1911 and 1942. After his death in 1943 the organizers of The International Flower Show honored the memory of Max Schling with the introduction of the Max Schling Silver Medal awarded annually for the best new hybrid in the show.
Max Schling attended, lectured and exhibited annually at The International Flower Show, sponsored by The Horticultural Society of New York in cooperation with the New York Florists' Club. The Journal of the Horticultural Society of New York published annually a review of the most recently concluded International Flower Show at The Grand Central Palace in New York. In 2014 the Mertz Library digitized the public domain, out of copyright issues of the Journal of the Horticultural Society of New York (1906-1924) and published them on the website of the Biodiversity Heritage Library here. Displayed below are the full text reviews of The International Flower Show extracted from the Journal and reassembled below for the convenience of the horticultural community. [Note: The IFS was not held in 1919]
Grand Spring Flower Show. March 21st to 28th, 1914. New Grand Central Palace, New York. Image copyright expired 
When asked by the Empress Elisabeth how he put flowers together so tastefully Max Schling said "I put those together that belong together." In 1919 Max Schling provided a few more details about his creative process when he published a small book entitled Art in floral arrangements.
copyright expired (1919)
The book was a miniature of a lavish folio sized book kept at the front desk of his store on Fifth Avenue from which customers and staff could select floral arrangements for any occasion. In his book Max Schling distilled his ideas about color, shape, texture and style, documenting the aesthetic sense which had made him so successful.
The photographs in the book, reproduced here, were taken by J Horace McFarland (1859-1948) who also printed and published the book. McFarland's role in the history of American nursery and seed catalogs and botanical photography cannot be overstated and his contributions to those genres and his amazing life story is documented in another Mertz Library LibGuide here. Parenthetically, McFarland was also in New York City the day Max Schling arrived on his steamship from Europe. McFarland had been hired to photograph the Dewey Victory Parade for The Outlook Magazine.
Schling lectured frequently on the art of floral arrangements conducting classes at the New York Botanical Garden, Cornell University and at the International Flower Show among other venues. In an issue of the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, published in March of 1943, digitized and available in Mertz Digital here, it was observed that Max Schling was a member of the New York Botanical Garden for nearly 20 years and that he frequently lectured at the Garden. He addressed the graduating class of the NYBG School of Professional Horticulture in 1940. Schling also addressed the Rose Conference held at the NYBG in June 1939, "delighting his large audience with his elaborate flower arrangements made with roses as their base." In 1942 Schling "conducted an afternoon course in flower arrangment in the Members Room as part of the New York Botanical Garden's Educational Program."
In his book Art in floral arrangements Max Schling offered many insights into his artistic philosophy. In one place he wrote: "As in all other floral work, the beauty of the centerpiece depends on the proper arrangement of greens and flowers. Each flower must be plainly seen and plenty of greens must be used for background, always striving for a loose, graceful effect, rather than a tightly bunched mass in which the individual beauty of the flower is lost." In another place Schling cautions that restraint often improves the effect of floral arrangements: "It is extravagance to buy a corsage containing two dozen roses, when one dozen, properly arranged, will give a much better effect. It demonstrates that a large number of flowers are not necessary to achieve artistic results.... It is a simple design that is always effective." Additionally, it was Max Schling's view that "the loose, graceful arrangement of the flowers illustrated', in his book Art in floral arrangements, "is a pleasing departure from the old-time method of designing."
Of course weddings are among the most lucrative sources of income for a florist. Accordingly, Max Schling was especially concerned to demonstrate to brides that they ought to have complete confidence in his aesthetic judgments in dealing with the "momentous questions" of their all important event. Schling wrote""It is a mistake to insist on having flowers the same shade as the gowns, for the colors of nature cannot be matched to those of dress materials, and a far more effective display can be secured by using flowers of a lighter or darker hue, or even of a contrasting color. Then, too, it is never wise to order pure white flowers, as the effect is too lifeless. White may be the typical bridal color, but it should be a white with a tinge of some other color to make it most effective." Max understood the need for practicality cautioning that the bridal bouquet flowers should be "arranged to fall over the forearm, which insures the bouquet being comfortably held, even if the ceremony is lengthy."
Max Schling was also aware that discretion was a quality greatly prized by his many wealthy celebriety clients. In Art in floral arrangements Max suggested that a box decorated with a spray of flowers may help to keep its contents from the prying eyes of the domestic staff. "A small spray of roses or other flowers adds a touch of individuality to a gift box and insures it being opened by the person for whom it is intended, instead of by the servants, as sometimes happens."
Max Schling energetically promoted the florist's trade as uniquely capable of providing an appropriate gift for every occasion. At each stage of life, Max thought, the good taste and long experience of the professional florist would help people express their emotions better than any words. As an example in Art in floral arrangements Max Schling offers a color photograph of a dainty gift basket of roses and asked rhetorically "Can you imagine a more delightful greeting for a young mother than this basket of beautiful flowers?"
Always the practical businessman, Max Schling responded to those who hesitated about purchasing expensive funeral corsages. Max directly confronted the often heard statement: "I want my flowers when I am alive and can appreciate them" by exclaiming "and so we do - we need them all through the journey of life." Here, Schling's opinions were predictable if not perhaps always persuasive: "We like to think of our loved ones as resting beneath the flowers they were so fond of in life--it takes away some of the harshness of death--and it seems a great mistake to deny oneself the solace of these most beautiful gifts of earth, as is sometimes done by persons who request that no flowers be sent when some member of their family dies. It also prevents their friends from expressing their sympathy in the most exquisite way, for whether the flowers sent be but a simple spray or a magnificient casket cover, it is the kindly sympathy that these convey that really is the important thing, and flowers can express that sympathy in far better language than the human tongue can ever acquire"
Pillow funeral arrangement of roses and ferns
Harp funeral arrangement of sweet peas and roses
Overall, the book Art in floral arrangements is a succinct expression of Max Schling's artistic philosophy and techniques together with a dash of what the New York Times once called his "sunny personality."
Wreath of magnolia leaves and flowers by Max Schling
The 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco, officially called the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, hosted many special interest meetings or conferences. One of these meetings was held from July 27th to August 1st, 1915 and its participants advocated for Sunday closings of businesses in America as a matter of both progressive labor relations and religious piety. Max Schling contributed an essay to the meeting in which he described the uniquely difficult conditions under which florists operated without a day off from the stress of their labors. Schling's essay was published the next year (1916) in a book entitled "Sunday The World's Rest Day; An illustrated story of the Fourteenth International Lord's Day Congress held in Oakland, California, July 27th to August 1st, 1915, during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition." By 1919, without any legislation forcing their hands, leaders of the florist industry across America had agreed to Sunday closings as a standard business practice. An article in The Florists' Review Vol XLIV No 1137 September 11, 1919 explained how, through Max Schling's leadership and advocacy, florists across America had agreed to Sunday closings. The article also featured a reprint of an advertisement by Max Schling that had originally been printed in the September 6, 1919 issue of the New York Times which informed the public that Max Schling, Inc. would be closed on Sundays. A century after Max Schling's essay florists across America continue to be closed on Sundays. The copyright for the 1915 Max Schling essay has expired and is in the public domain and is reproduced below.
Florists By Max Schling
The florist business, with all its delicate work, tires the mind and body of workers more than any other business, and still there is so little done for our interests in comparison with that which is done for workers in other occupations. Artisans, as carpenters, shoemakers, tailors and others, close their shops on Saturday and rest on Sundays. Six days they work and thank their Creator for the privilege. Factories, grocery stores and butcher shops close their doors for business on Saturday night. They know the value of Sunday. We are looked upon not only as business men, but also as artists. The daily grind of business is more strenuous with us than with those who are engaged in other lines of business. We carry not only the burden of our daily work the same as any other business man, but the stress of the manifold kinds of work we do. All the different combinations, new ideas and artful arrangements which are expected from us, keep not only the body, but the mind under constant strain. Our business is chiefly with individuals. We have to think for each one, and select flowers or make up floral arrangements for the different customers to satisfy their ever varying tastes. Other men are protected, the law takes care of them and provides that they shall get one day's rest in seven, but the law does not take care of us. The business man who employs ten, twenty or thirty men, not only works as his men do, who have not the strain of responsibility which he carries, yet the law protects them but forgets him. Most stores in the United States are open on week days from 7:00 A.M. to 9:00 or 9:30 P.M.; some of them even later. Some stores are open day and night; many of them, even large firms with whom it is not necessary, keep open all day Sunday. Many keep open Sunday only until noon. This could be regulated. There are instances where flowers are necessary for certain occasions on Sunday, but these orders could be taken on Saturday and deliver them Sunday morning early by men who would be compensated on Monday for their two hours; and by taking shifts in this work no one would feel it. The public would become accustomed to this arrangement and would buy their necessary flowers on Saturday as is the case in many cities in the West. You may ask the question: "Who does hinder you that you do not close; who wants you to keep open on Sunday?" There is a very simple answer to this. It is the one word, "Competition." Most people are indifferent about the matter. They do not think on Saturday what they need on Sunday if they are forced to. In conversation with a lady of the wealthier class, she said, "Why, our men have no time to buy flowers for us during the week; they are down town in the offices. But Sunday morning they take a walk and stop at the florist's and buy us some flowers." These men could order their flowers on Saturday, just as their wives buy their groceries and their meat on Saturday, or as they order their oysters on Saturday to be delivered on Sunday morning. The law which makes us give our men one day off in seven at present is not observed by most florists. The workmen themselves are afraid to demand their rights; they are afraid they might lose their positions for there are plenty of others who are ready to take their places the moment they leave. A few among us let half their men off on Sunday, the other half on Monday and work consequently Sunday morning and Monday morning with half force, overstraining this half of the force; others simply work their men the way they think necessary, considering the business and not the men or the law, and if a labor inspector should step in, he would not detect the scheme nor learn it from the employer nor from the employees, both take refuge in "the law of self-protection." Most employers are forced by conditions to disobey the law, which does not require them to close business one day in each week. They would like to get a rest regularly once a week and stay with their families. But there again, is the law of self-protection. They want to hold their patrons. These conditions will be worse if they are not altered. If the law should be obeyed by one firm it would cause jealousy on the part of the workmen in firms where the law is abused, and those workmen would be driven to seek help and advice from labor agitators who only poison their minds. We ourselves never will be able to adjust this matter by co-operation among ourselves. There are too many mixed feelings for and against opening or closing our doors on Sunday, and therefore the only solution of the problem which we have to suggest is the enactment of a law which will force every business man without exception to close his doors on Sunday. If we accomplish that, we shall have the coveted day of rest. It will give us time to enjoy once a week a day with our families without business cares and will let us once a week see our homes in daylight. It will help to solve other labor questions. It will give our men the one day rest in seven consecutive days to which they are entitled and it will hinder otherwise good citizens from being law-breakers. Besides all these benefits, it will remind us (some of us need to be reminded) that there is something besides money-making, and that is "Religion." One of the commandments of every man's religion is, "Six days shalt thou labor, but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord, thy God."