When you have planned the colouring of your arrangement, collect your material together 24 hours ahead. If you are picking garden flowers, choose some in bud and some more open. Never pick fully open flowers: they will not last. Pick some stems which bend to the right and others which bend to the left; and, of course, some straight. It is easier to arrange uneven numbers, so three or five roses are better than two or four. Choose clearly defined leaves like hostas or bergenias, as well as good background foliage. Try to visualize roughly how much material is needed, and pick a little more in case some fades. When the material is well conditioned, place it in buckets of warm water and allow it 24 hours to drink. Preferably do this in the church: the less ferrying there is of flowers the better.

When you are ready to start your arrangement, spread a dust sheet out on the floor in front of your vase. This saves clearing up endless mess later!


There are many occasions for which this formal church arrangement provides a good pattern. It looks well on a stool against a pedestal.

Make sure that the chicken wire is correctly placed in your container , and if you are using a cone, fix it firmly into the wire. Then fill the cone and three-quarters fill the container.

Take your background material and put it in first. Try to avoid a stiff triangular effect. Instead of starting with a stiff central piece, get a fuller branch of foliage or blossom slightly off centre, and have pieces bending well over each side and over the front. Use the cone to give height to shorter flowers. Remember the hints given earlier concerning proportion, and in particular that the tallest flower must be at least one and-a-half times the height of the vase. I hate rules, but this one is vital. The other vital rule is that large arrangements need to have a focal point, or what we call a ‘face’. This is provided by the careful placing of leaves or large flowers. All the material should look as if it springs from this ‘face’. I have too often seen a wide vase used as a window box with flowers running along the edge as if they had been planted. The effect is terrible.

When you are placing the material in the container try to envisage some pieces forward, some back, and some recessed low down: this will give depth and interest. When the outline is complete and you have got a clear focal point, fill in with the rest of the material. When you have finished, stand well back to look at the result of your labours. If you have any doubts about it, you may find it a help to take a walk round the churchyard and then come back and look again with new eyes. If you are not satisfied with what you see, do not do what one is inclined in a desperate way to do, that is stuff in more flowers. More often than not the cure is to take something out! Make sure, however, that there areno gaps, especially at the side. If the arrangement can be seen from more than one angle, fill in a bit of the back with foliage. Finally, top up the container with water, and, in the summer, also spray.

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