Decorating with flowers

Flower arrangements can be as vital to the style and decoration of a room as the curtains and cushions. If they are to add to a room and enhance its style, you need to do more than simply create a beautiful arrangement: the flowers and the arrangement need to be planned with the style and colour scheme of your room in mind. Is the style in the room simple or dignified, austere or elaborate, modern or traditional? Is there a particular colour which the flower arrangement might pick up? Or some feature – alcove, mirror, fireplace, bookcase, polished table – which flowers could enhance or which would show them off to maximum advantage? In a room of pale blue and white, for instance, hard yellow and red flowers would be out of place; while soft mauves and pinks, some deep purple or wine for contrast, and white or pale yellow flowers would be best; with silvery-grey foliage and in a silver container if possible. A room with a particularly beautiful carpet woven with Roses of vivid pinks and reds might be just right for abundant cut glass bowls of real Roses in equally vivid colours. In a sparsely furnished room with a deliberately austere look, a massed arrangement would spoil the mood. A few flowers with some bare branches or just an arrangement of leaves in bold shapes (Hosta, Bergenia or Monstera) would be more appropriate, in a container of simple shape. Against a dark-coloured wall, an all-white group could look particularly effective, especially if spot-lighted from above.

An old dresser might have its vertical lines emphasized decoratively by keeping on its shelves not just a row of plates, but a varied selection of small bowls, each with its own little Victorian-style posy.

A book-lined room needs flower arrangements in strong colours that will not be dominated by the massed bookbindings. Flowers show up best if they stand against plain, not patterned, curtains or walls, and with daylight or a lamp shining on them, not coming from behind. If you hold that one large flower arrangement is more effective than several small ones dotted about a room, it can be worthwhile to decide the best spot for this and then coordinate the background, an appropriate table or pedestal or other support, and the lighting so that the setting will be ready to receive a new arrangement each week. You will then know whenever you buy or pick flowers the precise setting into which they are to go.

If there is an over-busy pattern on the wallpaper, it is a good idea to keep a large brass or silver tray leaning against the wall behind the flowers or to site them against a mirror or piece of upright furniture. In many rooms the mantlepiece is an obvious choice for flowers in summer or if modern heating has replaced the open fire. It carries the flowers at eye-level, and spread-out arrangements are easier to accommodate there – particularly branches with blossom. There is also scope here for long, low arrangements instead of round bunches, for trailing effects with Ivy or Old Man’s Beard falling gracefully over the edge of the mantlepiece, and for a double impact if a mirror hangs over the mantlepiece.

Wall-vases, too, are ideal for spreading or trailing effects at eye-level or higher. These can be bought or improvised with baskets or painted boxes hung on the wall, with a plastic pot inside them for water. With modern adhesives it is possible to fasten small containers onto tiles or low on a mirror. Such methods are useful when there is little room on furniture for flowers.

Flowers placed on large tables or other pieces of furniture may be associated with other ornaments such as china figures and pieces of silver or complementing the inlaid decoration in a marquetry surface. In such cases, both the base and the flowers should be chosen with these other features in mind, so that they will go well with their neighbours and neither clash nor dominate.

On a dining table, choice should be determined not only by the colour of the cloth or mats and the china but by some practical considerations: the need for people to see one another clearly across the table and not through a jungle, and for serving dishes to be passed unimpeded. One solution is to put a tiny bouquet in front of each place setting. Alternatively, a tall slender candelabrum might carry two or three posies above eye-level. For this arrangement, you need foil pattypans secured with plasticine above the candle-holders and filled with water. *s>^

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