EASTER FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS

After the starkness of Lent Easter provides a welcome opportunity to fill the church with flowers, representing the New Light coming into the world and the Rebirth of Spring.

The flower guild should plan a flower pool well in advance. One source of this will be the hedgerows, which, if Easter is not too late, will provide catkins and pussy willow (commonly called palm). Depending on the weather, the gardens may have daffodils, narcissi, hellebores and polyanthus. At least three weeks in advance have a look at forsythia and wild cherry blossom. If the buds aretight and green, cut sprays and bring them into a warm place to force them open. They take about three weeks in a coolish place, but a shorter time in a very warm room.

When the flower guild knows roughly how much material can be cut from hedgerows and gardens it must decide what to buy. Some lilies, both the beautiful white longiflorum and arum, add greatly to spring flower arrangements. They last well in water, but they are expensive. In connection with Christmas, the custom has been mentioned of members of the congregation donating lilies: if they do this, their gifts provide a useful addition to the pool. Arum lilies should be ordered several weeks before Easter, especially if they are to come from a local nursery. Do order leaves with the blossoms: they are so beautiful. White hyacinths are also well worth buying. Several grouped together give a good focal point to a mixed spring arrangement.

Many people find spring flowers disappointing when cut and arranged in a vase. It is helpful to imagine how they grow naturally, either in large clumps or as carpets spreading out to give solid masses of colour. When planted singly in rows with only the faces visible they appear stiff and unnatural. The same principle applies to vases of spring flowers. If daffodils or narcissi are placed singly all facing forwards the arrangement will appear ‘spotty’ and unnatural. Instead pick up a small bunch in your hand, put the flowers in the vase, and allow them to fall about quite naturally, some facing forwards and some turning away; the back or sideways view of daffodils is as pretty as the full face. Place some bunches in cones to give height, and some lower down in the chicken wire. If the bunches aregrouped together they will give the needed splashes of colour and enable the arrangement to be seen far back in the church. If lilies or hyacinths have been bought, they will of course be a tremendous help. Five arum lilies and their leaves in a spring vase give a good focal point. A pedestal arrangement, especially in a large church or a cathedral, must include great boughs of blossom and some foiliage if it is to make any impact.

Window cills are excellent for spring flowers, especially if there is no coloured glass in the windows. Plain windows give enough light to show the form of catkins and spring flowers. Baskets are particularly suitable containers, as are copper troughs or bowls. Do include some trails of ivy: they look so pretty falling over the edge of the cill.

If there are plenty of helpers and there is enough material, pillar arrangements and flower balls look enchanting in small country churches as Easter time.

Some churches have special containers to hang on the screen or pulpit and these filled with daffodils and light foliage make the church look very festive. Do remember the porch. In the country a jug simply filled with sprays of forsythia, blossom or palm standing near the church door looks welcoming. So do spring flowers on a window cill or stone bench.

EASTER GARDENS

These are usually made by children with help from adults. They vary enormously in style and execution. The base of the garden must hold damp earth and moss: therefore it must be waterproof. Having selected a suitable site on the floor of the building, lay down layers of newspaper to cover the area which the garden is to occupy. On top of the newspaper place two layers of the strongest sort of polythene: the kind which builders use is the best.

Collect earth in buckets, and if possible enough moss to cover the garden. Collect twigs of catkin and pussy willow, small plants like Christmas primroses and grape hyacinths (depending upon the date of Easter), and some cut flowers, for example, daffodils and narcissi. Find some suitable and attractive stones with which to make the tomb, and some flat ones to form a path. Then cover the area of the garden with earth.

The tomb is the focal point of the garden. The rest of it must point to the tomb; so build it at a strategic point slightly right or left of the centre. The garden will be more interesting if it has different levels, so build up earth to get the tomb slightly higher than the surrounding area. There should be three plain wooden crosses behind the tomb. The path leading to the tomb gives emphasis to the design.

Use some of the twigs to make little trees, and clumps of plants or flowers to make the garden. Cut flowers should look as if they are growing, so include the leaves. To hold the flowers or plants use tiny containers pushed into the earth, or else Oasis, in either case covered with mess. Use the ‘trees’ carefully to give height and distance.

If the church is very small, an Easter garden can be mounted on a very large meat dish and put on a table. If it is possible to train a spot light on the garden, the effect is greatly improved.

WHITSUN

It is customary for churches to have red and white flowers at Whitsun. This is a difficult combination and normally I would not choose to have such a strong contrast. There are, however, ways of using these colours to advantage. The altar frontal will be red: therefore pedestals near the altar could feature bold groups composed of clashing scarlets, pinks and deep reds. These are extraordinarily effective at any time and particularly good with the red frontals. Flowers on the altar itself should be white, and they will give a bold interpretation of this scheme. The white flowers could be arranged with grey or variegated green foliage. The red groups look best if they have very little foliage. Make them a solid splash of red tones: but if you do want foliage then variegated or grey has a softening effect, and does not give too strong a contrast.

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