People who favour oriental-styledtend to search for containers that have an oriental appearance (even though these may actually be of modern western ceramics) for it is important, if the completed arrangement is to be harmonious in every way, that the and the suit each other. This applies to any style of arrangement, not just the Japanese. Since so many more kinds of ‘flowers’ are acceptable it is only natural that the vessels to hold them should also be chosen with imagination and sensitivity and that these should vary considerably according to the taste, the possessions or even the income of the arranger.
For centuries flower vases have tended to be things apart, their role instantly recognisable, vessels designed and made only to support andflowers. ‘To do the flowers’ really does mean something slightly different from ‘to make a flower arrangement’ and this is true of all countries. Those who ‘do’ the flowers tend to use only true flowers and flower vases. But for the imaginative and creative flower arranger anything can be used so long as it can be made to hold water or some water-retentive material. It follows that the same container must suit the flowers, their setting and the occasion for which they are being used.
This is not to say by any means that modern flower arrangers eschew true vases. Most people have a collection of many types of vases and containers. Some feel that it is not right to place a very modern flower arrangement in a room full only of antique furniture, particularly if this be of only one period. It is certainly possible to arrange the flowers to suit the room. Period flower ensembles can be made in the style known to be fashionable at the time in question and stood in vessels made or used during the same period. A study of contemporary books and illustrations will usually provide a guide. Often faithful reproductions can be used, or even genuine antiques themselves, protected, if necessary, against damage. In fact, unless originals or copies of originals are used it is sometimes difficult to capture the true flavour of the period. And to be precise, arrangements ought to contain flowers grown and known at the same time rather than obviously modern hybrids.
On the other hand, it should be possible for someone who has studied flower arrangement to make an apt and beautiful arrangement by mingling and mixing plant materials, textures, colours and container so that it suits the surrounding furnishings, even though they be products of another age. Modern flower arrangements need not be strident anachronisms.
Solutions for ‘problem’ settings: If in doubt, you can always play safe with arrangements made only from the soft hues of foliage. The burnishedof young maple, the summer green and the autumnal-tinted of beech, soft grasses and ageless ferns will not dominate lovely pieces of furniture or ornaments, nor will the gentle sheen of the leaves vie with centuries-old polish and patina.
Often it is best to focus attention upon the container and let its contents play a subordinate role, melting into the background like a piece of faded embroidery or mellow porcelain. Old pewter, copper and brass not only suit flowers in texture but because they are metals actually help the flowers to last longer. Wooden containers, especially those of mahogany (such as old tea caddies) look well with simple flowers, old roses, wallflowers, pansies andfor example, all of which are quite delightful. Because they do not belong to any specific age such containers are at home in any setting.
Sometimes a still life assembled in the manner of a Dutch flower painting will suit a ‘problem’ setting best. This often can be made from a mixture of dried and fresh flowers and so will not demand constant attention.
Those who have homes in which there are furniture and furnishings of different periods will find that the right kind of flower arrangements, strategically placed, will link one to the other in a pleasant and unobtrusive manner. Others with modern homes will learn that for them the content and styles of flower arrangement are limitless. They can experiment, improvise, originate, blend and create even if only a few kinds of flowers are available to them.