During this century throughout Western Europe and America there has evolved an increased appreciation of the importance of flower arrangement in the home, although compared with the Far East, where flower decoration has been considered an art since the sixth century, this is a relatively late development. This fact may account for a certain lack of discrimination on our part, the inclination to use too much material where a smaller quantity would be twice as effective. (Mr. Christmas Humphreys, in his excellent history of Buddhism sums it up by saying ‘The Japanese have par excellence what the scriptures of Zen in China sometimes advised in vain : a knowledge of where to stop. In their gardens as in their architecture, in the arrangement ofas in their dress, the minimum is expressed and the maximum left for the beholder to supply’.) Flower , however beautiful they are in themselves, can never look at their best when placed in a room at random without due consideration of the existing colour scheme or furnishings. Consider your flower arrangement in the same way as you would a good painting. Both need all the light and space they can get to show them off to their best advantage, and both are integral parts of furnishings — they are, in other words, ‘functional’.
We have established that there are three basic factors to take into consideration : The relationship between the colour of the furnishings and colour of the arrangement. One may wish to accentuate something rather special, say, a painting, and an arrangement which picks up two or three colours in a painting gives just the right kind of emphasis.
A good example of this is an arrangement I once linked up with a lithograph by Barnett Freedman. The lithograph was in his typical colouring: warm coppery red, blue green, clear yellow and deep dark aubergine shadows, whilst the arrangement with it consisted of blue green hydrangeas, copper coloured branches and purple berberis.
The type of furniture used in the room, and finally the size of the room, its light and the remaining decorations in it (e.g. paintings, ornaments) will determine where you place your arrangement (obviously no one will put thein the way of a draught and it is as well to remember that with small children about, flowers are safer out of reach). The next consideration must be the choice of which may be determined by the choice of flowers ; or the container, if it is perfect for its ; can determine the choice of flowers. Having said this, I think that plain vases are a safe selection and most generally used, although some of the earlier porcelain bowls and vases, such as Rockingham or Chelsea, produce delightful results. The period of the container is important where a room is completely furnished either in contemporary taste or in that of any one particular period.
The selection and arrangement of the flowers is, naturally, very much a matter of personal taste. In most creative work a great deal of care and thought are needed to produce the best effects, and this applies equally to flower.
The essentials having been studied it is then important for the results to be as natural as possible. Over formality and affectation immediately reduce flower arrangement from a natural art to a clever but artificial medium of expression. The real test of a good flower arrangement is whether you can live with it and grow to like it more and more every day. Like a good painting or a piece of poetry, new facets ought to reveal themselves all the time. This form of unity can only be termed ‘harmony.’
Once this is achieved, flower decoration will really have fulfilled its purpose and come into its own. It might then be described as taking its place as an art in the same way that Japanese floweris an art.