For some hundreds of years jugs of all types, shapes and sizes, have been used to hold. In the early fifteenth century a painting of the Annunciation scene shows two of lilies in an unusually shaped jug standing on the table in the room. (This painting, by The Master of Flemalle, is now in the Brussels National Museum.) In an altar piece of the same period there are again stems of lilies but this time depicted in a metal jug or ewer.
In the still life by J.J. Treck, 1649, the jug is a pewter one, with a branch of vinethreaded through the handle. Coming nearer to our own time, there is the vivid painting of mixed lilies and roses in a brown and yellow jug by Suzanne Valadon, and the glorious painting from Picasso’s ‘blue period’ of mixed flowers in a grey blue jug. (This may be seen in the Tate Gallery, London.)
A jug like a basket is valuable apart from its use as afor flowers. This immediately makes it an asset in the house and the purchase of an extra jug (when it is bought with flower arrangement in mind) is not a luxury.
The first thing to consider about jugs is their texture. There is the jug made in elegant porcelain. (It may be in Sunderland lustreware, in cream Staffordshire with the Staffordshire knot forming the handle, in Prattware with raised patterns and glowing colours, and Wedgwood—in their various well known colours — or from other factories such as Leeds, Lowestoft, Swansea, etc.) Then there is the jug made in copper and brass (sometimes in copper with brass studs or vice versa, which have been designed to hold beer or cider. Some are even relics from the days when there was no running water and when hot water was carried upstairs for washing). These are quite original in shape, with a stumpy spout, sturdy handle, and a hinged lid—the lid stands back and gives plenty of room for the stalks of flowers or branches, and acts as a support.
There are, of course, glass jugs which could be made either of early coloured Bristol glass, of plain glass, Waterford glass, or white Swedish glass with black glass handles, (these were made originally to hold water, lemonade, beer, etc.). Finally there is the larger silver jug (made at times to hold hot water), often with a small black lid which, again, hinges back and acts as a support for the stems. Its companion the small silver jug (intended to hold milk or cream — the kind of wedding present that everyone might hope for) is only suitable for a few flowers, but shows them off well with the help of a pedestal base.
The next consideration must be the size and shape of the jug in relation to the size of the flower arrangement. This consideration will dictate the eventual size and outline of the group to be composed. Having just mentioned the small silver cream jug it seems sensible to begin the next paragraph discussing in detail these smaller jugs (made either in silver, porcelain or pottery) and their suitability in texture and colouring with certain flowers.
The milk jugs of blue ware, with the name of the local town or village written across it that can now be seen everywhere in England are splendid foil for yellow flowers, either the wild Welsh daffodils with their rather short stems, or a bunch of primroses. Cowslips also look most attractive arranged in a natural bunch in one of these. Since these jugs hold comfortably a half pint, or even a pint, of milk, they can obviously contain enough water to support an average small bunch from the garden, including flowers like pinks, short roses, grey foliage, snapdragons, forget-me-nots, polyanthus. Bluebells (these are especially attractive in the blue and white of the well known willow pattern pottery).
The next size up may be the Staffordshire jugs which hold anything from 11 to 2- pints, and as they are usually designed with a narrowing neck towards the spout, this makes them especially suitable for the taller flowers which need support. These might include zinnias, daffodils, achillea, Korean, tobacco plants, phlox, marguerites, lupins, delphiniums and peonies. Large of tall flowers will naturally drink more and the water level should be carefully watched if the jug is not a transparent one.
Glass jugs are attractive in their own way, especially when something with interesting foliage down theis seen through the water. This applies particularly to the wild caper spurge, with its architectural structure down its stout stem. Seen through water it looks even more exciting than when it is growing.
Before talking about the largest jugs of all, I think that we should mention the narrow necked dark brown pottery jugs as well as the contemporary designed large bowled but narrow necked ones, which are excellent for holding a few branches or two or three long stemmed flowers. Summer jasmine, with its spreading stems and branches is especially suitable for this type of, as are honeysuckle, clematis and periwinkle.
Large jugs with wide necks, some of which hold from three to four quarts of water, are obviously suitable for a big arrangement, as there is plenty of space for the stems, and plenty of water for them to drink. A jug of this size is held steady and by the weight of the water (this is valuable with large groups which are easily inclined to become top heavy.) These jugs are most suitable for branches oflike Chilean gum box ( ), Californian ( ) and also the taller herbaceous plants.
An important point to think of whenflowers in a jug of any size or description is that part of the spout and the handle ought to show. It is a great pity if they are almost or completely hidden from view. (Practically, the spout can be of great use for curving branches.) When this happens the jug is no longer a jug and looks like any other vase, but is not so well proportioned.
Anchorage for the flowers in a jug depends very much on the shape of the spout, etc. If the jug is a wide lipped one and holds a good deal of material, it may help to have a small quantity of large mesh wire netting pushed into the top with some of it raised above the level of the brim. If the jug is narrow necked that in itself will act as a support and it is unlikely that any other anchorage will be needed. In a shallow sauceboat shape of jug, I have sometimes used a pin holder.