Origin Of The Modern Faced Style In Flower Arranging

Origin Of The Modern Faced Style In Flower Arranging

Although so far only the formal tied bunches or posies which once formed the basis of home decoration have been mentioned in previous posts, there was another style which also was popular. Certain flowers would be arranged in a bunch with a flat back, a sheaf. The flowers often rested against a backing of fern fronds and grasses or neat, flat branches of foliage such as beech. Such sheaf arrangements faced one way, unlike the posies which were the original all-round arrangements. Where the latter were suitable for table centres, the former were better fitted for a side table. The same type of vases were used for sheaves because they also had a thick stem portion.

In spite of popular taste, which was guided no doubt mainly by economy, there were those who, because they always had plenty of flowers at their disposal, continued to use an all-round arrangement in preference to the sheaf, even if the flowers were stood against a wall and a greater part of the arrangement was hidden. Although there are times when such an arrangement might be appropriate—at Christmas, for instance, when an arrangement based on a conifer shape is stood on a sideboard—today this seems extravagant and slightly ostentatious. Instead we make ‘faced’ arrangements to decorate those many areas in a room where a container can be stood close to a wall. If we are to accept that, basically, flower arrangement can be defined as displaying flowers to their fullest value, then it follows that there is no decorative point in wasting half of those in any arrangement by putting them out of sight.


There are many styles of faced arrangements and they carry us into oriental arrangement as well as to that which has originated in other parts of the world, as we shall see. But first let us move easily and logically from the traditional all-round arrangement to another type, the symmetrical traditional arrangement, which in this case is really little more than an all-round arrangement split down the centre.

This is an extremely useful style. The flowers can be arranged in a very simple manner or they can be given the full treatment and the arrangements used for weddings and other special occasions. Simple adaptations can be made to create delightful Christmas decorations based on the outline of a Christmas tree. Matching pairs of arrangements, pedestal decorations, pot-et-fleur, , plant arrangements, are just some that can be based on this style.

Method of working: As before, we begin with the centre stem, for the important thing about these arrangements is that they should be evenly balanced. In its new role this stem still has the leading part to play, but now, instead of standing it vertically in the very centre of the container, we push it as far back against the rim as it will go, still as a central point and still vertical. By doing this we provide maximum space for the flowers to be arranged. It also makes the ensuing stages much easier. So far as actual arrangement is concerned the method and the principles are much the same as those we discussed earlier. The difference now is that we are concerned with showing only the ‘face’, as it were, and not the back of the ‘head’.

The centre stem still defines the height. The two side stems still go at right angles to it and these still define the width of the arrangement. Instead of placing other stems all around the rim, as recommended for the bowl arrangement, the next move is to arrange intermediate stems between the tallest and the side stems. Once again, these should not stand higher than the centre stem, nor wider than the side stems. Their tips will sketch the outline of the proposed shape. This can be softly rounded or pyramidal. Shape is determined by the lengths of these early stems.

If the stems which are placed at right angles to the centre, whether in this or an all-round arrangement, are stiff and straight there is likely to be a harsh and ugly line at the lower part of the arrangement. Fortunately, often a flower has a straight lower portion of the stem and a curving upper part, so that if the lower portion is arranged at right angles to the centre stem this problem does not arise, if you remember to let curves flow away from the centre.

If the stem is straight, or nearly so, for its entire length, then more curving, shorter stems should be arranged below it to make a softer line. Stems which curve lower than the two main side stems can accentuate the shape of the outline of the arrangement. Often a semi-circular outline can be extended by these lower stems so that it is possible to imagine the arrangement inside an oval outline.

Linking container and flowers: Symmetrical traditional arrangements tend to have fairly conspicuous containers. Sometimes these too are traditional and deserve to be seen but this is not always the case. Often we make modern arrangements which are merely following the traditional concept. In a low arrangement made either in the all-round style or in this faced style under discussion, the container tends to be hidden by the lowest stems. In some cases this is a good thing because it means that we can use many objects of little value or beauty as containers. In all taller arrangements the container tends to become more conspicuous. This subject is discussed at greater length in Choosing your Container but meanwhile it must be stressed that the container should never dominate the flowers. Both should appear as a unity, so it is important to link one with the other in some way.

Usually all that is necessary, apart from the choice of colour and texture, is to carry on the line of the arrangement so that it tapers off prettily and does not come to an abrupt halt. It is also important to arrange the lowest stems so that they flow over the rim of the container to a greater or lesser degree, according to their character, in order to give a third-dimensional effect to arrangements. If this is not done, apart from the flowers appearing to have no connection with the container, the arrangement itself might have a flat, uncontoured appearance.

When you select materials for arrangement, especially if you cut your own, set aside those with extra curving stems or even floppy flowers (so long as these are in good condition) for this purpose. When you cut the laterals or side stems from any branch such as blossom, foliage, berries, seed heads, where possible cut them always with an inch or more of the main stem still attached. This will help you arrange a stem at an angle which would be difficult to achieve otherwise. For instance, when you insert the little piece of main stem down into the container its lateral will flow away from it over the rim of the container quite easily.

How to get a good ‘profile’

It is apt that this style should be called a ‘faced’ arrangement because to make it really attractive and appealing it needs to have good features. To achieve this take care that the carefully arranged flowers are not so precise that they end up as a unit that is flat and uninteresting, a face with no character in other words.

Begin by making a good ‘profile’. Having arranged the first definitive stem3 at the back of the container well against the rim, or as near to it as possible, turn the container so that the central, vertical stem is to your left or right. Now arrange the next stems so that they show the side view of the arrangement. Just in the same way as the stems were placed in the all-round arrangement, so should these also lean away from the central stem to a lesser or greater degree according to their height; less at the top, where the tall stems are near the tip of the central stem, roughly at right angles when shorter or shortened stems are at, or near, rim level and at a greater angle still if they flow over the rim and point downwards. At the same time, do not make an unbroken central line of blooms.

When you turn the arrangement to face front once again, you may find that it is still not contoured enough (this is often the case where very uniform flowers are being arranged). If so, cut some of the stems much shorter than before and recess the blooms so that they are on a different plane from those nearest them. Cut them only one at a time so that you do not have too many too short stems on your hands; often only two or three are needed.

Tapering the edges: It is important to grade flowers in all arrangements. Naturally enough one tends to look for the longest stems to go at the back of an arrangement, but this is not enough. An arrangement should taper at its edges, which means that not only the tallest stem but also one with the smallest flower should be at the tip. Unfortunately there are always snags when one actually comes to arrange the flowers. Often, for instance, the longest stems carry the largest blooms! If the flowers are bought they are likely to be all of one size and in this case so long as the central stem has been well placed the actual shape of the arrangement will take care of its

It may seem as if there are many things to consider in these early stages, but in practice you learn very quickly and naturally to appreciate these principles of good balance and proportion. The rules given here are based on essentially practical foundations. Making a flower arrangement is sometimes like cooking a dish – you simply follow the same basic method according to what is being prepared.

Go where the flowers lead: If you begin correctly you are unlikely to go wrong later. Indeed, arrangement should be smooth and not at all time-consuming. The important feature in the type of arrangements under discussion is the centre stem. If you keep this as your guide, everything else should follow logically. Never be in such a hurry that you do not fix this firmly in place and make quite sure that it really is just as you want it before you arrange any other stems.

I began by saying that the traditional symmetrical arrangement was nothing more, really, then a half globe cut down the centre, but I know that after you have become proficient at arrangement you will not start out with a definite shape in mind but will be more inclined, as I often am, to go where the flowers lead you. You will frequently find that the flowers themselves dictate the pattern of an arrangement. By the time you have adjusted the other tall stems to suit the centre stem, placed the best flowers so that they can be seen to advantage, arranged heavier, denser material low, or brought some stems over the rim to hide the stem holder and to give a third dimensional effect, you have made the shape !

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