The Lazy ‘S’ Flower Arrangement

For the moment let us step right away from the triangles, half-spheres and semi-circles to one of the loveliest of lines, sometimes known as ‘the Hogarth curve’, after the artist. American flower arrangers call it ‘the Lazy S’, which seems to me to be as good a description as any. It is formed by fitting flowers into an S-shaped line, which may be very pronounced or it may be long drawn out, but in either case there will be no well-defined, tall, central stem.

This is a line which, apart from its beauty, is also useful for arranging several flowers of the same kind, which means that it suits bought flowers well. It is very effective either used on its own or when it is used as an ’embroidery’, a pattern within a shape. For example, one can use a framework of foliage—say, a flat and beautifully shaped branch of beech—and apply an S of summer daisies down its centre and over the rim. In winter one can make a wide arrangement of evergreens and use an S of very few flowers to bring in colour. There really is no limit to the number of improvisations; the line need not always remain a precise S, but can be more serpentine if this seems desirable.

Planning the design: Before arranging the flowers in this style, try to imagine a line running down through the centre of the container and extending well above it. Flowers can then be arranged to the left or right of it so that the S cuts through it. They will then be balanced though not necessarily equal. The two parts of the S need not be the same length any more than they are when we write the letter by hand. The shape will depend very much on the height of the container.

An S can be made so that its tip touches the top of an imaginary vertical line on the left and its base reaches to the end of the imaginary line on the right, or vice versa. But this is not an inflexible rule; the S can often be pivoted with attractive results. The point where the line of the S crosses the imaginary central line will be the focal point and here it is that one should arrange the greatest mass of materials.

This is all much simpler to do than it sounds. Take a spring flower arrangement as an example. In a tall vase you can arrange a curving stem of blossom perhaps, coaxed to curve a little more and perhaps pruned so that its curve is accentuated. This forms the top portion of the S. Another curving piece is arranged at rim level to flow out and down, with the container behind it to form the other part of the S; this need not be equal to the top part. At the focal point a posy of primroses is arranged, a few flowers and perhaps a leaf or two leaving the round outline of the posy to follow the line of the S for a little way upwards or downwards. In this way one portion is linked with another and the S line is created.

Containers for S-line styles: This is a good line to use for tall, slim, glass containers. The stem holder can be fixed in the mouth of the vase so that it does not pass down inside the container and become visible; the mass of flowers at rim level eventually hides every trace of it and at the same time forms an integral part of the arrangement.

As a rule, S-line designs look best in tall containers and slim vessels in particular, but it depends mainly on what materials are being used. This rule can often be broken, for instance one can inscribe an S of tiny flowers across a background of foliage in a low arrangement. This line can also be used in other ways, for example, outside the container when a swag of foliage and flowers is used to decorate a table. Here often an S across the centre, or alternatively along the diagonal, can look more attractive than a straight line.

There are really no hard and fast rules about asymmetrical designs other than how they relate to containers, and even then this is a matter of personal taste. For instance, there is something inept about asymmetry in a formal symmetrical container, such as a wide urn with prominent handles. These arrangements are particularly suited to containers whose beauty of texture, design or ornament should not be cloaked with flowers. Here an S can both enhance and indicate particular features of the vessel.

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