For most people, the purpose of floweris to decorate the home – there are some who are also interested in exhibiting at flower shows, but the second pastime is really an extension of the first and essentially, flower arrangement is one of the domestic arts. But this does not mean that it should be regarded as a chore. Although it is a simple art form, it can help to stretch the imagination, crystallise one’s thoughts and ideas on many things other than , teach one to use one’s hands, to furnish a home with an individual and distinctive touch and to learn about plants and gardening. It also provides an opportunity to express, even to discover, one’s personality and individuality.
Flower arrangement really can teach you to see with new eyes; you learn that it is not only the flowers of a plant which are beautiful and decorative and that there are many other materials waiting to be appreciated and used. And the appealing thing about this art is that the materials can be as common and easy to find as a handful of dandelion clocks, or as choice and exotic as a trio of.
What’s in a flower? Anything that grows or once grew on a plant is a flower in the arranger’s sense of the word. As the eye becomes trained and grows keener and more selective and appreciative, the arranger notices things which had previously escaped attention, and graduates from using a bunch of bought flowers on their own to furnish a vase to employing a wide range of materials more subtle in their appeal. Often these are also of a longer lasting quality and of greater decorative worth in their surroundings.
In modernwe like to harmonise not only colours but also forms and textures. This means that we accept the use of all types of plant materials. In the same way that there is no limit to these beyond their suitability to the occasion, so there is no limitation to the kind of vessels in which they may be placed. Once again, the only criterion is that these also should be suited to their setting, and of course that they should be watertight. Not all the most popular of today’s ‘vases’ were originally meant for flowers, which is probably why arrangers prefer to call them ‘containers’.
Professionals and amateurs
There is no correct style of flower arrangement. Each country, or sometimes even part of a country, tends to have a predominant style which could be called national. It is one which the expert can quickly recognise as having been assembled or created by, say, a Dutchman, German, American or Malayan. However, there are certain designs or patterns which can be recognised as being universal.
For example, one would not expect to see much difference (except in materials) in a bowl of flowers designed for the centre of a table in any country where one sits down to dine. In the same way flowers designed for very special or even state occasions also tend to be much alike. This is due partly to the universality of the professional florist, who today is bound to his foreign colleagues by world-wide associations, who benefits by the circulation of new ideas and methods and who is even expected to work to international pattern guides to produce a standard product at an internationally agreed price.
However, flower arrangement is by no means confined to the professional. Tens of thousands of amateurs indulge in this pleasant art form. Evening classes in flower arrangement are extremely popular as are flower arrangement clubs and societies; many of these have members who are qualified and willing to travel and lecture. This means that the influence of the amateur is greater than that of the professional and so we find that there are many styles of arrangement as well as many kinds of materials used in those arrangements that are of no importance commercially.
Usually the difference between professional flower arrangements and also between the national styles of arrangement lies in the kinds of flowers favoured. Any style adopted by any flower arranger inevitably follows the supply of materials available. Thus in urban areas where flowers have to be bought and may be costly, or in countries where during a lengthy period of the year only a few flowers are available, the accent tends to be on making a few flowers go a long way. Accessories and settings take on greater importance under such circumstances.