The Western Way Of Flower Arranging

The Western Way Of Flower Arranging

In the western world we have always had plenty of flowers and foliage at hand at most times of the year and it is not unimportant that due to our climate these are long-lasting. Consequently we have not adopted the philosophic and sophisticated attitude towards their arrangement that is found in the ancient school of Japanese arrangement. Our decorators take their time over arranging the flowers, but for different reasons from those of the ancient Japanese masters. Time is spent in massing many flowers rather than in the contemplation of three or a few more. Western styles are seldom frugal.

Our table centre bowl of flowers is a legacy from the tied, tight posy of many mixed flowers, often collared with fern, often wild, sometimes herbal and considered prophylactic, which were once sold in great numbers in the local markets or gathered from gardens to sweeten the air at home. And today, even though the flowers are now arranged individually, we tend still to follow the traditional posy patterns when we display them. Our own national styles, and those of our near neighbours, are generally variations on this posy theme.

Fusion of east and west

Western arrangements tend to be fulsome and colourful. In the east, on the other hand, and for many reasons—economic, climatic and traditional—fewer flowers are used. These are invariably arranged so that they fall within the outline of an irregular triangle. Rules are much stricter.

But like all other arts, flower arrangement is fluid and ever-changing, and so we have many facets of these two basic themes. One important fusing of the two styles can be seen very frequently in American arrangements, where they are joined to create an exciting and practical contemporary style which is virtually an amalgam of line and mass.

Just as the east has influenced our style of flower arrangement, so is the west gradually influencing the beautiful but frugal patterns of the east. Universally, the term ‘flower’ arrangement is more comprehensive than might at first appear. We use the part for the whole. In all countries today the term ‘flower’ covers any type of plant materials, and paradoxical though it may appear, many arrangements contain no true flower in the botanical sense. Obviously leaves and branches, grasses, blossom and berries form a part of many flower arrangements, as one would expect, since these materials have been accepted for so long, but less obviously, perhaps, so do all sorts of other materials such as roots, fungi, lichens, driftwood, seed heads, plant embryos and skeletons and even seaweeds.

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