What is Flower Arranging?

In the modern world, with its varied interests, hurry and noise, its almost non-stop radio and TV, and its thousands of working women, it is perhaps surprising that the hobby of arranging flowers is more popular than ever before. Women have always brought flowers indoors to brighten their homes, taken them to cheer up invalids, and used them to decorate churches, but in the past the flowers were picked or bought rather haphazardly and popped quickly into vases which were often quite unsuitable.

Our eyes are now open to the fascinating variety of foliage and blooms and the endless ways of mixing them. This website is mostly about flowers to decorate and beautify the home, but I have also dealt with the enjoyment of flower clubs and the excitement of exhibiting, as so many women are taking up the competitive side of the hobby. More than 43,000 people are members of clubs and societies affiliated to the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies of Great Britain.

Nowhere in this website do I intend to sound dogmatic; we are all individuals, and so are all flowers. A dozen daffodils arranged by one person will never look exactly the same as when arranged by someone else, just as no two women produce exactly the same cake from a given recipe. Yet certain principles have been evolved which, if followed, lead to pleasing and successful flower arrangements. If you are a beginner, information about these basic principles is what you need most. I hope this website

will be of special value to those taking up the hobby, for I have tried to remember my own novice days. The more experienced will find, I trust, some new ideas.

But first, let’s look at the elements of modern flower arranging.

Ten Golden Rules

1. Nowadays full use is made of the almost limitless variety of natural plant material. There has been an expansion of thought on what is suitable to include in ‘flower’ designs. It is now quite usual to see vegetables and fruits included with flowers, as well as things like shapely seedheads, driftwood, and preserved leaves.

2. Care is taken in the treatment and preparation of flowers and other materials before they are arranged. In this way they are given the longest possible life. Flowers and leaves once considered useless when cut, because of their tendency to flag quickly, can now be included in arrangements.

3. Flower containers are different nowadays. No longer are we limited to vases and bowls. The term ‘container’ is taken to mean anything at all which will hold water and in which flowers may be arranged. This new conception has opened the way to countless new and exciting flower arrangements. Everyday things around the home—from the kitchen cupboard as well as from the china cabinet—are acceptable as containers.

4. The style of the room in which the arrangement is to stand is taken into account, for there are many basic kinds of arrangements from which to choose. Formal arrangements harmonise with antique furniture and period-style homes. Simple mass arrangements go with cottage rooms. Sophisticated ‘line’ designs fit in happily with ultra-modern furnishings and decor. Between these

extremes, flower arrangements can be made to blend with, and enhance, any mode of architecture, furniture and decoration.

5. The creation of planned designs means that flowers and leaves must stay in their appointed positions. This is made possible by the use of wire netting, gadgets called pinholders, and water-retaining material such as Florapak, all of which enable the stems to be arranged in any desired position.

6. Colour is an important element in a flower arrangement. Not only are the hues and shades of blooms and leaves blended or contrasted harmoniously but they are also chosen to complement the container and the setting in which the arrangement is to be seen.

7. Stems of flowers and leaves are not used necessarily at their natural length. They are almost always cut down to fit the design.

8. Flower arrangements are designed for the particular position in which they are to stand. This emphasis on design is perhaps the most striking and important difference between the old and modern ways of doing the flowers. A modern arrangement has a definite shape or silhouette.

9. As well as the shape when seen from the front, with its attractive proportions of width and height, a modern flower arrangement also has depth. Some flowers are brought forward, others placed farther back, to give a 3-D effect.

10. Every flower, leaf, or twig used in a modern arrangement is put in to play its part in the design, instead of at random. One effect of this is that pleasing arrangements can be made with very little material. Used to their best advantage, three flowers can be as effective as three dozen.

Flowers at Home

Although flowers are arranged everywhere and for all sorts of occasions, their special place is in home decoration. To look their best, flower arrangements must blend with the room, or with the piece of furniture on which they are placed.

Some rooms are badly proportioned, and flowers can improve them. A wall which seems too high can, for example, be made to appear shorter and wider if a low flower arrangement is placed against it. On the other hand, a tall, slim spire of flowers can make a room seem higher when the ceiling is low. Designing flower arrangements helps to cultivate an eye not only for good proportion but also for colour blending and general good taste in decorations.

There are three traditional spots for cut flowers in the average home: 1. A vase in a window; 2. On the dining-table; 3. In a jug on the hall table or window ledge. Yet there are other and better places. Consider the dozen and one natural focal points about a home where the eye rests for a moment; take advantage of these by positioning an arrangement at one of these points.

The fireplace, for instance. The hearth is the centre of family life, and in the summer it will take a large, dramatic flower design. (Guard against the flowers’ dislike of draughts by blocking up the chimney mouth with hard-board.)

Study Your Home

Why not study your home and its layout? If there is a half landing at the turn of the stairs, large enough to take a chest or table, this is a point where flowers will be happily conspicuous—and they’ll last well, too. The mantelpiece is a good position on autumn and winter days, when colourfully preserved leaves, flowers, cones, evergreens and berries will survive quite happily. The television top is another excellent place, while a table right opposite a door is far better than one which is hidden every time the door is opened.

A coffee table may be the centrepiece when friends call; a small, pretty arrangement here will always draw admiration. Similarly, a simple posy on a guest’s bedside table or an invalid’s breakfast tray will not go unobserved. When friends drop in for drinks, present an unusual decoration, such as red and flame geranium blooms with grapes and a few leaves in a dark green wine bottle on the sideboard or drinks table. Flower designs look lovely when seen against the wood of a sideboard or side table, whether it is old well-polished mahogany or one of the modern light-hued woods. Use flowers throughout the house, not just in the living-room, when they are in plentiful supply, and at other times use dried or preserved materials, as described later in this website.

Flowers in Windows

Though I suppose it will always be popular, a window is not a specially good setting in which to stand cut flowers. Certainly they look pretty from outside, but so do flowering pot plants, which are much better suited to this position. Cut flowers in a window are exposed to the sun during the day and to sudden chills at night, as well as to draughts, and they invariably have a shorter life than flowers placed elsewhere in the room.

When the curtains are drawn at night a flower arrangement in the window will be either shut out or else be seen as a confused design against the curtains if they are patterned. Leave the curtains open, however, and the

arrangement will be shown dramatically against the darkness of the panes, which reflect like a mirror. Pink, white, or clear yellow flowers look wonderful with the night as a backcloth.

A well-defined shape is always important when an arrangement is to stand in a window. This is because it is seen mainly in silhouette from inside the house.

Where To Do the Flowers

Where is the best place to actually make a flower arrangement ? Certainly the best way is to do the arrangement on the spot, where it is to stand, because it is much easier to get the size, shape, and colours right for the setting.

In the end, of course, experience will be your best guide. If you find you are happiest when sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee handy, and plenty of room to spread out the flowers, then this will be where your best work will be achieved. But do first take your chosen container to the place where the arrangement is to be seen, and check that the container is the right size, shape and colour. Then roughly put in the outline shape of flowers and leaves before going elsewhere to complete the design. In this way your arrangement will be in pleasing proportion to the room and the exact position it is to occupy.

Wherever you choose to work you will need some kind of protection for carpets and tables. Have your flowers in a bucket of water at your feet, and spread out sheets of newspaper round about on which to drop the cut-off stems, rejected flowers, bits of twig and other waste. When you’ve finished, the rubbish can be carried straight out to the dustbin. An even better protection for the floor is a large old piece of thick curtaining. A sheet of plastic material is useful to protect the table top.

Polished surfaces may be damaged by water syphoned out of a flower container by leaves and flower stems. So be warned—always put some sort of protective material under the container when the arrangement is completed. You can use a piece of leather cloth, or better still water-resisting plastic material with a wood grain finish. The material should be cut a few inches larger than the base of the container. It’s a good idea to keep a selection of different sizes.

Relaxing with Flowers

Does it all sound rather frightening so far? Believe me, it isn’t really. There can be few more enjoyable ways of relaxing than with flowers, enjoying their shapes, textures and colours, and their scents. Don’t worry at all if, in the early days, the shape goes completely wrong and the colours seem to fight each other.

Follow the rules, keep trying, and every new arrangement will be a little better than the last. There is no ‘Open Sesame,’ but once you have mastered the guiding principles your skill will very rapidly grow. You’ll find flower arranging becoming a source of greater and greater pleasure and satisfaction.

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