The art of Flower Arranging has a long history, dating back c2000 years. In the ancient world Greek, Roman and Chinese dynasties each had their own individual style of this art form as did the Italian Renaissance, Tudor, Dutch and Flemish in the Middle Ages. Later came the ‘New World’ American and Colonial styles and, in our own country, periods were named after the era’s ruling Monarch i.e. Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian. During the first half of the last century Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs and later 1950 style were prominent. Today two popular styles are Modern (a more minimalistic, free-style type of arrangement) and Continental emulates a garden. All the above periods have used different styles, colour schemes and elements they regarded as important. If the show schedule has a title referring to a certain period, it enables a competitor to show any particular aspects relevant to that historical period within the arrangement.
Flower arranging relies on the use of certain elements in order to produce a good design. Various shapes can be used for traditional arrangements; triangular, asymmetrical (L-shaped), crescent (like the moon), inverted crescent (upside down), vertical (upright), horizontal (level) or alternatively the more up-to-date Modern (free-style) or Continental (garden) designs. Texture, colour, contrast and space give structure for a well balanced, pleasing arrangement. Texture and contrast are found in both flower and foliage. Three types of contrasting shapes give the variety needed. These in flowers can be 1) full-faced (as daisies), 2) compact (as carnations) and 3) long and slim (as iris). Also foliage can include rough, spiky, smooth or feathery textures to provide variety and interest. Flowers too can be of different textures eg. spikey spider chrysanthemums and smooth lilies.
Colours can either compliment or contrast with one another. Pale colours are not as intense as dark ones so give a gentler effect. Also, as may be used in a triangular arrangement, smaller flowers used at the apex and sides can give more impact and balance when larger,
darker flowers are used in the arrangement’s centre. It resembles a human shape, where the top resembles a head, the sides two arms and the middle a stomach (the size of this depends on who you have in mind when you are arranging it).
Space within the design is also important. Our City and Guilds tutor impressed this on us very early in our course, saying we must always “let the butterflies flutter by”. The design should never be so full of material that the shape is lost, no matter how lovely the flowers are.
Special tools are necessary. Flower arranging scissors, secateurs, wire, cocktail sticks, tape to secure dishes etc. Years ago wire secured into containers was normally used to support the flowers but now Oasis, which is made from fibreglass, is regarded as a more convenient medium to use. It soaks up water and, as long as it never dries out, keeps material fresh and can be used more than once. It comes in blocks and rounds but can also be provided in more unusual shapes such as a heart-shape. To keep an area clean, especially in church or at a show, plastic sheets to work on are essential, buckets are needed to hold flowers and foliage and a water spray gives the arrangement a good drink before the judging begins.
Flowers and greenery should be conditioned before arranging to keep them fresh. Garden flowers and foliage need to be picked early enough to enable them to be placed in a deep bucket of water for a few hours before arranging. Although flowers from a florist will already be conditioned it is still necessary to also give them a good, deep drink. Different flowers need different treatments too numerous to mention here.
Flower arranging can be practiced throughout the year. Flowers are available all the year round from florists: garden flowers can be used in spring and summer whilst seed-heads, fir-cones and twigs are available in autumn and winter. Arrangements can be given as presents for special occasions, especially Weddings, and at Christmas flower arrangers have free rein, adding silk flowers, glitter and wonderful variegated holly and ivy to ‘Deck the halls’.
For me flower arranging is a wonderful hobby and when surrounded with greenery and flowers I forget everything else and revel in producing something beautiful (I hope) from nature’s bounty.