Part One "Flower Arranging Around the World"
The Art of Arranging Flowers
Around the World Part One
are credited with being the
first people to put water in a
of cut flowers. It seems obvious now, but when the people in China were
putting flowers in water, the rest of the world was braiding garlands,
making wreaths and flinging petals.
Japan grasped the vision of combining cut flowers, water and containers from
China with such enthusiasm and inspiration that different schools of thought
with masters who created philosophies and design principles sprang into
culture expanded flower arranging into a meditative practice, which had its roots in beliefs and philosophies. It became an art form that inspired contemplation and transcended decorative and devotional
In the sixth century a Japanese emissary to China brought back the knowledge of how to sustain life in cut floral material by adding water. Shortly after, the first formal school of flower arranging was established by a priest. The use of flower arrangements spread very quickly
from the priesthood and temples to the nobility and their homes.
The Chinese people expressed balance and the interaction of objects within
dimensions in space. Japanese arrangements consisted of the portrayal of
heaven, man and earth, The designs were constructed with tall flowers or
foliage to represent heaven, shorter ones at the bottom to represent earth
and floral material in the middle symbolized the connectedness of man with
the heavens above and earth below.
Our knowledge of the use of flowers in Egypt comes from the tombs, pyramids
and sphinxes’ where enamels, bas-reliefs, carvings, jewelry and even
actual plant materials have been discovered and made available for study.
From these artifacts we learn that whether floral material was placed in
bowls or formed into head wreaths, garlands or collars for honored guests,
flowers and berries were combined in regimented, precise rows, not
overlapped or casually collected. The colors were sharply segregated.
During the years 2800 to 28 BC, the use of flowers in religious ceremonies,
for decorative purposes in the home and for personal adornment was a highly
important aspect of the culture.
Flowers were so abundant they were shipped
to Rome. Water lilies, lotus, acacia, roses, violets, Madonna lilies,
narcissus, jasmine and poppies were among the species commonly grown and
used for arrangements. Fruits, vines and foliage were equally popular.
Greece and Rome
In ancient Greece (600-146 BC) floral wreaths and garlands were the
use for flowers. Wreaths were placed on the brows of living heroes, statues
of gods, goddesses, famous mortals, and were used to honor the dead. Flower
petals were tossed at festivals, ceremonies and during religious occasions.
Flowers and fruits arranged in low baskets were carried to the banquet
tables in ancient Rome where guests were crowned and draped with massive
floral wreaths and garlands. Fresh cut roses were dropped from the ceiling
in a rain of extravagant colors and fragrance.
Byzantium and Persia
The eastern Roman Empire, located in Byzantium, developed techniques in
floral art that were preserved for us to study within the church mosaics.
Images of beautiful urns and chalices filled with symmetrical foliage
“trees” built to high, tapering tips and decorated at regular intervals
with clusters of flowers and fruits in pure jewel-like colors were
meticulously placed in stone. The theme of art and beauty runs throughout
history, and flowers are the predominant symbol.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and before the
beginning of the Renaissance, little is known of flower art until the
thirteenth century, or the Gothic period. During this era, flowers, foliage
and fruits were freely used to decorate the great cathedrals. There are
tapestries, paintings and illustrated manuscripts of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries which show tall vases containing a few long stemmed
flowers and the making and presentation of wreaths and garlands.
With the beginning of the renaissance (1400-1600) all art flourished. Large
vases made of precious metals and stones were crafted to contain very tall
arrangements that sat upon the floor or on windowsills. For the first time,
we see natural arrangements of flowers in un-crowded containers as well as
small, tightly concentrated bouquets.
In France, niches were designed to hold vases and urns for cut flowers.
Arrangements were placed at intervals down the center of the dining room
table, and smaller arrangements were a part of the décor in all elegant
The English painter, William Hogarth
introduced the ‘S’ shaped or later
called ‘Hogarthian curve’ to floral design. Flowers and foliage were
gently coaxed into rhythmical and symmetrical designs that followed the
curvature of the letter ‘S’.
The buffet table came into its greatest elegance during this time. It
provided the decorator with a stage for garlands, wreaths and pyramids of
flowers, sweets and fruits. Whole rooms were lit with dozens of candles
placed in tall, ornate candle holders, and the women wore flowers in their
hair, and clusters of flowers were sewn to their silken gowns.
Flemish and Dutch artists painted pictures of seasonal material crammed into wide lipped, low vases, large urns, cups, wall vases and baskets. These pictorial references provide us with a contrasting view of eastern and western preferences in floral design.
While the western world was breaking boundaries and exploring the feeling of freedom, growth and abundance, the eastern world was holding the vision of balance, flow and order.
During the last half of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth
in Europe, Great Britain and America, a revival of simple, classic architecture, decorations and furnishings took place. This may have been in reaction to the extreme, flamboyant styles of the Baroque period that had preceded.
Simple wreaths and garlands were once again worn and carried in the classic tradition by people of fashion. Cool and muted flower arrangements became popular, and the floral material was artfully arranged in careful, symmetrical designs.
The great impressionist painters of the nineteenth century in France, such as: Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh added invaluable examples of flower and fruit paintings to the art treasures of the world. They painted tables bearing vases of blossoms, bowls of fruit and open flowers tossed carelessly on beautiful fabrics. They artfully suggested still lives by painting vases of flowers with other objects as integral
parts of the design. The feeling was romantic, rich, robust and natural.
Every brush stroke spoke of the sanctity of life in all its shapes, shadows
Records showing the use of flowers in early America
are sparse, but one can assume that early settlers must have utilized
everyday containers like pitchers, cups and bowls to display flowers.
more developed colonies, treasures were brought from Europe and by the
middle of the eighteenth century the China trade was bringing in oriental
porcelains. The home manufacturing of glass and imported silver provided
artists and craftsmen with materials for more elegant containers.
East met the west at the close of the nineteenth century and during the
first decade of the twentieth century as the New Art or Art Nouveau came
into fashion. Japanese wallpapers, screens and art objects depicting
balance, restraint and passion blended beautifully with the simple, elegant
styles that began to emerge.
Many bouquets were in tall vases, the flowers slightly taller than the
containers. And, due to western appreciation of Oriental art, arrangements
of flowering shrubs set in low dishes and small, decorative bowls also
The art of flower arranging around the world continued