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Home > Craft Topics > Craft Introductions > Flower Arranging

The Craft of Flower Arranging

Delicate Pink Freesia Flower Display from SilkfloraIntroduction to Flower Arranging

Flowers are one of the most delightful and challenging of creative materials. Their availability and the minimal equipment needed to start flower arranging makes this one of the most accessible crafts. It also gives great pleasure both to the arranger and the recipient.

Origins of Arranging Flowers

The idea of arranging cut flowers decoratively is as old as civilisation itself. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Persian stone reliefs show vases of flowers in domestic and ceremonial settings.  

In more recent history, 17th century Dutch and Flemish flower paintings, with their informal, generously full vases of sometimes 25 or more different species, set the style for flower arranging for the next 300 years. In 18th and early 19th century France, vases became more ornate and the scale, grander and more lavish.

Victorian flower displays ranged from the ostentatious to simple posies of wild flowers. At the turn of the 20th century, Oriental flower arranging, with its minimalist approach, greatly affected the West.  

Highly stylised, formal flower arrangements are a relatively modern trend, which developed over the last 50 years. Today, more simple tied bunches, are gain popular.

Basic techniques of Flower Arranging

Before the flowers are arranged they must be conditioned. This is done in a variety of ways depending on the species. The object of conditioning is to improve the plants water absorption rate and so increase its life expectancy.  

Hard woody stemmed varieties such as roses, for example, must have their stems hammered or split upwards. Surplus foliage is stripped off and the flowers are left in a cool room before being used. Ideally store flowers in a cool storage area where they can be chilled, but not as cold as a domestic refrigerator.  

There are certain basic pieces of equipment needed for flower arranging, but there is scope to keep the cost down.  

Cutting tools – such as secateurs, florists scissors and knives are needed for cutting stems and wire.

Bases and containers can be any shape or size, but must be waterproof if fresh flowers are to be used. More unusual options include coal scuttles, umbrella stands and laundry baskets.  


Support is usually in the form of florists foam. Wire mesh netting can be used as an alternative or wrapped around the foam to provide extra support. Stems can also be stuck onto a pinholder.  


Other items needed include florists prongs, florists mastic (a special tape), wire, water spray and decorative ribbon.  


The choice of flowers for an arrangement depends on availability, budget and customers taste. Ideally, the colour will compliment the background setting. However, neutral creams and whites are always acceptable.

The design may be limited to one or two types of flowers, but in mixed displays, a range of flower shapes, textures and sizes give added dimensions to arrangements.  


Foliage is as important as flowers. Berries, seed pods, grasses – even leafless branches – can be used to great effect in a display.  


If the arrangement is to occupy a particular space, this will have a major effect on the shape of the display. It should comfortably fill a space without it looking cramped or overwhelmed. The viewpoint must also be established; a table display for instance is visible from all sides whereas a mantelpiece or wall display is only seen from the front.  


There is a trend towards unusual or informal arrangements, and here imagination and creativity flourish.

An unusual flower or piece of foliage may spark off an idea for an arrangement. A perfect lily for example may form the focal point around which the florist will work. Alternatively, an interesting base such as twisted bark or a wrought iron frame may be taken as a starting point.  


A base does not have to be used. A lovely array which looks deceptively simple is a ‘tied bunch’. This is arranged by building up a bunch in one hand by adding flowers and foliage with the other.

Finally, big is not necessarily best. A small posy can be just as stunning as a large array of flowers. It is up to the individual to use the material at hand to the greatest possible advantage. 


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