history, people have used flowers to express their feelings, enhance their
surroundings, and to commemorate important rituals and observances. The
knowledge of how our ancestors used flowers comes to us in numerous ways. All
forms of art, depict the use of flowers: music, books, paintings, sculpture,
ceramics and tapestries are only examples of some of the sources of information
regarding the use of flowers in past times. Some of the most opulent examples of
source material for us are the flower pictures produced by artists during the
17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which so accurately depict flowers in their
As we know them today, flower arrangements represent an amalgamation of two styles: the 'European and New World Style' and the 'Oriental' style. The European style arrangements from which we borrowed were filled with large numbers of flowers rich in various colours, and are referred to as 'Mass Arrangements'. In contrast, the Oriental styles emphasized simplicity, containing few flowers and conservative colours, and, as they emphasized lines instead of masses, are known as 'Line Arrangements'.
The following section will take you on a 'tour' through history, of the art of floral design. You may move along this 'tour' by clicking on the periods listed below:
MODERN PERIOD (CONTEMPORARY) (1910-PRESENT)
The appearance of the twentieth century brought period in America in which the stuffy, overcrowded ornamentation of the Victorian was rapidly replaced by a transitional style of flower design called the 'New Art'. Containers were designed just to hold flowers in which small bouquets were placed. It was at this time that the Western world became aware of the Japanese art of 'line arrangements' in which branches were placed in low dishes and Oriental bowls. This 'new' style spread through the United States rapidly after the First World War ended, and an increased interest in flower arranging developed, propelled by newly formed garden clubs. Horticulture became a fashionable leisure past-time, and flower shows were popular. Formal techniques for judging the standard elements and principles of floral design were developed, and design contests became an integral part of the flower shows. Designers of this time developed a style which combined the characteristics of Oriental line arrangements with the mass arrangements originating from Europe.
The 1950's and 60's brought a significant increase in interest in the use of flowers to decorate the home in the 'States', and Home and Garden publications fired this interest even more. Following the Second World War, international transportation improved sufficiently, so that flowers began to be imported to the United States from distant countries. With this, new species were introduced for arrangements, and the 'New Style' of America grew to new heights. The centre of flower production and distribution in The Netherlands became a source of a new style, in addition to being a source of floral materials. Today the new 'Dutch Style' is one which is becoming increasingly popular throughout this country. It is exemplified by naturalistic garden style arrangements, using groupings of similar flowers, and parallel lines. The use of hand tied bouquets is also returning. The use of many new tropical materials and perennials is also increasing. Following Holland as centre of floral production was South America, specifically Columbia, where great areas of flower production exist at present.
AMERICAN VICTORIAN PERIOD
Styles of the Victorian period in England began to spill over to the newly-declared United States. Ornate containers of many different kinds of materials were filled to overflowing, using cool colours and an abundance of white. Arrangements tended to be made in rich purples, magentas, and dark blues. As in England, the Tussy-Mussy was popular, especially in the 'deep South'.