We all love flowers, how they can transform any room, how they smell, how they can make us feel. But who thought to put flowers in an arrangement? Why do we arrange them the way we do today? Where did the various styles come from? Lets explore the history of the flower arrangement.
It’s truly fascinating when exploring the history of flower arrangements, it was the ancient Egyptians that actually started arranging flowers. Egyptians were decorating with flowers as early as 2500 BCE and regularly placed cut flowers in vases and in highly styled arrangements. Flower arrangements were also used for burials, processions and simply to decorate their tables. Flowers used during this time were selected according to symbolic meaning and with an emphasis on a religious meaning.
The Greeks and Romans also used flowers and herbs for decorations. They didn’t commonly use vases but focused on using garlands and wreaths. They used a lot of plant based materials such as, olive branches and terracotta. It was also common for them to toss flower petals on the floors and beds. The most popular foliage used by the Greeks and Romans were acorns, oak leaves, ivy, parsley and laurel wreaths. The laurel wreaths were presented to winners of ancient Olympic competitions and in the home they symbolized a military victory. And just like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans often used flower petals on the floors but and also at banquets.
The Chinese have a history of flower arrangements as well, dating as far back as the 207 BCE to 220 BEC in the Han era. Flowers were a component of religious teaching and medicine. Practitioners of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism would place flowers at their alters, a practice that dates back to 618 to 906 CE. During the Byzantine Empire (500-1453 CE) contributions to the flower arrangement were made as well. This would typically include a cone shape design. The foliage was also placed in chalices and urns, which were usually decorated with brightly coloured flowers and fruit. And the flowers that were commonly used in their arrangements were, lilies, cypress, coronations and pine.
Now lets take a look at what Europe was doing around 1100 CE. This was when it was popular in churches and monasteries to use flowers and plants for decoration. During the middle ages monasteries had gardens with pharmaceutical products needed for “cures.” They often had associations applying to a spiritual bases as well as a medical one. During the Renaissance you would see flower arrganmnts represented in paintings, they were a very impressive and popular art form.
Now if we want to skip ahead a little we can explore what they were doing during the Georgian and Victorian eras. These eras are when arrangements were becoming even more popular. And they were also much more formal, symmetrical and tightly arranged with a variety of flowers. Oriental design was also very popular and influential because of trade. Small handheld arrangements were common during this time and they were called tussie-mussies. Their purpose was to help mask the smells of the street, since they didn’t have proper drainage systems. People would carry these small arrangements with them as they walked around the city.
During the Victorian era it became fashionable to have flowers in the home. Large masses of flowers were placed closely and tightly into containers to create compact arrangements. These arrangements were asymmetrical and stacked tightly together. There was no defined style, they were often unplanned using many different colours. The tussie-mussie was still popular during the Victorian era to provide relief from the odours of the city. At the end of this period there were attempts to create proper arrangements, which became an artful skill/profession in Europe.
Finally we come to the Italian Renaissance, a period which helped to give an extra boost to the art of flower arranging in Europe. During this time there was a wide variety of arrangement styles that began to develop. By the 15th and 16th centuries, flower arrangements were much more common and a large variety of materials were available to make containers such as, marble, heavy Venetian glass and bronze. Flower arrangements made during this time also had a focus on creating colour contrast. Some popular flowers included, Lilies, pinks, iris, jasmine, pansies, French marigolds and rosemary.
Flower arrangements still serve many of the same purposes today as they did then. They are used for decoration, celebrations, memorials and sometime simply making someones day a bit brighter. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history on how it all began. Flowers hold a lot of emotions and can invoke emotions, they are beautiful and wonderful to have around. There doesn’t need to be a reason to have them in your home, it’s simply enough to just enjoy them everyday.