Floral design has a rich and varied history dating back to very early cultures. Flowers were used to beautify surroundings, for personal enjoyment, to express feelings, and to enhance religious ceremonies or other important festivals and events. The study of the history and traditions of floral design throughout the ages can give great insight into the use of flowers today.
EARLY FLORAL DESIGN PERIODS
The Egyptians were the first people recorded in history to use flowers for decorative purposes. Cut flowers were placed in bowls, vases, or jars to use in religious ceremonies and for festivals during the Egyptian period. Flowers also served decorative purposes in the home.
The Egyptians valued simplicity and highly stylized repetition. A typical arrangement would be in a wide- mouthed bowl with an orderly sequence of a fully opened water lily, a leaf, and then a bud, repeating around the rim of the bowl.
Flowers, foliage, and fruits were often woven together into wreaths, garlands, flower collars, and chaplets. A wreath forms a circular shape; a garland is a strand or roping of plants, which can be shaped depending upon the place and the designer. Chaplets were either garlands or wreaths worn on a person’s head.
THE GREEK AND ROMAN PERIOD
The Greeks and Romans were greatly influenced by the Egyptian period. Garlands, wreaths, and chaplets were the main floral designs during the Greek and Roman period. Flowers were given to honor their heroes and gods during festivals, athletic events, and religious ceremonies. The strewing (scattering) of flowers and loose petals at banquets and festivals was a trademark of this period. Flowers arranged in vases or bowls was uncommon during this era.
Influence on Today’s Designs
Wreaths and garlands are still very popular today. The wreath is a popular door decoration at the holidays or year-round. Wreaths may be placed either on a wall or on a table as a centerpiece. Garlands are popular for adorning cake tables or head tables at weddings. Evergreen garlands (or roping) add a festive touch to stairways and banisters at the Christmas season. The strewing of petals by a flower girl at a wedding is a common practice.
Ikebana or Japanese flower arranging has been practiced as an art form since 621 AD. This form of floral design was influenced by early Chinese art. The floral designs of the Japanese influence emphasize careful and significant placement of every flower, branch, or leaf. Space and flowing rhythm also characterize this design style. The placement of three main flowers or branches signifies heaven (shin), man (soe), and Earth .
Influence on Today’s Designs
Japanese flower arranging has influenced the contemporary line and line mass designs of today. The use of space in contemporary floral design was given greater importance due to the influence of this design style.