Most people know what they like when it comes to choosing a picture, a piece of furniture, fabrics for the home, or an arrangement or bouquet of flowers. There is something about the piece, its colors, shape or more significantly its design which triggers a reaction, an emotion in us, perhaps of recognition and appreciation. Seldom are the elements which create good design analysed; quite often their combination appears so effortless and natural that it is difficult to pinpoint any one exactly within the construction of the work. This is surely the mark of good design. Basic design principles can be applied to all forms of art.
In floristy a good design not only combines design elements contained within the construction of the work but also takes into consideration external factors such as the setting and the purpose for which the display is intended. For example, a large vase of delphiniums or dahlias in a small room could appear overpowering, whereas a few thoughtfully placed stems arranged in a more limited or simple style would be far more suited to such a setting. Taking this idea a stage further, the clean lines and economical use of flowers in an abstract or modern-style arrangement would suit a modern room or reception area but would perhaps be at odds with a traditional or country-style room. Here an informal arrangement of garden flowers in a basket or pottery container would be more sympathetic to the overall style of the setting. Effective floral design therefore involves ensuring that the materials, style and location complement one another and work together to form an overall harmonious picture.
These ideas are just as important to remember when designing wedding bouquets and accessories, The height of the bride and style of the wedding dress will affect the finished size of the bouquets. Likewise the way in which the bride's or bridesmaids' hair is styled will affect the size and design of any headdress decorations.
With a little forethought and forward planning, scale and proportion are among the easier elements to achieve within a design. An awareness of the materials being used and the eventual purpose or use of the piece work being made is all that should be required to practice this effectively. It would be difficult, not to say foolhardy, to try to prescribe exact quantities of materials needed for specific styles of arrangement. So much depends on the quality of the current fashion trend for interior design. Floral displays are closely linked with changing interior styles and can swing from a minimalistic look to extravagant designs resembling a summer garden in full bloom.
Generally the style of the arrangement will determine the quantities of flowers needed. An all-around arrangement for a table center will require rougly the same amount of materials as symmetrical display. A modern linear style should always consist of odd numbers of flowers: three, five or nine blooms of the same type.
When decorating a room or a building the success of the displays relies on the right choice of flower types. Ligth rooms filled with heavy mohogany furniture need equally bold flowers to avoid the arrangements becoming overpowered by their surroundings. Lilies, peonies, full-blown roses, gladioli and chrysanthemum are ideal for this situation. An old country cottage with low beams and ceilings a different approach using far more informal, smaller flowers such as alstromeria, solidago, asters, achillea and sweet peas.
Other elements also contributes to effective rhythm: repetition, transition and radiation. They might not be particularly important individually, but as a whole they can greatly change and improve an arrangement.
Repetition can be achieved by forming pattern lines or groupings of materials within a design. Usually the same type and color of flower is grouped together; similar shapes positioned together will have the same effects. A pattern line of spray carnations can extend from the topmost bud in an arrangement down through the design and diagonally off to one side at the base. Likewise a line of distinctive flowers like irises can be placed trough an arrangement from the point of a symmetrical triangle down to the focal area, which is formed by grouped iris.
This focal area can then be strengthened by the additional of one or two large leaves such as hosta or bergenia. A finer or divided leaf like fern or ruscus would not add the necessary strength to the central group that the larger leaves do. This grouping of materials and color forms continuous threads through the arrangement that give the impression of movement. Repetition or the placement of separate groups of the same flower can also achieve this. Some flowers by their very size, shape or color can be too dominant in a design if grouped strictly in a pattern line, as they would stand out from the surrounding smaller, lighter flowers.
Transitional flowers are those whose size bridges the gap from small to larger blooms. An example of this would be spray carnations at the top of an arrangament, dahlias at the base and carnation blooms in between the two. A gradual change in size is achieved, and the repetition of the same circular flower shape ensures a smooth transition. Transitional flowers and shapes are important to study or rhythm as they complement the pattern lines of a design, therefore allowing the eye to travel easily from one pattern grouping to the next. Generally speaking, this transition should be as gentle and unobtrusive as possible.
Colors also plays an important part in achieving transition. By using tints, tones and shades, stronger, brighter colors can be blended together effectively to form a pleasing mix of flowers that would otherwise overshadow the rest of the design. Gerbera are a good example of this. The perfect circles of the flowers command attention even if pastel colors are used. For flowers such as these, small individual groupings within the display are more effective than a complete pattern line. Three blooms together on one side above the focal area and five or seven flowers diagonally opposite below the focal area form a far more pleasing design than a complete line. The uneven numbers of three and five or seven blooms achieve visual balance because of their positions within the arrangement, the lesser number being higher in the display than the larger number.
The direction in which flowers and foliage appear to flow within an arrangement is of the same importance as the previous elements described and is called radiation. All floral designs have a focal area, usually centrally positioned toward the base of the display, from which all materials should appear to radiate. This ensures that the arrangement has elegance and grace, and even a large pedestal arrangement should give this impression. Although the central "working" area of foam can be very large, the finished effect should still be the same. This is achieved by placing the stems into the foam at the correct angle in relation to their position within the display. Those at the top are inserted vertically, those at the sides horizontally and those at the base almost upside down.
e way to achieve it within an arrangement, as it relies not on the application of one or two elements but rather on the sum total of all the parts succesfully coming together to create a harmonious and pleasing whole. To try to simplify this, harmony can be described as the accord or unity between the various elements of a design that make it an artistically pleasing arrangement. Balance, rhythm and repetition, scale and proportion, dominance and contrast all effectively working together will create harmony within a display. None of the design principles should be in conflict with the others or with the overall design unless used as a deliberate exercise in contrast.
This harmonising of the entire display can be achieved in a number of ways, by the repetition or similarity of texture, style, shape and color between the flowers, foliage, container and surroundings. The harmonious relationship of an arrangement with its surroundings should not be confused with scale and proportion, which rely on competability of size and quantity. Harmony requires not only this but also sympathetic combinations of flower types, colors and styles of designs and containers to form an integral part of the surroundings in which they are displayed. To use a familiar example again, a rustic basket of garden flowers in a country cottage illustrates this very well.
To achieve harmony it is useful to look at the combinations of materials to be found in nature. A woodland and country-style arrangement of branches, primroses, bluebells and moss displayed on a piece of wood or bark looks 'right'. The addition of flowers such as carnations or roses, even if of a suitable color, would ruin the overall effect, as they would not be in harmony with the simple wild flowers.
Often the simplest and apparently uncontrived arrangements are the most successful in acheiving overall harmony. Too much variety in materials and colors, of either flowers or accessories, can confuse and destroy the final effect. Two extremes as example of harmonious display would be a large stone jar filled with sheep's parsle
y flowers and wild oats in the sympathetic surroundings of a country-style kitchen or a cottage room. Anthutiums on the other hand, demand a much more sophisticated treatment. Arranged in a black lustre glass vase with some equally bold leaves such as strelitzia or monstera, they make a bold statement which needs to be matched by equally bold surroundings such as a modern hotel foyer or apartment containing strong visual impact.