Flower Arrangements-Their Origins and Their Purpose through the Years

Flower ArrangementsA study of the past eras of floral design not only reveals the development and relationship of past styles to present styles, but also provides an understanding of the plant materials that were available and how they were chosen and combined in designs during those periods. No one knows when humans first enjoyed and used flowers in a decorative way, but many historians agree that floral decoration is as old as civilization itself. Flowers have been enjoyed for centuries by cultures all over the world.

From the dawn of recorded , when humans began to till the soil, flowers have been used to beautify the surroundings, to express feelings, and to adorn important ceremonies. Neolithic cave drawings show that even during the Stone Age, flowers were contemplated, perhaps even revered. Here we offer you a look into some of the ancient practices of flower arranging, some of which are still practiced today.

Flower arranging arrived in Europe around 1000 CE, and was particularly popular in churches and monasteries where flowers and plants were used for food as well as for decoration. As crusaders came back from the Middle East, they brought with them new and interesting plants. As a result, European countries began experimenting with plants that were previously unknown to them.

No matter how you arrange them, flowers speak to the soul. Their symbolism can express deep emotion when words won’t suffice. Enjoy…!

The ancient Japanese art of flower arranging: IkebanaThe ancient Japanese art of flower arranging: Ikebana

Over many centuries Ikebana has set the rules and principles that are followed in the practice of the Japanese art. The first Ikebana school was established in the 1500s, yet it continues to thrive today as an exquisite floral art. Ikebana now uses many different floral pieces to create the beautiful “landscapes”.

The origin of that school goes back to 6th century.The origin of that school goes back to 6th century. The legend goes as follows: 

A monk went to Tonko, China to study Buddhism. When he returned he decided to create a flower arrangement to illustrate the landscape of Tonko and the only way he could do it was by symbolism. So, the tallest branch represents the tallest mountain. Cascading willow branches are the mountain range below that, and the winter berry is another mountain. The center of the arrangement, consisting of irises, mums and the greenery represents the village of Tonko. Representing the river that flows to the ocean are the lines that go to the front.

The ancient Egyptians decorated with cut flowers placed in vasesThe ancient Egyptians decorated with cut flowers placed in vases

These arrangements were simplistic, repetitious, and highly stylized – there was no bunching and flowers were set in rows. These included blue scilla, poppy-flowered anemone, Iris sibirica, delphinium, narcissus, palm tree, papyrus; rosewater lilies were often used because they represent the Goddess Isis. The Egyptians also liked to carry bouquets and wear wreaths of flowers .Many other flowers have been found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians

The GreeksThe Greeks did not arrange their flowers in vases or bouquets, rather they scattered flowers on the ground during festivals or they were used to make wreaths and garlands. The preferred flowers include roses, hyacinths, honeysuckle, violets, and lilies. Other flowers such as tulips, larkspur, and marigolds were also selected for their shape, color, and form.

Wreaths symbolized alliance and honor and were used to award people who demonstrated these characteristics. The garland wreath was a symbol to the Greeks of power, honor, allegiance, dedication; it was awarded in honor of athletes, poets, civic leaders, soldier, and heroes. Laurel wreaths were presented to winners of athletic competitions in the ancient Olympics; these wreaths were also awarded to individuals winning competition in poetic meets, while

The flowers, fragrance, and symbolism associated with each flower were more important than color or beauty. Flowers were also mainly used in funeral wreaths. The most popular foliage used by the Greeks and the Romans were acorns, oak leaves, laurel, ivy, bay and parsley.

The RomansThe Romans continued the customs of the Greeks. Greater wealth led to the abundant use of flowers. Many roses would be used at dinners, often called “the hour of the rose.” Roman wreaths and garlands were heavier and more elaborate than those of the Greeks. Flowers were also arranged in baskets with high backs and flattened fronts.

The Byzantine EmpireThe Byzantine Empire made its contribution to floral arrangements, which typically included a cone shape design. Arrangements were distinguished by height and symmetry. The foliage was placed in chalices and urns, which were further decorated with brightly colored flowers and fruit. Flowers commonly included in these arrangements were daisies, lilies, cypress, carnations, and pine. Ribbons were also commonly used, and leaves and tiny flowers were set in arching lines to give a twisted effect to garlands.

The RenaissanceThe Renaissance ushered in the reawakening of intellectual pursuits and the revival of the arts. Gardening and floral designing became a part of this rebirth. The Italian Renaissance is 7 Figure 3 Italian Renaissance Flower Arrangement regarded as the beginning of floral design as practiced in contemporary society.

Flowers were cut from flower gardens, taken into homes, and arranged for everyday occasions, not just for church and state occasions. During this period, flowers were appreciated for their beauty, as well as their symbolic value. Specific flowers were chosen to portray emotions and ideals, such as the rose for scared love, the violet and daisy for humility, and the white lily for chastity.

Ancient ChinaAncient China

The Chinese were making flower arrangements as far back as 207 BCE to 220 CE, in the Han era of ancient China. Flowers were an integral component of religious teaching and medicine.

Practitioners of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism placed cut flowers on their altars, a practice which dates back to 618-906 CE. They created paintings, carvings, and embroidered items with depictions of flowers. The paintings can be found on vases, plates, scrolls, and silk, while carvings were done on wood, bronze, jade and ivory.

Buddhist teachings forbade the taking of a life, so religious practitioners worked sparingly when taking cuttings from plants. Flowers and leaves that were used to make basket arrangements were selected based on their symbolic meaning. For example, the bamboo, the peach tree, and the pear tree symbolized longevity. The tiger lily, the pomegranate, and the orchid symbolized fertility. The most honored of all flowers was the peony. Considered the “king of flowers”, it symbolized wealth, good fortune, and high status.

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