Flowers have always been regarded as a luxury rather than a necessity - Tulip bulbs were once prized as highly as gold - although, during various periods in history, flowers have served more functions than simply to delight the nose and the eye.

Before the advent of giant refrigerated flower trucks that ferry flowers around the world regardless of season, you could tell exactly where you were in the year by looking at a flower arrangement. The whites and yellows of spring bulbs enlivened by fresh green hellebores gave way to pastel blossom arrangements as spring slid into summer. The purple blues and various pinks of the early summer months would be replaced by hotter oranges and reds at the end of the season. By the autumn, the color came from foliage or late roses, and, of course, by midwinter, the slick green of holly with its inevitably red berry was all that was available.

Now the seasons overlap as never before and exotic newcomers have been coaxed into the florist's shop. Flowers are a labor-intensive form of decorating and ultimately, of course, short-lived. Like all festive embellishments, flowers do not last beyond the period they have been contrived to celebrate and so we are, thankfully, not given the opportunity to tire of them. Although there has been an overwhelming movement towards simplicity in the floral arrangement in recent years the restrained decorum of a glass tank full of white tulips is, in the right context, to die for - for more boisterous feasts there is no reason why you cannot opt for something a little more chaotic, brimming with different colors and scents. Even when the flowers have died, the flower heads can be dried as an emotional and an aesthetic reminder of the arrangement they came from and, therefore, the event they celebrated.


The traditional furniture and rich greens of this dining room (left) call for a sculptural, deep-colored arrangement of flowers to set the tone for a celebratory dinner party. The Oriental note established by the window, shutters have inspired a casual allusion to Eastern arranging with the contorted willow and blue-glazed, Oriental-inspired vase.


The hard lines of the modern dining table (far right) have been softened by an organza runner, which instantly lightens the mood. Early summer flowers in pastel colors have been informally arranged in an aluminum vase that alludes aesthetically to the garden. The effect is informal, fun, and breezy, with herbs squeezed into the arrangement for extra scent.


The bleak winter months can be enlivened florally with a shallow bowl filled with the dried heads from a summer bouquet (left), providing a touching but nevertheless beautiful reminder of things past. The scent from the politely decaying blooms can be enhanced and prolonged by adding a few drops of perfumed oil every now and again.


In the picture on the right, the celebration could be anything - Happy Wednesday. Thanks for helping me change the wheel on the car or Happy Mother's Day. The fact that the glass tank of white tulips has been placed, rather unusually, on a chair shows how special the thought behind the arrangement is - the flowers have been moved as close to the bed as possible in order to delight the lucky recipient immediately on awakening. It is a natural, informal look that is worth the effort involved in contriving to look uncontrived.

flowers / containers

If you read women's magazines from the 1950s, you will discover article after fascinating article about the

importance of having a sufficient quantity of the right kind of vase. The truth these days, however, is that although we might have one or two attractive vases, if we are in the mood to celebrate, the number of flower arrangements could easily outnumber the designated containers.

Imagine a gorgeous, rich, dense bouquet of flowers in a gorgeous, rich, densely embellished vase – but what does this really amount to? Answer: a large, overblown lump of not quite art. As is so often the case, getting display right means understanding the relationships between objects in order to achieve the right balance. Of course, the Victorians believed that pattern and color should be crammed into every corner and onto every available surface. Today, we like a cooler, more balanced approach to display that often means either underplaying the container of a rich bouquet or underplaying the arrangement in an ornate vase. As a result, suitable receptacles for flowers can come from the most unlikely sources. Milk bottles, old fishbowls, jam jars, and plastic pen tidies - they can all work if the flowers are fresh and jaunty enough to delight the eye. Playing down the vase element in a festive floral arrangement can be a highly effective way of making celebratory flower displays coordinate more closely with today's more informal interiors


It is somebody's birthday at the office and there are no vases around, so what do you do? In the picture above, a plastic pen tidy has been commandeered along with some antique inkwells to hold simple birthday posies.


A variety of vessels has been pressed into service to make a celebratory statement on this front doorstep. Fishbowls and flowerpots mingled with vases and candles in glasses will make the arriving guests confident that they have not only found the right party but that they will be truly welcome within


The serene and simple space of the kitchen pictured far left would be overpowered by an overblown flower arrangement in a grand vase, so two clouded glass bottles have been chosen instead. They provide the ideal transparent green to tone with the grey-green foliage and dusty purple flower heads of the sea holly.

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