Flower Arranging – Going Dutch

Going Dutch imageAt this time of year I often think of ‘going Dutch’.

Flower arrangers have long been inspired by flower paintings produced in the 17th and 18th Century by the Dutch/Flemish Masters. To a flower arranger they appear to be that perfect arrangements. Botanists and botanical painters are impressed by their accurate depiction of a huge variety of plant material covering all the seasons.

The paintings usually depict a variety of mixed flowers and very little foliage. Using flowers available in the shops and taking a small amount from the emerging plant material in the April garden I have arranged a simplified version of the designs.

All sorts of containers are used in the paintings. I have opted for a simple footed urn in a neutral green. Of course there was no floral foam in the 17th century but then the arrangements depicted were never created and to get the effect I had to fill the container with wet foam so that it stood about 8cms above the rim.

Many shapes of outline are used on the paintings but, especially with the garden material, I largely allowed the flowers to do their own thing. Tulips were very important in these designs. Newly discovered, they were traded for vast amounts and new streaked and broken colours were coveted.

We have tulips in the shops and gardens throughout the Spring. When arranging them in this design I left a few out of water for a couple of hours so that they curved elegantly. Daffodils, Roses, Chrysanthemums and Hyacinths came from the shop, a mixed bunch will often supply a few of each, and the Hellebores, Viburnum flowers and budded Camellias from the garden.

These paintings often showed items at the base of the arrangement which were termed Vanitas. A timely reminder of mans fleeting existence on earth. We flower arrangers think of them as accessories. I have used a nest and eggs as a seasonal association with Spring and Easter. The nest is formed from moss and the eggs are chocolate speckled ones. Try not to eat too many when arranging them. This is all arranged on a base which is in fact a cheese board made from marble and wood. A base helps to bring the components of the design together. A bread board or small tray would work as well.

Remember to top up the wet foam regularly with water. It is good idea to cut a small amount of foam away when it is put into the container so that the water goes easily into the pot, providing a supply to be taken up into the foam.