Flower Arranging, Vases and Flower Holders
The contents of the vase cupboard are of primary importance to anyone interested in flower arrangement. A small range of stereotyped vases is stultifying; what may be a suitable container for the sweet, morning freshness of a spring bunch, will not necessarily be so for the rich glory of autumn.
As far as the shape of vases is concerned, I prefer an oval vase to a round one—it is easier to arrange well. A boat-shaped vase is good on a chimney piece or a window-sill. A chalice or goblet-shaped container gives scope for a graceful, down-curving line.
A wall vase has much to recommend it. It does not need so many, for one thing, because every stem is silhouetted against the wall and made the most of. Fastened to the wall it will not overturn and can, therefore, carry spreading branches of some weight.
I have seen copper measures cut in two and used this way, and even an old, brass tinder-box filled with honeysuckle —this sort of wall vase is ideal for trailed, or sprays of drooping berries.
I have even used a flat-backed bicycle basket on a wall, filled with jam pots of water, and coloured to match the simple flowers I put in it.
Picking the right vase for the right occasion is a question of thought, ingenuity and the seeing eye, rather than expenditure of money. Of course, the possession of one or two beautiful vases is a help, but it is a mistake to work even one’s most valued possessions to death.
Generally speaking, glass vases are best reserved for a few, clean-stemmed flowers such as long-stemmed, a branch of magnolia and gardenias. Indeed, in such cases the stems, magnified by the water, may be decorative in themselves.
But glass can be debased by careless use. How often one sees a transparent glass vase showing a confusion of stems in discoloured water, with a still more discoloured sediment at the bottom. Glass vases should be shining, scrupulously clean. A few drops of ammonia will sometimes remove the stains of old water.
One of the pleasures of possessing even a small bit of decorative china, such as Dresden or Rockingham, is that, from time to time, one may find exactly the right flowers to fill it—the moss rose buds, lily-of-the-valley, miniature pansies, and all the rest of the flowers which inspired the creators of such pieces.
Jars, pitchers and honeypots in unglazed earthenware are inexpensive and often of good shape, holding plenty of water.
If their colour is not suitable they may be painted with pale-coloured distempers. Personally, I do not like the effect of shiny oil paints.
Jugs, urns, bowls and preserving pans of good shape in copper, brass, pewter and tin make most satisfactory vases.
Heavy in weight and generally holding plenty of water, they form a secure base for spreading arrangements and larger flowers.
Some flowers, like zinnias, foxgloves and columbines, often look disappointing in a pottery vase, but transfer them to a polished metal container and they come to life.
A vase cupboard may well house a few-ordinary kitchen tins—bread, cake and baking tins, which have probably been many times in a hot oven and taken on a fine surface. These sort of shallow tins are indispensable for long-spreading decorations, such as one might want for a party.
Wooden vases as such are not very often seen nowadays, although the material is a natural complement to flowers. There are, however, many possible substitutes.
Knife boxes, cheese moulds and milk bowls, all fitted with metal linings, are very useful.
I have yet to find anything which answers the purpose of a flower holder better than crumpled-up wire netting.
The tendency of a beginner is to choose a small mesh netting, but when small netting is crumpled up it is difficult, almost impossible, to insert thick stems without mangling them. A mesh of 1-½ to 2 in. is best; for this, provided it is of thin quality, will secure a stem at any angle required. For a shallow bowl, it may be necessary to tie the wire in with string, like a parcel. After the flowers are arranged, the string may be cut away. Glass domes, used by themselves, are apt to give the flowers a pins-in-a-pin-cushion effect, but they may well be used with wire netting.
A useful type of holder for small arrangements consists of a heavy, metal base, closely covered with sharp, needle-like spikes which penetrate the base of the stem and hold it firmly in place.
For tiny vases, a frond or two of clean, washed moss is usually sufficient to hold the stems of small flowers in place. But moss used in quantity, like twigs and sand, takes up space and reduces the water capacity of the vase too much.