The cold and barren atmosphere of an empty church, hall, or other auditorium is automatically changed by the presence of appropriate flowers. But often the enhancing value-of a cluster of beautiful blooms is reduced by poor arrangement or inartistic placing. We are fortunate in having the reflections of an experienced Professional florist as well as an earnest Adventist in the three articles that follow. Our confidence in Elder Hansen's artistry is backed by years of observation, as he has for a decade supplied our headquarters church with exquisite flowers artistically arranged and advantageously placed—EDITOR.
Who thinks of the Garden of Eden and does not think of flowers? The blight of sin brought the earth under a curse, but there still remains much of the original touch of beauty. How often, when we marvel at the beauties of our present flowerland, do we think of what Eden must have been or of what Eden restored will be. Flowers are probably the most definite link in nature between Eden lost and Eden restored. Indeed, flowers may be one of the means of bringing us, through Christ, into Eden.
"He who created for man a beautiful world, and planted a lovely garden in Eden with every variety of trees for fruit and beauty, and who decorated the earth with most lovely flowers of every description and hue, has given tangible proofs that He is pleased with the beautiful"--Testimonies, Vol. II, p. 258.
"The beauty that clothes the earth is a token of God's love. We may behold it in the everlasting hills, in the lofty trees, in the opening buds and the delicate flowers. All speak to us of God. The Sabbath, ever pointing to Him who made them all, bids men open the great book of nature, and trace therein the wisdom, the power, and the love of the Creator."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 48.
Flowers can add a harmonious touch to the religious service, and their arrangement may well be given some thought by those who look after it. It is advisable to designate some individual in the church to take the responsibility rather than have different persons deposit their flowers where and how they will. We have seen instances of jamming a bunch of flowers into any kind of container in such a manner that no flowers at all would have been better.
Books and magazine articles on flower arrangement are available. The application of the principles of arrangement must, of course, depend much upon what material is available, and where it is to be used. Most of the published instruction applies particularly to the home. The suggestions here given will be for the church, auditorium, hall, or tent—any of which can readily take floral decoration to advantage.
In decorative material we may consider anything from pines to palms, in other words, evergreens from the woods or palms from the greenhouse. Flowers from the field or florist, from the home garden, or even from the indoor window garden offer suitable material.
A large bare interior, such as a portable tabernacle, tent, or hall, can be made very attractive by a liberal use of evergreen branches or small trees, such as pines, cedars, spruces, and hemlocks. Freshly cut branches of oak or other deciduous trees, especially those with autumn tints and colorings, may be used with good effect where the meeting session is for a day or two.
Palms are suited for settings where richness is particularly desirable. Perhaps the occasion is one where city or State officials are present or some prominent person is the guest speaker. Honor may be shown by the use of richer and fewer decorative materials. A few palms or a single beautiful basket would be in place. Florists usually charge $1 or $1.50 for each palm for a rental for a day or two.
It sometimes happens that we hold services in a borrowed or rented church or chapel that is already well decorated with velvet curtains, stained-glass windows, mosaics, and frescoes. Here little floral decoration is needed and should be of most careful selection. A large amount of material would detract. A few palms, aspidistras, ferns, or Easter lilies might be u:.ed to add dignity and perhaps softness.
An important consideration is proper proportion between the size of the room and the quantity of decorative material, as well as the size of individual plants or flowers used. A large room should have enough decoration, and a small one not too much. It would be better to have no decorating at all in the large room, if there is so little as to make the decorating seem unfinished or a failure. However, a wise use of a small amount of material may make it go further than an unwise use of a larger amount.
For a large room use large plants, large baskets, and the largest flowers obtainable. The largest will look small enough from the rear of the room. If the material is none too plentiful, one large basket near the speaker's table or in the front of the pulpit will do. Or a number of smaller plants may be massed to give the effect of size. The seeming emptiness of a large room can be reduced by the use of decorative material—trees, branches, and plants—on the walls if the space permits. Branches or small trees can be used to screen off anything objectionable.
The decorative scheme should always have an objective central point, or "point of emphasis," as it is called. This will be at the point where the vision of the audience will naturally be directed. In the wedding it will be where the preacher and the bridal couple stand. In the preaching service or lecture it will be the pulpit or desk. Personally, I think it best not to use the pulpit itself as a decorative point, but let it always be distinctively the thing it is. Let the preacher and the Word hold undivided interest.
A table in front of the pulpit may be used on which to place a basket, vase, bowl of flowers, or a plant. Two pieces of equal attraction may be used, one on each side of the pulpit. If the pulpit does not permit of decorations in front or at the sides, the point of emphasis may be placed at the back center of the rostrum. Tall palms or other foliage, plants, or large baskets of flowers on pedestals, flanked perhaps by plants and baskets of flowers in descending heights, may be used. They should always be low enough not to hide those occupying the platform. Such a decorative scheme is in order on the occasion of a public lecture with visiting speakers, such as a temperance rally. It is also suitable for a graduation exercise when the class motto may form the focal point of the decoration. It should be remembered that decorations are only decorations, or accessories—they are not the principal thing of the occasion. Have them attractive enough, but do not overdo the matter so that the interest of the audience is diverted. Make the decorations add to the occasion, not draw from it.
All decorating should regard the comfort and convenience of the speakers and audience. Flowers should not be placed so as to interfere with the movements of the speakers or others who may take part. Neither should decorations obscure the clear view of the speaker or an important part of the rostrum, such as map, chart, blackboard, picture screen, or the pulpit in front. A basket of flowers may be ever so beautiful, but if it is placed where it is in the way of comfortable view, someone in the audience, or on the rostrum, is likely to get up and set it somewhere else, perhaps where it looks altogether out of place, and is an eyesore for the rest of the service. Take into consideration all points of the audience room. Even low ferns at the front of the rostrum or stage may interfere with the view of those in the front rows.
An important item is the "sky line" or top line of the arrangement. This runs from the highest point, and may go from the center to both sides or in curved lines to the front. Where two sides of a stage or platform are massed, the sky line will run down toward the center. This line should not be too regular or monotonous, nor too irregular or jerky.
The point of emphasis may be a large basket of flowers, a particularly nice foliage plant, or a group of flowers. Such a point will naturally draw one's attention at once on entering the room. In a very large auditorium there may be more than one point of emphasis, but all should be in harmony as a whole decorative scheme.
Do not space material so far apart that it looks meager, nor so close that it is crowded. Evergreens, pin oak, boxwood, ferns, or other greens may be used as a background for smaller groups of flowers. Arrange the foliage first for the general shape of the scheme. It is generally better to arrange the flowers in groups rather than to scatter them all through the foliage. If containers are first placed among the foliage the -flowers can more easily be arranged with pleasing natural effect. Do not make the group arrangements too regular or too much alike.
Where palms or plants in tubs are used, or small cut trees in water containers, it is best to hide the tubs or containers. Green foliage, such as evergreens, fern fronds, field asparagus, and laurel, are good material. If the spaces between the containers are also covered with foliage, the natural effect of growing plants is obtained.
After placing the decorations, view them from different points to make sure that everything is as it should be. Some glaring discordant note may ruin the entire effect. What looks good from the front may look very different from another point. Make sure of a good job as a whole.
In another article we will consider the more detailed features of flower arrangement in church services.