"That God who has . . . given us the brilliant and beautiful shades of the flowers, and whose lovely handiwork we see in all the realm of nature, does not design to make us unhappy; He does not design that we shall have no taste, and take no pleasure in these things. It is His design that we shall enjoy them, and be happy in the charms of nature, which are of His own creating." —Testimonies, Vol. II, p. 588.
We were considering in our last article certain values of colors in flowers. As already stated, in arranging flowers we do not have to mix colors as in painting, but we use colors as we find them, in all their hues, shades, and tints. Just as the artist who uses color pigments has in mind what his finished work is to be, so in arranging flowers one should be conscious of what the combination of colors will produce. It need not be that- the full flower picture be in mind before beginning, for details may have to be filled in according to the material on hand and the way it works into the complete arrangement.
It is true that a riot of color in the garden makes appeal, regardless of color combinations. It is also true that nature grows pretty flowers in all sorts of mixtures. But nature also provides brilliant sunlight and a background of shrubs, bushes, and trees in their varied tones of green—all of which is quite different from bringing a few flowers into a room, with very different light and background.
For the hall or church auditorium we must take into account such indoor factors as size of room, lighting, location, background, surroundings, containers, and the suitable flower material available. A mass of goldenrod looks attractive enough outdoors, but it would not do to bring it into a room where there might be people who are subject to hay fever or asthma.
We have spoken of red as an advancing color. It is so striking that because of its overbalancing intensity it is the most difficult color to handle. At the same time it is a popular color and is used in almost every national flag. It is easy to bunch all the red flowers together and let it go at that. But red is such a strong color that if used in large amounts it gives eye fatigue. It should rather be used for its accent value. One basket of red flowers in a group would be enough, yet it would probably be the one that would catch the eye the most. In an arrangement in which red flowers are used in part, they should be near the center, rather than at the outer edges, where they would draw the eye away from the center. They should not be so close together in the center that they will give the appearance of a blotch of red.
Orange goes well with the deep reds, and light pinkish purple with brick red. Scarlet carnations, orange calendulas, purple asters, light-yellow pompon chrysanthemums or large bronze "mums," red, yellow, pink, and lavender gladiolus, golden jonquils, pink dahlias, Oriental iris, and red-andwhite peonies rate high in their color values.
Besides harmony of color, we should consider harmony of form and proportion. In form we take into consideration the shape of the arrangement as a whole, as well as the form of the flowers. A globular bouquet will look best with round flowers, as roses, peonies, asters, and dahlias, in a circular-shaped basket. A tall, slender basket would be more suitable for spiky flowers, such as the gladiolus, snapdragon, liatris, delphinium, and larkspur.
Proportion takes into account the color, size, and shape of the container, the color and the size of the flowers and the type of flower used. The effect of weight should naturally be at the base. Heavier green foliage, dark colors, and the larger and fully opened flowers should be used here. Lighter-colored and smaller flowers, partly opened flowers and buds, are to be used in varying degrees farther up and out. The darker-colored flowers should have the shorter stems, to give weight effect to the arrangement. Grasses lend height, grace, and lightness.
Green may be a predominating color, as it is in nature. This effect we get with our foliage, which should be mostly at the lower part of the arrangement. Oak leaves, especially those of the pin oak, fern fronds, privet, and boxwood offer good material that does not wilt too easily. Privet hedge trimmings offer good basket material, both for color and for use as a filler ; it is quite an essential item for holding flowers in place.
The matter of proportion concerns also the height of the flowers in comparison with the height of the container. In general the flowers should be-one and a half times higher than the container. A low bowl may have a spreading arrangement of flowers, regardless of height proportion. Even vines may be used effectively. Long-stemmed flowers should be used with discretion to avoid top-heaviness.
Balance is a point of value, though a flower scheme does not have to be symmetrical in shape or color placement in order to be attractive. An upper one-sidedness can be balanced by an opposite lower one-sidedness. With regard to coloring, darker or heavier flowers can be used on the lower side, with lighter ones at the upper opposite side. Being too methodical in the placement of similarly colored or shaped flowers is not desirable. Flowers do not naturally grow that way. Avoid stiffness.
If two arrangements are used, say one at either side of the rostrum, it is well to have them similar as to containers and form. They may also be paired by a "right and left" arrangement, that is, the order of placing the flowers may be reversed, so as to have opposites.
Containers should not be so elaborate or fancy that they overshadow the flowers. Simplicity is best. If a valuable vase is to be used, it should be for flowers of high decorative value. Do not bring a beautiful vase to church just to show it off. The container should be in harmony with the flowers, but subordinate to them.
Flowers should not be crowded into a vase so tightly that air is shut off from the water.. Bunching flowers together in a shapeless mass does not really offer much decoration. A well-meaning child, or older person for that matter, may bring a bouquet of flowers crowded into a pint jar, and proudly set them on the organ or pulpit. The thought is better than the effect. Where flowers are used fairly frequently it is well to provide suitable containers, vases, or baskets. However, various types of bottles, jars, or cans may be used. They should, however, be painted or covered with colored crepe paper. If any sort of household utensil is used, such as a pail, crock, jar, or kettle, be sure to cover with paper to hide its identity, and thus avoid diversion of attention from flowers to container.
Flowers should be taken from the garden early in the morning, before the heat of the sun has affected them. Cut them with long stems, retaining some of their own foliage. Select blooms in varying stages of development—fully open, half open, and in bud. Use a sharp knife and cut on a slant. Clipping with ordinary scissors crushes or compresses the cut ends, thereby hindering the free absorption of water. If cut straight across, the stems will rest flat, and thus shut off the water supply. The longer the slant, the more stem surface will be open for absorbing water.
After cutting, plunge the flowers into deep vessels of cold water and set them away in a cool, dark place. It is preferable to cut the flowers the evening before they are to be used and allow them
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to stand in water overnight. Some flowers, large chrysanthemums, for example, require all night or longer for sufficient hardening. Most flowers need some time for hardening before using, if they are to hold up properly. Dahlias will keep two or three days longer if the stems are plunged in boiling water to the depth of two to four inches for about a minute, then at once into deep cold water. Or the ends may be charred over a flame and then put into water.
Gladiolus are better cut when the second bud begins to open. Cut above the fourth leaf from the bottom and on a steep slant. The four remaining leaves are for the development of the bulb; they are really the "factory" for making the bulb. The lower flower of the "glad," as we now speak of the gladiolus, is pulled off as it withers, the buds opening from day to day clear to the tip. (By the way, glad' i 6' lus is the accepted pronunciation, as adopted by the Gladiolus Society, and gladiolus is the spelling for both singular and plural.)
Tulips should be wrapped in bunches in newspaper to keep the sterns straight, and should be kept in water at least overnight. Iris should be taken when they first open old blooms will not keep. Cut dahlias fully open, except for partly opened flowers, which are to be used as such. They rarely open after cutting. Cut roses when buds begin to show Color. Leave a leaf bud or two for new stems to grow.
Cutting the stem ends each day will prolong the life of flowers. If this is done with the stem under water to prevent the entrance of air, their existence will be prolonged still further. Aspirin is not an aid in keeping flowers fresh, but florists now sell an inexpensive preparation that really helps.
In my own work I feel that I am using God-given material for a, godly, ministry, and that my work should be done as conscientiously as any other part of His ministry. It is- my sincere hope that the Suggestions offered will prove helpful and will stimulate others to further study in an effort to make the use of flowers in church, and in general really worthwhile.