A Look Back on the History of Flower Arrangements

by Robert Canning on January 21, 2022

While we don't think much of it, flower arrangements actually have a long and storied history. Indeed, the history of flower arrangements dates back thousands of years with stops all across the world. Now, many of you may know close to nothing about this. This is why we thought it would be useful to put together a brief run-through of this topic. If this is something that you're interested in learning more about, read on to learn everything there is to know about the ancient art of flower arrangement.

Ancient Egypt

Archaeological evidence from ancient Egypt reveals that they were the first civilization to use flowers in decorative ways. The earliest wall carvings date back to 2,500 BCE and depict artfully arranged flowers in vases. These arrangements served many purposes: the most common was for burials, but they were also used in funeral processions. Egyptians believed that flowers carried both symbolic and religious meanings, with specific flowers being tied to certain gods and myths

Ancient Greece

Cultivating flowers for decorative purposes was supposedly practised by the ancient empires of the Mediterranean, and there’s no mystery as to why: they were totally obsessed with flower arrangements. They used them in everything from funerals, weddings, banquets, and ceremonies to displays of military strength.

Unlike the ancient Egyptians, Greco-Roman society preferred wreaths and garlands to vases.  Typically, wreaths and garlands were made up of a mix of flowers and foliage—most commonly acorns, oak leaves, laurel, ivy, bay, and parsley. Laurel wreaths were famously awarded to winners of the ancient Olympics for their athletic achievements.

Ancient China

In Chinese culture, the history of flower arrangements dates back to the Han Dynasty, during 200 BCE. Unlike in Roman and Greek cultures, where arrangements were based more on aesthetics than religion, Chinese flower arrangements were more spiritual in nature.

The Chinese decorated nearly everything with flower images, including placing cut flowers on Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian altars. The ancient Chinese closely watched the meanings attached to the flowers and the message they wanted these flower arrangements to convey.

The Middle Ages

​​After the Roman Empire fell, flower arranging in Europe was relegated to a niche activity. Typically, it was only practised by monks who had access to gardens and wildflowers. Over time, the flowers worked their way back into the dominant culture, appearing in paintings and works of literature.

Japan

The origin of flower arrangements in Japan is shrouded in mystery. Some believe it came to Japan along with Buddhism, but others believe it existed before that time. It is thought to have emerged roughly 600 years ago with the practice of ikebana, an art form that was used by Buddhist monks such as Ikenobo Senkei and favoured by powerful samurai leaders like Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Ikebana is based on minimalism, asymmetry, and colour contrast.

The Renaissance Period

The people of the Renaissance were much better off than those living in the Middle Ages, especially in terms of education. This allowed them to enjoy and appreciate the finer things in life, like gorgeous flower arrangements. The florist art genre was born during the Renaissance. Not only did it originate then, but it was also wildly popular among its first practitioners.

The Victorian Era

The Victorian era was known for its floral arrangements. Flowers were considered a sign of luxury and sophistication, even for those who could not afford them. But people in the Victorian Era cut flowers were arranged in a unique style. Instead of a minimalist bouquet, the Victorians crammed large bunches of flowers into vases, packing the stems close together without any regard for complementary colours or minimalism. The bouquets were often asymmetrical and featured huge colour variations.

Conclusion

We hope this article proves to be useful when it comes to furthering your understanding of the history of flower arrangements. While this may seem a little overwhelming, the information that we’ve laid out here will help you better appreciate modern flower arrangements. 

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