Timeline of the Development of Floral Design
In the last article, we learned about the history of flower arrangements. We looked at the stories behind the names of flowers.
We also found out how communities used flowers in their daily lives. From there, we learned how floristry developed into the high-profit industry that it is now.
Here, we’ll explain how floral design evolved from ancient to modern styles. We’ll go through each significant period in history. We’ll trace changes in floristry from Ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages.
Then, we’ll cover art movements in France to the Victorian Period in Europe and America. Finally, we get to its latest forms today.
Interested in a formal course? Want to get certified as a flower expert? Look into organizations offering classes in floristry, like:
American Institute of Floral Designers (www.aifd.org).
Society of American Florists (www.safnow.org).
American Floral Endowment (www.endowment.org).
Floral Design around the Globe.
We set out to create a timeline of the changes in floral designs. Here, you’ll find a short yet in-depth account of how floral design developed throughout history.
Let’s see how designs transformed from rigid to innovative styles!
Egyptian Period (2800 – 28 BC).
Ancient Egyptians used flowers for temple offerings. They also set them in centerpieces for banquet tables.
They were also partial to showing off their wealth. One way to do that was weaving blooms like jasmine and violets into wreaths.
These consisted of a single flower with a couple of leaves on both sides. This basic repeating pattern created an elegant design for their ceremonies.
Greek Period (600 – 150 BC).
Much like the Egyptians, the Greeks used flowers in religious customs. They crafted blooms into garlands, wreaths, and laurels.
Cornucopias also became a staple in festive activities. The Greeks often used triangular designs for their creations. They included white blossoms as a symbol of purity.
Roman Period (28 BC – 325 AD).
Romans carried on with the Greeks’ use of flowers in their customs and traditions. In fact, they created much more elaborate designs of wreaths and ceremonial crowns.
It was also during this time that people started to take note of different floral scents. This then became an essential factor in building flower arrangements.
Byzantine Period (320-600 AD).
People in the Byzantine Era adopted from Greek and Roman styles. But they were the first to mix fruits with flowers in garlands.
They also placed greens in vases to create harmony. For charming color palettes, they accented warm tones with cool hues.
Middle Ages (476-1400 AD).
The presence of florals in art waned during this era. They only cropped up in tapestries. This resulted in the creation of a line of cloths called millefleur. This translated to “thousand flowers”.
Monks all around Europe kept floral design alive. They tended to their gardens to grow varieties of flowers and foliage. These would act as the subject of many art forms later in history.
Renaissance Period (1400-1600).
Oriental styles and the stress on balance influenced many Renaissance artists. They featured fruits and foliage in creating harmonious floral designs.
This led to the creation of now beloved Christmas wreaths. Renaissance artists were also keen on using flowers en masse in their floral arrangements.
Baroque (Flemish) Period (1600-1775).
Baroque painters were the ones who set trends in floral designs. (At least, the ones we continue to see today). Floristry then was not yet viewed as an art form.
As a result, flowers of various colors and sizes were often combined together. This was a way for the artist to express themselves. They also favored tall flowers and oval shapes in arrangements.
Artists from the Flemish period also started leaning more towards uneven designs. They used wild accessories like birds’ nests and eggs in their works.
French Period (1600-1814).
This period saw a distinct divide in the styles of floral arrangement.
Elegant, arc-shaped designs dominated the Baroque period and Rococo. Simple, triangular shapes were the styles of periods under King Louis XVI.
Early American Period (1620-1720).
Early American florists copied French Empire and English Georgian style. They set flowers en masse with different colors to spruce up their homes.
English Georgian Period (1714-1760).
Floral design during this era usually consisted of a basic bundle of flowers in a vase.
Later on, they engaged in more elaborate designs. They even built vases for keeping flowers at certain angles.
Colonial Williamsburg Period (1740-1780).
This era gave room for creativity and the arts, including floral arrangements. Artists put together foliage with fine feathers and grasses into fan-like shapes. They finished it off with bold blooms at the center.
Victorian Period (1837-1901).
During this time, floral design became far more lavish. It often comprised of overflowing flowers and foliage.
Round shapes became the standard. They also hailed roses as Europe’s favorite. Lilies, tulips, and other popular garden flowers complemented the center roses.
American Victorian Period (1820-1920).
America’s Victorian period leaned towards deep colors. Colors like royal purple, ocean blue, and magenta were among their favorites. They often used white blossoms to lighten the look. They also carried on with creating vases for holding flowers.
Modern/ Contemporary Period (1890-Present).
Modern floral design started out as a shift from Victorian design. It borrows from the Oriental focus on lines. But it also combines this with en masse arrangements from Western styles.
Photo by Tavin Dotson