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Chapter 11 Flower and foliage forms.

Flowers and foliages have different shapes or forms that influence the style of a floral arrangement (see Figure 11-1). These shapes are classified accordingly for design and arranging purposes. Using a variety of forms within one design can provide greater visual interest.


Flowers are classified in four design shapes: line, form, mass, and filler. Each group is named after its visual characteristics, as shown in Figure 11-2. Linear in shape, line flowers add eyeflow and establish the framework of a design. Form flowers have unique forms that easily create emphasis. Mass flowers are rounded, adding mass and weight to a composition. Filler flowers, smaller in scale than other arrangement flowers, act to fill in and complete a design.


Some flowers are not limited to one group and may instead be classified several ways depending on any of the following: the degree of openness of a blossom, the color intensity or value of a flower, interesting characteristics of texture or pattern, adjacent flowers, and the size or style of a completed floral arrangement (see Figure 11-3).

A floral composition need not contain all four shapes. One group can be used alone successfully as well as in combination with the others. To become a skilled designer, it is important for you to recognize the shapes of flowers and foliage, learn about the variety of materials available, and know how flowers and foliage function according to their shapes.


Line Material

Line Flowers

Line flowers are named simply for their linear shape (see Figure 11-4). Since their shape is generally tall and long with several blossoms, they can be used effectively to create height, width, and depth. Line flowers will easily set the framework, shape, and size of an arrangement. As shown in Figure 11-5, line flowers are generally placed first when used in combination with other groups because they function in setting the skeleton of a design.

Many of the individual line flowers have a variety of blossom sizes on each stem. Often the larger, more open blossoms are at the base of a stem, gradually decreasing in size toward the top, which ends in several small buds. An example is the gladiolus, shown in Figure 11-6, where gradation of size helps to create a focal point.




Whether these flowers are straight or curved, they provide a line that moves the eye from the focal point out to the perimeters of an arrangement then back to the focal point. This eye movement helps to create a pleasing design.

Examples of line flowers are gladiolus, stock, delphinium, larkspur, snapdragon, liatris, cattail, and spring flowering branches, such as forsythia, quince, leptospermum, and pussywillow.

Line Foliage

Foliages having a linear shape are often used with line flowers to repeat the framework already created (see Figure 11-7). A linear repetition of flowers and foliage sets a strong, unifying pattern within a design. Adding curved line foliage (such as bear grass) to a composition creates motion, which helps the eye move speedily throughout the arrangement (see Figure 11-8).

Some examples of line foliage include Scotch broom, spiral eucalyptus, gorse, gladiolus and iris leaves, ferns, myrtle, and flax.




Containers and Accessories

Take care to choose a container that will not only mechanically hold the weight of the material, but will also visually enhance line flowers and foliage. As shown in Figure 11-9, tall containers repeat the shape of vertically placed line flowers and foliage. Long and low containers repeat the shape of line flowers and foliage that are placed horizontally. This emphasis on line from various elements produces harmonious design.

Examples of accessories providing line include candles, grasses, tree branches, wheat, feathers, and ribbon streamers. These can be used to repeat and strengthen the visual impact of line.

Form Material

Form Flowers

These flowers are so named because they have distinctive shapes that are interesting and captivating (see Figure 11-10). Form flowers are often used at or near the rim of the container to provide a traditional focal point. Some form flowers, however, are more successfully placed in the perimeter or beyond the framework of a composition so their silhouettes may be fully appreciated (see Figure 11-11).

Unique form flowers, often called exotics, demand visual attention. Leave plenty of space around form flowers so that their bold forms may be seen. Since form flowers speak for themselves, other flower types are often not necessary within the same composition.



Form flowers are generally expensive, but because of their visual importance in a design, fewer are needed. Often, a single form flower will have greater impact than a dozen.

You can create a pattern and a line for the eye to follow throughout an arrangement through directional facing, or the direction that each flower faces, as shown in Figure 11-12.

Examples of form flowers include anthurium, bird of paradise, Easter lily, calla lily, iris, protea, orchids, heliconia, and ginger.


Form Foliage

Form foliages also have distinctive and interesting shapes (see Figure 11-13). Oftentimes they will also possess other characteristics that make them stand out and attract the eye, such as an interesting texture, color, or pattern. While smaller foliage types may disappear or provide an unattractive contrast, form foliages enhance and visually support form flowers, as shown in Figure 11-14. However, care must be taken in placing form foliage so they will not overpower a design.


Examples of form foliage include caladium, croton leaves, ti leaves, monstera, calathea, papyrus, and cyperus.

Containers and Accessories

Choose containers carefully. Simple plastic, utility-type containers will generally detract from form flowers and foliage. It is better to avoid their use with expensive, exotic flowers. Often, containers used with form flowers are uniquely shaped and the repetition of interesting forms helps to unify the entire composition. Those containers and vases with distinctive shapes and styles are effective with form flowers.



Accessories often used with form flowers include sticks, pods, berries, fruit, and other plant materials. Choose accessories so they will harmonize, enhance, and unify the entire design.

Mass Material

Mass Flowers

Mass flowers are so named because their purpose is to add mass to an arrangement (see Figure 11-15). They are solitary-type flowers, consisting of a single, rounded flower head at the top of a stem. Because of this shape, they quickly add bulk and weight to an arrangement. When mass flowers are used alone in a floral design, it is important to vary flower color, size, spacing, or depth to avoid monotony (see Figure 11-16). Roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, and tulips are just a few of the mass flowers available.

Mass Foliage

Mass foliages, like mass flowers, add weight and bulk to an arrangement quickly. As shown in Figure 11-17, they are efficient in covering up the floral foam and other mechanics of a design. Often it is necessary to use more than one type of mass foliage to avoid monotony. Examples include leather-leaf, salal, pittosporum, huckleberry, and camellia foliage.

Containers and Accessories

A variety of containers can be used with mass flowers and should be chosen with the shape, style, and purpose of the completed arrangement in mind. Often, accessories help break up the monotony that may occur by using only mass flowers. Novelty items such as toy animals, candy, and seasonal or holiday decorations are commonly used with mass flowers and foliage (see Figure 11-18).




Filler Material

Filler Flowers

Filler flowers generally have a complex branched system of stems and flowers (see Figure 11-19). They should be smaller in size, and much smaller in scale, to the other flowers next to them in the arrangement. They are used to fill in empty spaces, add accent, and complete a design. Filler flowers are not always needed; but when they are incorporated into an arrangement, they should be placed within the framework of a design below or behind other flower types. These flowers should visually support all other flowers present in a composition. It is important not to crowd or detract from the main flowers in a design by using too much filler, which also unnecessarily increases the cost of a bouquet (see Figure 11-20).

Filler flowers are generally the last flower type placed in a bouquet. Often, using a filler flower will change the entire design because of the new color or texture that is added. Baby's breath, for example, generally adds an airy, delicate appearance, whereas bright yellow button mums may add a bold and lively look. Other examples of filler flowers include statice, bouvardia, heather, Queen Anne's lace, aster, and waxflower.

Filler Foliage

As shown in Figure 11-21, filler foliage can fill in an arrangement and complete a design without introducing a new color that might detract from the design. These foliages are smaller in scale to other foliage types in the bouquet. Foliage that is wispy, such as plumosa or tree fern, can soften a design, while the textures of huckleberry and ming fern can perk up a bouquet. Other examples of filler foliages include sprengeri, boxwood, and ivy.





Material other than flowers and foliage used to fill in and complete a design can be effective in helping with the overall message or theme of an arrangement (see Figure 11-22). These materials are generally smaller in scale and serve the same function as filler flowers and foliage. Examples of filler accessories that may be used throughout a bouquet include tiny pine cones, berry clusters, valentine hearts, birds, or ribbon loops.



The size and style of your designs will be greatly influenced by the various shapes of the flowers and foliages you use. The size of an opened bloom, the size of flowers in proportion to the whole composition, and interesting colors, textures, or patterns can all account for flowers being classified in several groups. So although classified in one shape group, some flowers and foliages may shift into another. For example, closed tulips are mass flowers; but after they open up, many reveal dynamic color patterns that demand attention, are then classified with form because they provide emphasis. In addition, the overall size and style of an arrangement will help to determine how flowers and foliage will be classified.


As shown in Figure 11-23, when you are planning to use all four flower groups together, place line flowers first to set the pattern, framework, shape, and size of a design. Then arrange the form flowers to achieve emphasis. Place the form flowers near the container rim to provide a traditional focal point or set these flowers in the perimeter of your design to emphasize individual silhouettes. Next, arrange the mass flowers throughout the design to support the focal area. These flowers add bulk and weight to the arrangement. To add accent and complete your design, place filler flowers last, behind and below other flowers. Choose filler flowers that will harmonize with other flower types and unify the entire composition. As shown in Figure 11-24 a variety of forms within one composition will provide greater visual interest.


Terms to Increase Your Understanding


directional facing


filler flower

filler foliage

form flower

form foliage


line flower

line foliage

mass flower

mass foliage

Test Your Knowledge

1. After defining each shape classification, sketch the typical flower forms.

2. When combining all four shapes into one bouquet, what is the proper order of arrangement and the placement of flowers?

3. Name several examples of flowers and foliages from each shape group.

4. What factors allow flowers and foliage to fall into several shape classifications?

5. What shapes of containers enhance line flowers and form flowers?

Related Activities

1. Visit a retail flower shop. Notice which line, form, mass, and filler flowers are readily available.

2. While at a retail floral shop, observe the fresh arrangements on display. Notice how the different flower and foliage shapes are combined together in each design.

3. Prepare an information guide using pictures to illustrate the different shape classifications of flowers and foliage.
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Title Annotation:Section 2 Flowers and Foliage
Author:Hunter, Norah T.
Publication:The Art of Floral Design, 2nd ed.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Chapter 10 Care and handling.
Next Article:Chapter 12 Shapes of floral arrangements.

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