Learn All About Flower Shapes

Flower varieties can be classified by shape. Understanding the basic shapes can help you in select flowers for your design and use them effectively.

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Recognizing Flower Shapes DK - Fresh Flower Arranging © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

There are no "wrong" flowers, but there are better and worse ways to use them. The eight flower shapes shown here are among the most attractive and useful for flower arranging.

(From left to right)

Large and small domed flowers are real "feature" flowers that provide substance and focus in an arrangement. The flower heads are usually quite dense and provide a strong injection of color in a design. This flower shape is suitable for large displays and minimalist designs. Examples include most celosias, chrysanthemums and hydrangeas, shown here.

Most flat-topped flowers are quite large, but the many tiny flowers arranged in clusters on short stalks that form these flower heads make them look airy and delicate in appearance. Flat-topped flowers are useful for hand-tied bouquets, because they help to form the required dome shape. They also provides textural interest and detail in both large and small designs. Examples include Queen Anne's lace, dill and trachelium, shown here.

Flowers with the same-shaped petals in a simple circular shape around their centers have what is called radial symmetry: whichever way you divide a regular flower, it has two or three similar parts. Regular flowers are adaptable: they can be used on their own in striking designs or as a repeat pattern in a larger arrangement. Examples include sunflowers, marguerites, daffodils, narcissus, anemones and gerbera, shown here.

Clusters of small flowers on short stalks growing at the top of a stem form a typical spear flower shape. With so many individual flowers on one stem, these flowers are full of color and interest. Flowers with elongated stems, such as molucella and delphiniums (shown here) provide structure, form, and necessary height in large vases or structural designs. Examples include bells of Ireland, orchids, gentiana, liatris, lupines, foxgloves, lilacs and Solomon's seal.

The perfectly round shape of globe flowers means they look most impressive en masse, and usually work best in a minimalist design of just one or two types of flower. Globe flowers work well in modern and sculptural designs, especially if the strong, straight stems of flowers such as alliums are left as long as possible, as shown here. Other examples are tulips and protea.

With their branching stems and large quantity of flower heads, spray flowers are adaptable, and are ideal for mixed arrangements. If the flower heads are left on their single main stem, they can be used to reinforce the fan shape of a vase display, or provide a mass of color and interest in hand-tied bouquets. They can also be cut down to provide numerous shorter-stemmed flowers in floral foam designs. Examples include lilies, spray roses, lisianthus, astrantia and eryngium, shown here.

A spire shape has small, stalkless flowers at the tip of a long stem. The flowers open in sequence, usually from the bottom, which helps to create its tapering shape. Spires contrast well with softer-petaled flowers, and are useful for breaking the smooth outlines of a domed bouquet or floral foam design. They include stocks, snapdragons, grape hyacinths, hyacinths, lily of the valley, lavender and veronica, shown here.

The geometric rosette shape of some flowers makes them ideal for large and small arrangements alike. Rosettes attract the eye easily and so can be used as feature flowers in a mixed display or on their own in a minimalist design. Rosettes includesingle roses, globe artichokes, ranunculas, peonies, dahlias and carnations.

Excerpted from Fresh Flower Arranging

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2011

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