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Friday, April 18, 2014

Fine Art of Flower Arrangement and Description

Spring is a popular time for flower shows and a major feature of these shows is flower arranging. The Archives of American Gardens recently acquired a collection of photographic slides belonging to floral designer Georgia S. Vance who was best known for her talent of preserving and arranging dried flowers. Vance began her career in the 1960s, and for more than 35 years her flower arrangements decorated the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., as well as the White House and other historic homes. 
Dried flower arrangement, Early Colonial style, 1967.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, 
Garden Club of America Collection, Georgia Vance Slides
Georgia Vance’s slide collection features many intricate floral arrangements in a variety of styles, including the Japanese Ikebana technique. In 1972, she published a book, The Decorative Art of Dried Flower Arrangement, which received the Helen S. Hull Award for Literary Horticultural Interest from the National Council of State Garden Clubs. Vance was a member of the Garden Club of America, the Garden Club of Virginia, the Garden Club of Alexandria (Virginia), and the Officer’s Wives Garden Club of Fort Belvoir (Virginia). The Garden Club of Virginia continues to honor her skill in floral design by presenting the annual Georgia S. Vance Award for Most Creative Arrangement. 

Dried flower arrangement, Ikebana, 1970.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, 
Garden Club of America Collection, Georgia Vance Slides
Floral arrangement as an art form in the East is a tradition that dates back to 6th century with the practice of Ikebana in Japan.  In the West, floral art enjoyed a heyday during the Victorian era when flower arranging was taught and recognized as an artistic endeavor. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that floral experts, guidelines for amateurs for creating arrangements, and floral arrangement schools came to the fore in America. 

Today, flower arranging is still considered an art form by those that practice it. The Garden Club of Virginia’s website for flower shows provides extensive categories and definitions about floral styles and designs, including a separate category for designs in the Asian manner: . Flower judging is as detailed an endeavor as floral arrangement with points awarded for design, artistic concept, expression and distinction: 

For more information on the history of floral arrangements, see The Art of Floral Design by Norah Hunter and The Flower Arranging Expert by D. G. Hessayon.

Sarah Ostrye, 2014 Intern
Archives of American Gardens
Smithsonian Gardens

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