Are Floral Design “Rules” Important?

celebratercSometimes people get really hung up about “the rules.” 

I get this in just about every class that we present…. A student will ask me about “the rules.” 

“Dr. Steve… Is it true that you get a better looking floral design with seven flowers in it?” “Aren’t you supposed to mix…. this flower with that flower?” … And on it goes.

Actually the original concept of rules was not a bad thing… The idea was to provide some kind of help…… some suggestions to make it easier for folks who would like to design with flowers, but were not sure how to do it. Think of it as a paint by number approach to floral art…..

I have a lovely vase with a silver grid that fits the top. To design in it,  all you have to do is place flowers into the spaces provided. It makes creating certain kinds of designs  easy. And what is wrong with that? I  am all in favor of anything that makes peoples lives easier when it comes to creating floral designs…….

In my opinion, the so-called “rules” are quite similar to the grid on the vase. They are helpful suggestions…..

The problem arises when people view these floral art suggestions as absolutes….Then they agonize about every placement of a flower. They are afraid that if they “break the rules” they will be making mistakes….mistakes that could end civilization as we know it!! (Doesn’t that sound dramatic?)

I find that very sad,  for it defeats the very purpose that these so called “rules” were suggested….to make life easier……..

Perhaps we should think of these “rules” as guidelines. A guideline is just that……Something that may help guide you as you find your own way. But something fluid. Something to acknowledge, but not something to obsess about. It may even be ignored. A rule on the other hand, implies something that is very definite and that is engraved in stone. I don’t know about you but when I think about rules I think of Moses coming down from Mt Sinai, with the tablets of the Ten Commandments in his hands….. Those are rules!

Certainly there are various techniques in floral art that if followed will help you achieve your vision (or that of your customer) with greater ease. I don’t view them as rules though….I view them as means to an end. They may be followed, if they are useful. They may not. 

Perhaps it would be better if we made a rule to eliminate the term “rules” when talking about floral designing. “Rules” suggests a fossilization of floral designing as an art form. Rather we should encourage the use of guidelines and techniques that are fluid, pragmatic and far more malleable.

More On Allium


I enjoyed sharing a moment viewing a lovely scene of Allium growing in the Boston Public Garden. But I would like to chat with you about this flower just a little bit more!

I love Allium, especially the giant varieties. The flower has an impressive aspect to it. It is large and has a noticeable visual presence in floral designs. Whenever I see this particular flower I think of science fiction movies. It feels like something out of Star Trek or Star Wars. Big, showy and futuristic. 

I find that although it feels quite contemporary, it also works well in classical vase arrangements and floral designs showing natural growth, as well as in sparse, minimalistic kinds of floral art. Kind of looks like a lollipop! Quite versatile!

George Washington’s Allium


What does a floral design school director do in his free time? Go to the park to check out flowers of course!!

We are quite fortunate. Rittners School of Floral Design is located in the Back Bay of Boston, one of the nicest residential areas of the city. That makes it really easy to go to the Boston Public Garden and enjoy the flowers, the trees and the Swan Boats. There are literally tons of flowers to view around our school growing in the various parks and gardens.

I came across this scene just the other day. It was misty, foggy and  there was a bit of drizzle. The weather didn’t affect the beauty of the flowers or our enjoyment of them. It looks like George Washington has declared war on the Allium! He really hasn’t. The folks who maintain the Public Garden do a wonderful job of providing us with lots of beautiful flowers to look at and enjoy throughout the year! Wonderful for all of us who live, work or go to school in Boston!