A - Z of terminology used in flower arranging + notes. 2020

More is coming - work in progress.

ACCESSORY - Any additions to your arrangement that are not made of plant material e.g. stones, shells, candles, feathers, metal, etc.

Excluded are bases, containers which are holding your plant material, backgrounds, drapes, mechanics and exhibit titles.

BALANCE - Principle of Design.  Actual and Visual state of stability.  Symmetrical, Asymmetrical, Balance by Placement 

BASE - A decorative mat or pad used under the arrangement. Often used to group items e.g Arrangement/s, accessories and any other items used.

This makes one cohesive design rather than several individual parts of a design.

*Can be made of wood, slate, plastic etc. Can be bought, man-made or natural, or even hand-crafted. Table mats, wood rounds, ovals or amoebic, period stands, large slices of store or slate, crosscut of tree trunk, cork, covered bases of fibreboard or wood (further details in Lesson plans).

*It can give balance to a design. Groups several items together. Enhances the colour scheme. Protects furniture in the home.

*Chosen base should be appropriate for the design in shape, texture and colour e.g. a base in keeping with a natural landscape could be stone, slate, 

bark or slice of wood; fabric covered base in velvet or stretch polyester would be good with a traditional design, Hessian would add to the overall effect of a design in a thrown pot with rough texture, it is for the arranger to decide if the base is 1) needed or 2) is right for the design.

*Care should be taken to make sure that it is not over dominant. Too heavy/thick, too large (keep to same width or just a fraction wider than your arrangement), too eye-catching, it should add something to the overall effect, not clashing colours but harmony and unity of the whole design. 

Avoid if possible very shiny surfaces or mirrors, a lot of skill is needed to incorporate them successfully.

*In show work you can angle the base so it gives more depth to your exhibit or even placing the base on small feet or raising it slightly to give a sense of lightness and space. Make sure that the base is pristine.

CANDLES - Wax candles are accessories. Use with care and keep plant material well away from the wick.

In show work cut the wick (2cm) so that it stands upright and straight. If the white wick is over dominant then make it less obvious by darkening with a grey felt tip pen (or dirty fingers!). Do not cut off the wick. If the wax candle is shaped like a fruit/apple it becomes artificial plant material if the wick is removed and this could lead to disqualification.

CANDLE CUP - This is a small dish with a stem for inserting into a candlestick or bottle to hold the mechanics

for the design.

It is possible to make your own candle cup -  a small dish or plant pot saucer can have a plastic or metal 'frog'

or even a wine bottle cork, glued and screwed to the bottom. It can go into a bottle/candlestick or into/over

the neck of a bottle. (Further details in Lesson Plans).

To give it more stability use floral tape over your floral foam and round the top of your bottle, candlestick or container.

Smear some floral fix over the head of the screw to make your dish/saucer more watertight.

CANDLE HOLDERS - Can be bought or made. Narrow candles can be chamfered at the bottom and inserted direct into the floral foam.Larger diameter, or where the candle would take up too much space on the foam, can be inserted by using floral tape to attach wires or cocktail sticks. If you want the candle to be higher in your design then use kebab sticks to raise them,


Here are some examples of bought holders.

The holders with spikes come in two sizes

and are ideal for the thicker candles.

CHAMFER - Cutting the edges off a block of floral foam to give a greater surface and avoid the edges crumbling.

CHICKEN WIRE - Can be used to support your stems without the use of floral foam. Wire netting can also be hand-made

COLOUR - Element of design. Is emotive and symbolic. Can be changed by light, texture and distance.

Colour wheel - 12 segment wheel is 3 Primary colours, 3 Secondary Colours and 6 Tertiary Colours.

3 Primary colours are Red(R), Blue(B), Yellow(Y)

3 Secondary colours are Violet(V), Orange(O), Green(G) - Made by combining two primary colours

6 Tertiary colours are Red/Violet(RV), Red/Orange(RO), Yellow/Orange(YO), Yellow/Green(YG), Blue/Green(BG), Blue/Violet(BV) - Made by combining one Primary colour with one Secondary colour.

Five Basic Colour Schemes are:

Monochromatic - Tints, tones and shades of one colour e.g. Burgundy, Rose pink and Blush

Polychromatic - Many colours together

Analogous (Adjacent) - Two to four colours next to each other on the colour wheel e.g. Forest green, Lime green and yellow

Complementary - Colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel. e.g. Violet, lilac and lemon

Triadic - Three colours equidistant apart on the colour wheel e.g. BG = Teal, RV = Fuchsia and YO = Gold 

Warm colours are Red and Orange, and cool colours are Blue and Green. Violet and Yellow can be either warm or cool depending on surroundings.

Advancing colours are orange, red and yellow, Receding colours are Violet and Blue. Green is neutral and depends on the shade or tint, light etc.

Luminous colours are colours that are more visible in poor light. White is the most luminous and any colours which have lots of white e.g. pastels

Colour weight - colours can appear to be heavy or light. White being the lightest and Black being the heaviest.

On the colour wheel Violet is the heaviest colour weight and Yellow is the lightest colour weight.

COLLAGE - craft. Has a visible backing, All parts are attached to the backing and/or each other. From the French word coller meaning to stick, paste.

COMPONENT - Any part or item used to make your arrangement or exhibit. e.g. base, container, mechanics, plant material, accessories etc

CONDITIONING - This is the preparation of plant material prior to arranging them. It prolongs the life of the foliage and flowers. This should be done as soon as possible after cutting or purchasing your plant material. The first essential is to cut about 5cms from the stem and leave the flowers and foliage in clean, tepid water for one or two hours or overnight if possible. If the stems are woody then a small clean cut up the stem will enable more water to be  taken up.

Commence your design by removing any leaves or buds that will be below the water or in the floral foam. If not removed they will rot and create bacteria which will shorten the life of the stems. (The bacteria will attach and close the end of the stems.)

Now re-cut all of the stems on the diagonal and use in your arrangement.

This is simple basic conditioning and should be carried out before all arrangements.

For all soft stems and cut garden plant material, and also to help to revive wilting plant material try using Flora Quick Dip. 

Re-cut t he stems and hold into a few centimetres of Quick Dip for 3 or 4 seconds and then straight into clean, cold water for a long drink.

This often works and avoids having to stand in boiling water etc.


Here are special techniques of conditioning for different type of stems.

Woody Stems - small slit at bottom with scissors or knife

Milky Stems- exude a milky coloured sap. Singe the bottom with a flame (candle, match) - Poppies, Euphorbia,

Spring young foliage can be put into a small amount of boiling water. Protect the tops with a cloth.

Spring bulbs - remove the white stem at the bottom. Put into a separate bucket of water to the other plant material - Daffodils, Hyacinths, Tulips

Tulips can also be wrapped in newspaper before standing in water - this helps to straighten the stems.

Hollow Stems - Turn upside down and fill with water and then plug with something like cotton wool

Woody stems with blossom - remove all foliage so water can be taken up by the blossom e.g. Syringa (Lilac), Laburnum, Philadelphus (Mock Orange)

Large mature leaves can be submerged for one or two hours.

Floating some flowers (or even submerging) can be beneficial for flowers such as Hydrangea.

Grey Foliage - NEVER submerge as the small hairs on the surface will get waterlogged and you lose the silver effect.


CUTTING YOUR OWN PLANT MATERIAL is best done early morning when it has had a good drink and is turgid. Cut carefully at an angle just above a bud so that it encourages further growth for future visits.

CONTAINER - A vessel used to hold plant material with or without water. These can be household items such as fruit bowls, cups/saucers, casserole       dishes and many others. Bought containers can be made of metal, china, glass, wicker, terracotta etc. Vegetative containers can be made from             Pumpkin or other suitable fruit or vegetables, covering jars with moss, leaves, raffia or other plant material. Containers can be obtained from car-boot sales, charity shops at a reasonable price.

HAND-MADE containers - the ideas for these will be in Lesson plans as we progress

CONTEMPORARY - Designs of the moment or 'today'.  Styles and designs are evolving all of the time. Pushes the Boundaries. Breaks convention.

Characteristics are varied and do not follow a 'pattern'. By trial and error and much work and study we have clever techniques, mechanics, structures, manipulation & use of plant material and incorporation of non-plant material. The Elements and Principles are considered but in more exciting ways.

CONTRAST - Principle of Design Can be soft contrasts or dramatic but is obtained by the juxtaposition of the components.

Contrasts of colour, forms, lines, texture.

CRAFTS - Item/s requiring artistry, skill and manual dexterity. The Definitions are listed in the NAFAS Competitors Manual.

Items named are: Collage, Floral Jewellery, Garland, Mobile, Picture/Plaque, Pressed Flower picture, & Swag. 

Other items are listed under Contemporary designs and may or may not be classed as crafts. It will be stated in a show schedule.

These include Montage, Pallisade, Pave/Tapestry, and Screens.

DOMINANCE - Principle of Design. There needs to be one part of the arrangement which has more emphasis than the others.

It could be size, the amount/proportion, colour or more dense.

DOMINANT PLANT MATERIAL - See Forms of plant material.

​ELEMENTS OF DESIGN - Colour, Form, Line, Space, Texture.


FIGURINE -This is defined in the NAFAS 2015 Competitions Manual as:

*Part or whole of a figure (animal or human)

*A group of figures displayed as one unit

*A figurine may be used as an accessory or part of a container

FIX (FLORAL FIX) - This is a sticky strip rather like plasticine only stickier. Fixes foam to container using a frog, or candle cup to container.

Comes on a roll of waxed paper. Avoid touching with fingers if possible as the oil can make it less able to attach

to the container. The surfaces should all be clean, dust free and dry. The fix is waterproof.

Cut the fix ,with the waxed paper attached, and add small pieces to the container and then remove the paper

and attach the frog pressing down and twisting slightly to make sure that it is completely fixed.


Plant Material and other components used to create jewellery.

FOAM/FLORAL FOAM - Mechanics to hold the stems of the plant material.

*Two types - 1) Dri-sec for preserved/dried plant material where no water is required and 2) foam that can hold water for fresh plant material

*Everyone is aware of the problems of pollution and use of floral foam and it now comes in non-biodegradable and biodegradable.

*Biodegradable is slightly more expensive and is not 100% degradable but is getting there. Improvements are being made all of the time.

*It is your choice - only arrange flowers in water, which does limit the designs that you can create, or use some floral foam and some foam-free.

FLORAL FOAM FOR FRESH PLANT MATERIAL (usually green in colour)

Wetting - Have a receptacle which is large enough to hold your foam. Fill with water

which is greater than the depth of the foam. Float the foam on the top of the water

and wait (without touching or turning the foam) until the top of the foam is level with

the top of the water and darkened in colour.

Note: Don't wet more foam than you need - decide on the size according to your

container. In vertical designs the foam can be level with the container, but in styles

that need downward flowing stems the foam needs to be 5cm or more above the rim.

Cutting - Chamfer the top and side edges to round off the edges and give a greater surface

for the stems, also prevent the edges from crumbling.

Taping/Fixing - It may be that just using frog and fix to attach the foam to the container will

be enough (see frog/prong below) or you may need to tape the foam to the container to keep it secure and stable.

Make sure that the container is dry and dust free and using floral tape put in around the foam and container bringing it back onto itself to stick better. Taping corner to corner is usually good for many designs but it could be two pieces front to back. It depends on the design and where you want the stems to be inserted into the foam.

On some containers it is better to go across the foam and stick the tape onto the container and then secure by going round the neck of the container and cutting off excess tape - that makes it more invisible and easier to cover with the plant material.

NOTE: There are many shapes of floral foam available

FOCAL PLANT MATERIAL - See Forms of Plant Material

FORM - Element of Design. Shape is linked to form. Shape is the outline and is two-dimensional. Form is three-dimensional with width, length and                   depth. Is solid or volumetric (space within the object). e.g. Carnation is seen as a solid form but Daffodil is seen as volumetric, having space                 within the trumpet. Basic Shape is circle, square and triangle. Form is Sphere (ball) Cube and Pyramid.

FORMS OF PLANT MATERIAL - Can be thought of as Line/Linear, Filler/Transitional and Focal/Round.

Linear is useful to make an outline or the skeleton/framework of the design. Long and fine, straight or curving.

Examples = Broom, Privet, Eucalyptus, Box, Delphinium, Beech, Gladioli & many more


Filler is often a transition between the outline and focal material. Fills in any gaps, covers mechanics and is secondary material. Bushier material. 

Examples = Hebe, Euonymus, Holly, Gypsophilia and many more

Focal is more dominant forms of plant material both flowers and foliage. More eye-catching and creates a restful area that draws your eye back to the focal area.

Example = Single leaves - Hosts, Heuchera, Bold flowers - Roses, Gerbera, Dahlia, Paeony, Lily and many, many more.

FROG/PRONG - this is a mechanic for connecting the floral foam to the container. Can be purchased in plastic or metal.

Make sure that the container is completely dry and clean, put two or three small pieces of floral fix onto the container.

Put the frog onto the fix and pressing down hard and a small twist it will be firmly attached.

See also FIX.

GARLAND - Craft. No visible backing. All materials are assembled in an elongated and/or flexible design.

GLUES - Many glues are used in flower arranging - PVA, Cold glue, glue dots, wallpaper paste and Glue Gun

HARMONY/UNITY - Principle of Design. This results from good use of Elements and Principles of Design. The component parts complement each other and are integrated into the design in a pleasing way.

JEWELLERY - See floral Jewellery

KNIVES - A florist knife is useful as it gives a good clean cut to the stems. An old kitchen knife is good for cutting floral foam and chamfering the edges.

LANDSCAPE DESIGNS - These are arrangements that are inspired by any urban, rural or wild landscape.You need to have the appropriate mood/atmosphere for that design. Scale is very important and perspective gives depth to the design. All component parts should relate to each other.

​LINE - Element of Design. Creates visual movement in a design (lines of continuance - movement of the eye following areas that attract). Defines the               direction or style of an arrangement e.g. vertical, horizontal, parallel, diagonal, etc. Can create a mood e.g gently curving = peaceful and calm,             zig-zag = lively, etc. Outline.

LINE MASS DESIGNS - As the name implies this is an arrangement which has both line and mass. 

LINE/LINEAR DESIGNS - These arrangements have a restrained use of plant material with space within the arrangement. Use of space is crucial as that enables the linear plant material to be seen to its best advantage. Many have linear plant material and bold material with no obvious transition.

The  Ikebana style gives a good example and each piece of plant material is pruned and observed to give the best pleasing line/s

The outline is placed first and then the minimal bold material.

LINEAR PLANT MATERIAL - See Forms of Plant Material.

MASS DESIGNS - As the name implies these have larger amounts of plant material and very little space within the design. It doesn't mean that they have to be crammed into your arrangement and, as much as possible, each piece of plant material should be carefully considered when being being placed. The colour, shape and texture - juxtaposition of one piece against another, bringing some plant material forward and recessing others gives space for each piece to be appreciated. Overall the visual impression is of a mass.

These mass designs have been in existence for many years throughout history - Period, Traditional, including geometric mass designs, and more modern hand-tied, Biedermier bouquet and groundwork in contemporary and other innovative work that uses mass and space.

MECHANICS - This is a Flower Arrangers terminology for anything that supports plant material and other parts of an exhibit.

In Traditional designs they must remain hidden. In contemporary work they are often very innovative and meant to show and be part of the design.

MINIATURE DESIGNS - These are small scale/size arrangements and should not exceed 10cms in width or depth. The height should be appropriate and if for competitive work you should comply with the height as stated in the schedule.

It should look like a scaled down version of a larger exhibit, not a small arrangement. e.g. an arrangement in a teacup would not be a miniature version of an arrangement. Scale is particularly important.

MOBILE - Craft. This arrangement is made to hang and has to have individual units that are capable of free movement.It should be well-balanced and interesting from all viewpoints. It should have rhythm and changing patterns.

MODERN CLASSIC DESIGNS - Styles that have evolved over time but we recognise them today. Diagonal, Landscape, Seascape, Still Life, Mobiles, Cascade/Waterfall, Parallel, Horizontal, Pot-et-fleur, Miniatures/Petites and hand-tied.

More will probably be added as time progresses.

PEDESTALS - The integral part of the design is a vertical structure/s, plinth/s, stand/s, column/s which are used to elevate the main arrangement. Other arrangements are allowed but must be at a lower level than the main arrangement. Scale is important and larger plant material or grouped plant material should be considered.

PETITE DESIGNS - These are small scale/size arrangements and and should not exceed 25cms in width and depth. Height should be in proportion at one and a half times the width. If for competitive work you should comply with the height as stated in the schedule.

As fir Miniatures, Scale is important and it should appear as a scaled down version of a larger arrangement.

Imagine a usual size design and imagine it shrinking in size. That becomes a scaled down version.

PEW END TRAY - See shovel

PICTURE/PLAQUE - Craft.   (Picture - see also Pressed Flower Picture which has different requirements)

All components are assembled on a backing. Can be framed or unframed, glazed or unglazed.

PINHOLDER (Kenzan) - Usually made with a heavy lead base with close set brass pins. Comes in many sizes & shapes

Plant material is impaled on the pins.


For competitive exhibits refer to ‘Competitions Manual’ 2015 available from NAFAS  or Area Sales person.


Artefacts made from any material that has been derived from natural plants.

Paper made from fibres of plants. Any artefacts made from card/paper.

In fact anything that originated from plants, including cereals and Pasta, latex balloons, Seaweed, Waxed fruit and many more. Go to website for full list.

NAFAS WEBSITE : nafas.org.uk 

(Drop down menu from heading NAFAS under JUDGES)


PLAQUE/PICTURE - see Picture/Plaque

PRESSED FLOWER PICTURE - Craft. All parts are pressed flat and assembled on a backing.

Must be sealed with transparent material. May be framed or unframed. 

PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN - Balance, Contrast, Dominance, Harmony, Proportion, Rhythm, Scale.

PRONG - See Frog

PROPORTION - Principle of Design. Proportion is the amount/quantity. See also Dominance.

It is the amount of one component against another and again the whole design. Not to be confused with size which is scale.

RHYTHM - Principle of Design. Rhythm is achieved by repetition, transition, lines and radiation and also simplification. Rhthym creates movement of the eye moving from one part to another.

SCALE - Principle of Design. Relates to size of component parts in relation to one another and to the space allowed.

SCISSORS - Florist's scissors ( wire cutting is helpful), Household scissors, small craft scissors.

SECATEURS - Used for cutting thicker stems. 


- Used to make sprays, swags, arrangements on the end of pews. 

Useful for L shape designs with the handle cut off.

SPACE - Principle of Design

SPRAY TRAY - See Shovel

STILL LIFE - In flower arranging, an exhibit consisting of the aesthetic grouping of plant material and inanimate objects.

For further details consult the NAFAS Competitors Manual. (Available from nafas.org or from your Flower Club Sales Officer)


​STYLES OF FLORAL DESIGNS - It is always difficult to put styles into categories and we are seeing development of styles continuously.


These become integrated and further evolved into other styles. The Flower Arranger learns the different styles so that they understand terminology and techniques involved. The only time that it concerns the arranger is when entering competitive shows and then an understanding of styles, characteristics, mechanics, techniques and materials will stand you in good stead. You need/must be familiar with the Show Schedule and the current NAFAS COMPETITIONS MANUAL. The MANUAL is updated periodically and definitions may alter.

The current edition in 2020 is Third Edition 2015.

SWAG - is designed to hang against a surface background.  All component parts are assembled without a visible backing

TABLE ARRANGEMENTS - There are many styles depending on the occasion. The followings should be taken into consideration.

1. Everything should be pristine and clean.

2. Avoid any highly scented plant material.

3. Harmonize the colour of the design with colour of table cloth, napkins and china.

4. If for a special occasion think of colour association e.g. Golden Wedding - gold, yellow, cream; Valentines Day - red and so forth.

5. Size of arrangement - it is better to be between one third and one sixth of the table so that it leaves enough space for crockery etc.

6. Height must be considered. If for a formal seated dinner, then the height should be not much higher than 25cms. so that the guests can see above the arrangement for ease of conversation. For a buffet the arrangement should be raised as this leaves more space for food etc. and enables the standing guests to see the design.

7. Take into account subdued lighting or candlelight as this can alter the colour of the plant material. It is better to use pastel colours (tints).

8. Safety - if using candles make sure they are secure and plant material is well away from the flame. NEVER leave lighted candles unattended.

9. Fruit and vegetables can be used instead of flowers (insert cocktail sticks or wooden skewers to secure)

10. These are guidelines. There are now so many different styles and influences from outside the UK and they may not conform to the above size, shape & height.


*Floral Tape is a sticky thin tape and comes in clear, green and white. It is in two widths.

*Sellotape is often useful (especially freezer tape)

*Stemtex is a waxed crepe paper and used to cover wires. Stretch the tape as you go and use

it diagonally across the wire. Comes in two greens, white and brown.

* GuttaPercha

Floral Tape


TEST TUBES are mechanics and come in glass, acrylic and plastic. They are available in sizes from 2cm to over one metre in length.

There are several shapes available - cylinders, 'sea-horses', light bulbs etc. They can have a lip at the top and/or holes for fixing. Colours are available.

Plastic test tubes are used to transport orchids and other flowers and can be re-cycled.

Plastic test tubes are best covered to blend in with the design. Leaves, petals, paper, and many other materials can be used but must be very neat.


TEXTURE - Element of Design

*Visible and tangible appearance of the surface.

*The textural effects are visually changed by light, grouping and colour

TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT - When you start you need very little. As you get more engrossed in this hobby you will start to collect other items.

To start you will need a good pair of scissors and secateurs if possible. A kitchen knife can be used to cut the floral foam. Bucket for conditioning.

As you progress you will probably start collecting other tools to help with more intricate work.

Pliers, hammer, glue gun, re-chargable drill, wires, netting, turntable, watering can, and other bits and bobs.

CARE: Look after your equipment and keep it in good working order, oil occasionally, sharpen when needed, dry after use and make sure that you that you cover the blades of any sharp edges before you put into your toolbox.


​TRADITIONAL STYLES - These mass or line/mass styles are considered to be traditional. They were developed in the 1950's from geometric shapes and have stood the test of time. Triangle (Symmetric & Asymmetric), Round, Oval, New Moon Crescent, Inverted Crescent, Diagonal and Hogarth .

Other styles have evolved and are considered to be Modern Classics.

Characteristics of Traditional are: good outline shape, Transition of Plant Material and a Focal Area. All stems appear to radiate from one place.

TURNTABLE - this is very useful to allow you to turn your design and see all sides. These are available in wood or metal. An alternative is an icing turntable from a Cook shop.

WIRES - Many types of wires are used. 

NAFAS Insight Magazine (sadly no longer published) produced 'collectables' that we could all share and, although some parts are now out of date, the information is very relevant. CLICK ON THIS ICON TO VIEW.

WIRE NETTING - See chicken wire.



NOTE: The tools and equipment and sundries that are shown here can be purchased from local Florist Sundries Wholesalers, craft shops, florists, flower club sales tables, garden centres, d.i.y. shops, and online purchases from Oasis.co.uk, countrybaskets.co.uk, Amazon and many other places.



NAFAS Competitions Manual Third Edition 2015 (available from nafas.org website or from your Flower Club Sales Officer)

Creative Flower Arrangement - Jean Taylor. Out of print but can sometimes be found online or second hand book shops.

Flower Arranging - Judith Blacklock

The Flower Arranging Expert - Dr.D.G.Hessayon

NOTE: Books often have parts that are outdated, but most of the content remains valid.

facebook: A Floral Affair by Francine - very good videos and lovely lady - CHECK IT OUT

BRITISH FLOWERS  - British flowers are available to purchase from the growers or wholesale markets.

British Flowers Wholesale AVAILABILITY CHART supplied by Covent Garden Wholesale Market.            CLICK THE ICON  


                           Farm flowers have become popular in the UK in past few years.

                           To find growers in your area go to the website:  https://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk

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