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Selecting Vases

Vase is the term used for a container that usually holds flowers. They can come in many guises from glass, metal, pottery in its natural form, like terracota, painted in plain colours or highly decoratively, and wood. They can come in several forms including transparent, translucent and opaque,  in a range of sizes from very small, through narrow, suitable for single stems, to large both in height and circumference. Another variation is their symmetry which can be straight lines, textured, and many many colours. Their style can be from the modern contemporary through to antiquity.

In the case of glass vases we look for the things that makes glass sparkle like its reflective qualities and the way it refracts and distorts light. We also pay attention to the contrast levels which can be quite high with some work. The colours often need to be bright whilst detail has to be sharp and clear. Glass vases can be made in two ways either by machines for the mass market or hand blown, and these different methods will give different effects and anomalies to consider. Some can be painted or decorated in other ways.

A vase can make or break a flower arrangement so it is important to get it right. It should be selected with care and always have in mind the overall effect you are trying to give within the image. It should either contrast or harmonize the flowers and foliage chosen for your design and be relevant.

Types of Vases

Before you choose your vase, you’ve got to decide what you want out of it, how you are going to display/photograph it and what type of flowers would go with it. Also look at whether you want to portray a pretty picture and therefore need a pretty, stylish one or is your image portraying the vases functionality, or is it merely a support to the floral image.

Just keep one thing in mind – avoid using an explosion of colourful flowers with a very decorative vase. It would clash badly and the visual effect would be disastrous. Vases should always “contrast or harmonise” with the flowers and foliage and not overpower the focal point of your image. Nothing looks more elegant or chic than a simple display of lilies in a tall glass container, or floating gerberas in a bowl of water. For clear vases instead of water you could add colour petals, pebbles, coloured glass or even sand of different hues for a more visual effect.

Tall vases look stunning with longer flowers such as lilies, delphinium and gladioli interspersed with some fabulous linear foliage or twigs.

Ceramic or china vases an old favourite, but watch for any patterns on them, an over patterned vase will distract from the flowers it is holding. Alternatively if you are able to find the flowers that are in the design of the vase to include in it, then the vase would become part of the image and make the overall picture. An informal jug or pot, for example milk jugs, make for an unusual vase and are very popular for holding a small display of country flowers.


Terracotta pots, which can be picked up cheaply at garden centres, can be used for tied bunches of the majority of flowers, as the warm colour enhances most types of bloom.

Metal containers offer different textures and shine – brass, steel, wrought iron etc – and can complement and contrast with the flowers.

Where to get them from

Generally we all have at least one vase around the home and many will have a stock of different sized vases that have been collected over the years or we have been given. When starting with a vase, rather than the flowers, it is somewhat easier to go out with a shopping list for the right type of flower to put in them. If you don't have any, then it doesn't have to cost you a fortune to get some, you could ask family and friends for what they may have to hand or you could pick up a variety of shapes and sizes for very little cost from second hand shops, charity shops, car boot sales and jumble sales. If using the second hand route, make sure the quality is still there watch out for scratches, chips and nicks these potentially will bring down the quality of your image if they are not able to be disguised.

In the high street department stores and others stock vases from expensive ceramics to the mass produced.

Many garden centres and nurseries will have a selection and there are also wholesalers who sell and/or hire to the floristry market. See this Florist Suppliers link for some. Wholesale Glass Vases can be hand blown and hand painted but they may also have other items such as lily vases and coloured glass.

Sergio Bertolini

At the end of the day the choice of vase/container you use is purely down to your personal choice and the design of the image you are trying to achieve. However there are a couple of practical points you should always remember. It seems an obvious thing to say but always make sure your vase is waterproof, essential if you are using fresh cut flowers. Also make sure it is not scratched or chipped, and that it is clean.

See Also:


By: Tracey Park Section: Gardens Section Key:
Page Ref: vases Topic: Gardens Last Updated: 03/2011

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