Since the beginning of our recorded history, flowers have captured our imagination and our hearts. Ever since humankind could use language to attach a meaning to symbols, we've associated feelings and emotion with beautiful things. Flowers fully embody that ancient poetic soul.
The earliest known flower arranging dates back to ancient Egypt. Egyptians were decorating with flowers as early as 2,500 BCE. They regularly placed cut flowers in vases, and highly stylized arrangements were used during burials, for processions, and simply as table decorations. Illustrations of arranged flowers have been found on Egyptian carved stone reliefs and painted wall decorations.
Flowers were selected according to symbolic meaning, with emphasis on religious significance. The lotus flower or water lily, for example, was considered sacred to Isis and was often included in arrangements. Many other flowers have been found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians, and garlands of flowers were worn by loved ones and left at the tombs. These included blue scilla, poppy-flowered anemone, Iris sibirica, delphinium, narcissus, palm tree, papyrus and rose.
The Greeks and the Romans also used flowers. The ancient Greeks used flowers and herbs for adornment. They did not often use vases, focusing instead on garlands and wreaths. They would place plant material, such as olive branches, in terra cotta. The leafy branches were probably used for weddings. They also tossed petals onto floors and beds. Like the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans had preferences for the flowers and foliage they used.
The most popular foliage used by the Greeks and the Romans were acorns, oak leaves, laurel, ivy, bay and parsley. Laurel wreaths were presented to winners of athletic competitions in the ancient Olympics; these wreaths were also awarded to individuals winning competition in poetic meets, while in Rome they symbolized a military victory and crowned the successful commander in honor of his triumph. The garland wreath was a symbol to the Greeks of power, honor, allegiance, dedication; it was awarded in honor of athletes, poets, civic leaders, soldier, and heroes.
Wealth and power led the Romans and Greeks to the greater luxury in the use of flowers which, like the Egyptian, were used in religious rites. At banquets, roses were strewn on the floor to a depth of one foot, and the flowers "rained" from the ceiling. The fragrance of so many roses was almost suffocating. The Romans used the roses at many meals and because of its overwhelming fragrance it[vague] was known as the "Hour of Rose"
The Chinese were making flower arrangements as far back as 207 BCE to 220 CE, in the Han era of ancient China. Flowers were an integral component of religious teaching and medicine.
Practitioners of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism placed cut flowers on their altars, a practice which dates back to 618-906 CE. They created paintings, carvings, and embroidered items with depictions of flowers. The paintings can be found on vases, plates, scrolls, and silk, while carvings were done on wood, bronze, jade and ivory.
Buddhist teachings forbade the taking of a life, so religious practitioners worked sparingly when taking cuttings from plants. Flowers and leaves that were used to make basket arrangements were selected based on their symbolic meaning. For example, the bamboo, the peach tree, and the pear tree symbolized longevity. The tiger lily, the pomegranate, and the orchid symbolized fertility. The most honored of all flowers was the peony. Considered the “king of flowers”, it symbolized wealth, good fortune, and high status.
During the period 500CE to 1453CE, the Byzantine Empire made its contribution to floral arrangements, which typically included a cone shape design. The foliage was placed in chalicesand urns, which were further decorated with brightly colored flowers and fruit. Flowers commonly included in these arrangements were daisies, lilies, cypress, carnations, and pine. Ribbons were also commonly used, and leaves and tiny flowers were set in arching lines to give an twisted effect to garlands.