Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Color in Church Flower Arrangements

Please note:  If you are visiting this post because you are looking for information about the liturgical colors for different feast days and seasons, you will find what you are looking for in my post "Traditional Liturgical Colors and Church Flowers".  This post is about how to use color effectively.

As a follow-up to the discussion of color in church flower arrangements in the post Altar Flowers, here is some advice from Patteson-Knight and St. Claire on the same topic:
"[T]he cool or receding tones are the least satisfactory, especially in larger sanctuaries. Cool colors lose a substantial amount of their eye appeal under artificial light. The unit of any arrangement, in fact, will change its tones when it is assembled under one lighting condition but is exhibited under another. No color is constant to itself, but is always subject to variation in different degrees of natural or artificial light.

"A good analogous arrangement, therefore, will contain one of the more steady, more intense colors of the warm range. If composed solely of the receding tints, it will tend to wash out and become nondescript. A monochromatic arrangement of reds, yellows, or orange shades has the best chance of success, particularly in the subdued illumination of many churches. The best monochromatic design will use gradations of color, with more or less of the darker or lighter values as the arranger wishes, but never in the same amount.

"The carrying power of color is no more important in any flower arrangement than when in a church. It must first overcome the demands of distance, then lighting and background. Pastel shades will thin out and merge unless they are backed with greens. Blue and violet fade in the distance or become muddy under poor illumination. Almost nothing stands out against ornate or lavish decoration inside a church. This is why the altar, with its simplicity, is the best area for placing flowers and why, also, color in flowers is often needed to accent the plain cloths and simple fittings.

"Sometimes light colors will succeed against a dark [background]. They may also give a happy result if the [sanctuary] or the altar is a rigid white. Light flowers against a light background will show to advantage in a darkened church when they are framed in green. This will give them a dimension they would not have alone. Green, however, does not show up well in front of [a dark background]. Against its own shades or against purple or maroon, green loses visibility.

"One color must always predominate; more than three used together require artful assembly. Too many colors establish a feeling of discord. This means that the flowers will not succeed in creating a logical and simple arrangement.

"The exclusive use of green to decorate a church makes an effective display, but it has its limitations. Planters look well, and, of course, so do palms and palm fronds. Palm Sunday, in fact, is one [day] for which a green motif might be planned. The altar can be backed with green foliage . . . Green foliage lends itself well to vertical arrangements. Therefore, a little of it may be made to serve much, but this is often only possible in smaller sanctuaries.

"The wise arranger, seeking harmony of colors in her decorations, will look about first at the altar frontal, the . . . reredos, the color of the walls, and the carpet. She consults the church's interior architecture before creating her own accent in the place. If the arrangements are for a feast or for a saint's day, thought must be given to the liturgical color. Also the availability of flowers at any time will determine the colors. The seasons put their penalties on the arranger as much as do the obstinate skills of her craft."
Patteson-Knight, Francis, and St. Claire, Margaret McReynolds; Arranging Flowers for the Sanctuary (Harper and Bros., New York, 1961), pp. 82-84.

Photograph of red anthurium, from Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain. It was this blogger's experience that red anthurium worked very well as a church flower in a large Gothic style church.

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