A simple bunch of foraged branches or supermarket flowers can look like a million dollars when they’re complemented by the perfect vase.
Choosing the right vase is like accessorising an outfit with the right bag or shoes. A good one will emphasise the beauty of your flowers and you’ll likely need two or three different shapes in your arsenal.
Glancing around my living room now, I can count 12 vases (all but two are empty) which is admittedly a bit excessive for a one-bedroom flat but I think a vase is as worthy of investment as any other piece of decorative art.
The short brown sgraffito-style vase on the coffee table is engraved with dancing naked figures and it looks like it was a relic from Ancient Rome but was actually made by ceramicist Yolande Beer.
If I was shopping for something special as a gift, a vase from French brand Astier de Villatte (available at Liberty and Designer’s Guild) would be something I’d hope the lucky recipient would keep for a lifetime.
I am a vase fan but I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to deciding which shape to buy and how to use them so read on for advice from those who are.
Which vase shapes — and seasonal flowers — to look out for
By floral stylist ChloeÌ Du’Pre
The most useful vase shape to own is rounded with a narrow mouth, about 20cm tall – something with a little belly to it that allows the stems to spiral outwards whilst giving snug support for an attractive shape to the flowers.
This shape is most versatile for table bunches and spring flowers. You could also try cutting the stems shorter to give a full, generous look.
For a large vase, go urn-shaped for volume and density, think branches and big bundles of cow parsley, or a tighter mouth rim for say, delphiniums. A few little bud vases are also essential, I like to use ceramic for those as it adds weight.
If you have a particular spot that you’re buying the vase for, consider the height once the vase is full. If for the mantle, a wider, lower vessel works well as it allows for flowers to splay outwards. A flower frog is also worth having here. I personally like to use all one variety of flower en masse.
Some clays are porous, so look for inner glazing on vessels to avoid water stains on furniture. Definitely avoid concrete for this reason. I would also advise to wash your vases thoroughly. This is a key element to flora longevity.
When arranging in your vase, think width and angles rather than verticals, flowers rarely look their best when they’re all stem on show. Seasonal flowers to buy right now include grasses, zinnias, pale sunflowers, and echinacea.
When displaying really sensational blooms such as big peonies or dahlias, you don’t want the vase to distract or compete with the flowers, so keep to neutral textures - glass or simple ceramic. Glass vessels are incredibly versatile and ‘light’, also coloured glass can look great – green tones are good to help the arrangement colours sing.
Add interest with an upcycled vessel
By garden designer Sean Pritchard
Some flowers, like daffodils and dahlias, look great on their own.
Their long, sturdy stems look really architectural shooting out from a vase when supported by chicken wire or a pin holder. The best vases for this are usually tall and upright. Astier de Villate has some great ceramic examples of this.
When juxtaposing different flowers you should look for a vase that gives you good depth and fully supports the arrangement.
You want to look for a balance between vase and flower material in the finished display. Moro Dabron’s new ceramic scented candles (Of Gardens, Cyrus, and Augustine) make excellent small vases when you have finished enjoying the candle.
Antique pottery makes great vessels for displaying flowers too – have a look around antique shops and flea markets for mugs, cups, and jugs that have an interesting design and history to them. These will add interest and character to your flowers.
It is important not to use floral foam to build your arrangement as this cannot be recycled and adds to the growing problem of plastic waste. Pin holders, also known as ‘frogs’, are a great alternative for securing everything in place.
Don’t follow trends, and always measure up
By Vicki Baker, founder of Uncut Stems flower subscription
Height and shape of vase are crucial, also the size of the neck. If you plan on foraging for branches then you’ll want something tall, heavy-bottomed and wide-necked but if your vase is for something like my flower subscription then you’ll want a good all-rounder.
The vases that I get the most use from are mid-height and around the 20cm mark. I find a rounded vase that nips in at the top and again at the bottom the most useful as it allows a bit more movement for the stems whilst keeping everything in place at the top. If buying online, get the measuring tape out as I have had so many vases arrive and they are much taller or shorter than I imagined.
Don’t fall into the trap of buying vases that are a bit ‘trendy’ as I have previously. After a little while, I find they go to the back of the cupboard. The vases that have stood the test of time are ones that show off the flowers well. I do have a few investment pieces that are a bit more of a statement, as they look great displayed with or without flowers.
A vase can be anything that will hold water. I love to use old jugs a lot as they have that perfect curvy shape I like. I’ve also spotted lots of beautiful hand-painted water carafes being sold by vintage sellers on Instagram that would make great vases. If you’re feeling adventurous then you can have a lot of fun with a bowl and a flower frog.
My favourite vase at the moment (that isn’t vintage) is from Straw London on Columbia Road – it’s a white double-handled ceramic vase with perfect curves and it’s available in a range of sizes. I also like to stalk @ammivintage on Instagram. Bronwyn is a florist who has started sourcing and selling vintage, so she’ll always find great vessels.
I think it’s fun to play with the sizes of your stems in your vases. A big vase doesn’t necessarily need big flowers. It could look just as fun with some bendy marigolds or a big bunch of daisies peeping out the top.
Always keep your vases sparkling clean – you could make the most beautiful arrangement in the world but if the vase is dirty to begin with, your flowers won’t look good for long.
Another tip is an empty vase collecting dust can look sad on the shelf (unless it looks like a work of art in its own right), so invest in a pair of secateurs and go out foraging for branches in between bunches of flowers.