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5 Components of American Colonial Flower Arrangements

History: “American Colonial” generally refers to the period between 1700 and 1780 in America. During this time, American settlers were still considered colonies of England therefore received and brought back several English-inspired products and trends.

Among the English trends brought to colonial America was the use of five-fingered, fan shaped vases also knows as Quintal horns. These created a unique fan-shaped and narrow design style that usually included garden herbs and cuttings. They were later reproduced in the colonies and grew in popularity at that time.

As with English garden floral design and Victorian floral design, American Colonial flower arrangements relied on what was readily available. This usually extended to wildflowers found in home gardens as well as native shrubs and trees. Settlers often brought back herbs and plants that were then used in arrangements, but worldwide distribution and importing was no where near current availability.

Style: American Colonial flower designs tend to be symmetrical mass arrangements that are either rounded or in fan form (usually reserved to five-fingered vases). They are casual and open. The arrangements may feature either one type of flower with a filler flower or a variety of several blooms. Most American Colonial designs feature gourds or fruits such as peaches, pears, cherries, plums and apples.

Flowers Used: A combination of fresh and dried materials is often used in this style. These may include pods, grasses, grains and other materials.

Flowers that work well in American Colonial arrangements are roses, carnations, daisies, lilacs, marigolds, peonies, sunflowers and other mass flowers.

Bulb flowers are also appropriate in American Colonial design. Examples are daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, allium, ranunculus and lilies.

Popular wildflowers and filler flowers used in this style include baby’s breath (very popular), limonium, solidago, alder, sumac, cattails, several grasses and grains among others.

Basic Characteristics:

  • Usually includes a type of a fruit or gourd such as peaches, pears, cherries, plums and apples
  • Round or fan-shaped
  • Containers made from earthenware, stoneware, ceramics, or metals (copper, tin, silver, pewter, etc.)
  • Similar to but more “refined” and well proportioned than English Garden style arrangements

Containers Used: Since craftsman style trades were popular, containers often followed the styles being readily produced by local craftsmen. These included silversmiths, pewter manufacturers and glass blowers among others. Many types of containers were used but the containers themselves were mainly ceramic, earthenware or stoneware. Porcelain was a later import from England and China and increased the variety of containers during this style of floral design. Metallurgy was also a popular trade so pewter, copper, tin and silver vessels were also used.

Types of containers used included:  pitchers, pots, vases, jars, jugs, bowls and Quintal horns (five fingered vases).


  1. “usually reserved to five-fingered vases ” “what is a five-fingered vase”? Please.

  2. A five-finger vase is a fan shaped vase similar to the attached image. These are usually found in antique stores. So, designers usually create the colonial effect with the arrangement of the flowers rather than with the vase.

    Attached Image: Five FInger Vase.jpg

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