Oh, bother the flowers that bloom in the spring. There are so many choices, and so many possible combinations, yet they don't always look so smart massed in a bunch in the middle of the table. Should you choose to break with accepted conventions of table decor by placing just a single stem in a bud vase made only for one bloom, you'll certainly be forgiven for turning fusty etiquette topsy-turvy.
The bud vase—like the kylix or the urn, the amphora or the epergne—has been around for as long as people have practiced the fine art of flower arranging. The archetypal bud vase has a bulbous base that narrows into an elongated neck sufficient in diameter for little more than a single stem. But experimentation and creativity have of course given rise to a broad array of forms.
Designers of single-stem containers have the luxury of versatility—the vases can be short or tall, wide or narrow, voluptuous or spare. They are also perfect in most mediums—ceramic, glass, metal, porcelain, stone, wood—and in a panoply of colors. Japanese examples sometimes combine precious metals such as silver with ceramic and various types of fancy work. Surface decoration can range from painted tableaux to abstract patterns created by the glazing process.
In practice, the nature of the content should match the form. "The vase is at least fifty percent of the arrangement," says New York-based florist Marc-Antoine. "The most important factor in choosing the right stem is the height of the vase. That determines the shape of the flower." These can range from the delicious curve of an orchid spray to the long-petaled pertness of the Gerbera daisy to the sexy curl of the calla lily. Marc-Antoine suggests that decisions on color and balance—the addition and placement of greens or another stem—follow suit.
The bud vase provides the perfect vehicle for punctuating the decor of the table with a simple burst of color. "I love using bud vases in multiples on a large table or singly on a small table," says Jamie Drake, a New York-based interior designer. "The multiples make a wonderful, complex composition of color, shape, and form." Drake adds that he frequently uses the classic version in heights from eight to 15 inches, sprouting single stems of rubrum or Casa Blanca lily: "There are three frosted-glass, tangerine-colored vases with Casa Blanca lilies on my table right now. They make me feel very happy."
Marc-Antoine, 150 West 28th St., Suite 1702; 212-627-2244. Jamie Drake $ 140 East 56th St.; 212-754-3099. Gansevoort Gallery, 212-633-0555; Donghia $ 212-935-3713; L'Art De Vivre $ 212-734-3510; Furniture Co, 212-352-2010; Homer, 212-744-7705.