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Flowers have been used for thousands of years as decoration, personal adornment, or for religious purposes. Ancient Egyptians used flowers to honor their many gods and goddesses. Flowers were arranged in low bowls in an orderly, repetitious pattern—flower, bud, foliage, and so on. Special spouted vases were also used to hold flowers. Lotus flowers, also called water lilies, were Egyptian favorites. They came to symbolize sacredness and were associated with Isis, the Egyptian nature goddess. Flowers were sometimes used as decorations for the body, collar, and hair.

Flowers were fashioned into elaborate wreaths and garlands by the ancient Greeks. The best wreath makers were often commissioned by wealthy Greeks to make wreaths for gifts, awards, or decoration. Chaplets, special wreaths for the head, were especially popular. Cornucopia, a horn-shaped container still used today, were filled with arrangements of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Flowers arranged into wreaths and garlands were also popular during the Roman period and well through to the Middle Ages.

The Victorian era saw great developments in the art of floral design. There was enormous enthusiasm for flowers, plants, and gardens; the most cultured young ladies were often schooled in the art of flower arrangement. Rules were first established regarding function and design. Magazines and books about floral arrangement were also published during this time. Proper Victorian ladies often had fresh nosegays, or tussie-mussies, a hand-held arrangement of tightly knotted flowers, for sentimental reasons, if not to freshen the air. Posy holders, fancy carriers for these small floral arrangements, came into fashion. Some were made of ivory, glass, or mother-of-pearl, and were elaborately decorated with jewels or etchings. Flowers were also made into small arrangements and tucked into a lady's décolletage inside aptly named containers, bosom bottles.

Ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arrangement that was created in the sixth century, has been a principal influence on formal flower arrangement design. Its popularity still continues today. In the 1950s, free-form expression developed, incorporating pieces of driftwood and figurines within arrangements of flowers and live plants.

Floral traditions of the past still have an impact on us today. It is still fashionable to mark special occasions with flowers, be it an anniversary, wedding, or birthday. People continue to use flowers to commemorate the dead. Today's floral arrangements reflect the current style, trends, and tastes. The best floral designers will follow the developing fashions and creatively adapt them to their arrangements.