Staging a vase

Tips on how to stage a vase

Staging a vase is designed to show off your blooms to their advantage. The schedule will indicate how many you need to show per vase according to the number of cordon plants grown. A neat presentation can only enhance a vase.

Transporting to the show

There are various ways to do this. All of them try to minimise the amount of water which might splash onto the blooms in transit. You can transport them dry in boxes, but will need plenty of time to allow them to take up water when you arrive before staging. The advantage is no water damage and they take up less space.

Most exhibitors now keep stems in water by using:

1. A bucket with plastic mesh in the bottom and a sheet of hardboard over the top with holes drilled into it.


2. A large plastic container with lid – place netting in the bottom and drill holes in the top


3. Plastic bottles in a milk crate or similar.


Fill container about one third of its depth but ensure that stems are in the water. The holes and the netting keep the blooms still and separated.


Once at the show find a table which is in the best place possible for light. Spread a cloth or towel on the table to protect blooms and to absorb excess water. You will need a box of tools containing scissors, secateurs for decorative classes, cotton wool buds, pens, knife, paint brushes and show schedule. Also include a tea towel to dry stems as they are lifted from the buckets.


According to the schedule select your best stems for the class you are entering. Place them on the cloth to make your selection. Blooms should have no marks, malformations, bugs or dirt. Remove any inferior blooms to a spare bucket.

Start to sort out the best and arrange them on the table in the position they will eventually have in the vase. Place the best flowers to the front and outside. To balance a vase, wherever possible use left hand facing blooms on the left hand side and right hand facing blooms on the right hand side. The term left or right hand blooms refers to the bottom flower on the stem and the direction in which it faces.

In this example Darren Myers is staging a vase of 12 stems. The picture shows the selected blooms in the front in a group of seven for the back row and five for the front.


The first stem in the vase should be the central point of the back row, and is usually the longest. The base of the stem is cut at an angle: it eases the pushing of the stem into the supporting material, and provides a greater surface area for the stem to take up water.

The stem should be placed approximately in the centre of the vase with all four flowers facing forward. In this instance, the central flower is a right hand bloom, but could be a left hand bloom.

Then build the vase, placing blooms alternating from left to right to keep the vase balanced. Ensure that all four blooms are kept forward facing.

The process is repeated until the back row is completed and balanced.

The same process is the followed for the front row, although this should be lower than the back row, as shown below.

The vase is then finished off by placing a small pair of leaves at the front, and a larger pair at the back and filling out the name of the variety on the card provided. This should be held neatly in place. If you have them, also fill out any audit cards given to you by the show secretary.

The vase is now complete and ready to be placed on the show bench.


This example is staged for a 12 stem class. The principle remains the same for other numbers of stems, two rows of odd numbers, but with five or seven stems in a vase only a single row is required.

Staging materials

The small bikini vases used to stage Sweet Peas require supporting materials to keep the blooms in place. Traditionally tightly packed rushes were used. These were replaced by Oasis in the 1990s. The presence of microplastics in this floral foam means it is potentially damaging to the environment and the RHS has banned the use of Oasis in its shows.

There are alternative materials which can be used instead of Oasis.

These include:

Sand – ensure horticultural or play sand is used – builders’ sand may contain harmful chemicals. The vase is filled with damp sand and watered until a thin film shows on the top. Stems can be placed easily and as the sand dries it will hold them firmly. The vase can be topped up if necessary.

Alternative floral foams are available – such as Agrawool and Fibre Floral. They may need a hole making for the stem before placement. A wooden kebab skewer or knitting needle is ideal.

Plastic inserts have been used by those with a 3D printer and some technical knowledge!

Vegetable materials such as apple, courgette and potato are also possible alternatives. You will need to make holes for the stems and for topping up with water.


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