Design & Décor, Living with Style

Cuckoo for Flower Containers

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Containers for Flowers

Charlotte Moss in her comprehensive book Garden Inspirations committed ten-plus pages to the topic of flower containers. Committed is the right word; we flower lovers should all be committed to an asylum for the passion that containers inspire. Other than coffee table books, my single most favorite “collection” is my  flower containers, urns, and vases that  line the shelves in my mud room (and overflow into the china closet and other nooks and crannies throughout the house).

Why do they inspire such a passion? Because each container is more than just a decorative accessory; it additionally serves as the means for having flowers throughout the home at any time of the year. And that, for me, is the definition of a life well lived. Whether it is a single small vase of one precious rose…

396or a dramatic urn of difficult-to-find lilies…

Containers for Flowers

…flowers make a house a home. Make this gesture first for yourself, rather than saving them for special occasions. Consider keeping a list of key “focal points”around your home, by room or order of priority…a short version as well as a dressing-the-house-for-a party-or-house- guests scenario (along with these lists in my mud room, I also keep a collection of note cards to accompany flower arrangements that I’ve created as gifts for friends on sundry occasions).

Case in point…the first landing on our stairwell is just such a focal point for there is constant traffic up and down the stairs. It has become a game to see how many different arrangements in how many various containers will grace the little antique painted console…in early summer a favorite is Clematis ‘Betty Corning.’


In late summer long stems of aesclepias fruiticosa inspire bemusement;

Containers for Flowers

and in late fall, graceful branches of purple salvia provide a delicious shot of color.

Containers for Flowers

Any flower can be a star in the right container. And the right flower can lend caché to many a container.

As with any collection, it’s as much about the memories that accompany each piece– where you found it, who gave it to you, the circumstances surrounding how it came to be in your possession. A few of my favorites, and why.

On my first trip to Paris, I bought Arpege perfume first because I fell in love with the bottle; filled with two or three stems, it joins other perfume bottles on my bathroom sink.

Containers for Flowers

Placing the lid beside its container filled with daffodils adds the final touch to a mantle vignette.


My husband commissioned this painted tole “bucket” as part of a set of garden-related gifts the Christmas we broke ground on our new home.


The kitchen island is on my short list of spots that always deserve a seasonal arrangement (like Kangaroo Paw and Alstroemeria).


As a child my mother’s vase absolutely fascinated me; those large sterling silver tulips wrapped around the spacious frosted glass vase (very Lalique) now contain flowers from my garden (tulip jaap groot).


Who doesn’t adore baskets…especially of the French wire variety?


New York floral designer Ronald Maia created these bud vases way back in the 1970’s — glass versions of classic Chines urn designs.


Potter Francis Palmer takes “ceramic” up another notch with her madcap creations (holding a bouquet of peonies).

Containers for Flowers

TIP: A container is the perfect gift for any hostess who loves her garden and arranging flowers.

Margot Shaw of Flower Magazine well-appreciates this. When she visited me last year for the Newport Flower Show, she brought three unique, colorful vases from Alabama glass blower, Orbix Hot Glass. They were filled immediately and placed around the house; one was just perfect for hot pink peonies (below). Now I think of Margot each time I use these.

Containers for Flowers

On a finishing note…keeping a selection of small vases or flower holders on hand is invaluable for many reasons…

When you’re arranging, they are just the right size for a collection of “cast off” stems.

TIP: If flower heads droop, pack the throat of the container with saran wrap (as we do at flower shows) to keep them upright.


They can provide a spot of floral presence without the effort of “doing an arrangement.”

Containers for Flowers

They are easy to nest in among favorite vignettes.


Someone didn’t want to be left out of the photo shoot…


Happy Flower Arranging!

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

14 thoughts on “Cuckoo for Flower Containers

    1. Hi other Bettie, your are too, too clever…”who needs pussy willows.” Glad to know you’re enjoying my emails! Bettie

  1. Fun Reading Bettie. I love flower containers too. When I travel, I usually bring home a special vase to remember the place I visited.

    See you over the summer,

    1. Thank you, and I, too, love remembering a trip by the container I bring home! Summer is almost upon us (though I’m not sure we’ve had spring yet…) BBP

  2. All I can say, Bettie, is how inspiring this is. True of all your blogs, but this one really speaks to me. Cannot wait to start looking for interesting containers. Even if mine will be filled with flowers from Costco.

    Your big fan from Texas

  3. I love this post — I have an obsession with having fresh flowers around my house — in just a few spots here and there — and your container collection is wonderful. I generally dislike seeing stems in arrangements through clear glass vases (unless it’s a stunning crystal vase) and your containers add another level of beauty to your flowers. Your mother’s tulip vase is gorgeous, and the gold container filled with alstroemeria (which I first saw in your inside-picnic post) inspired me to go searching for a similar one. I eventually found a lovely yellow McCoy pottery pedestal planter that’s perfect, and I replicated your arrangement for Easter this year (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, of course). Thank you for a nice read to go with my first cup of coffee this morning!

    1. And your comment is also a “nice read”, too, Nancy. Thank you; I’d love to see your McCoy planter. If you have a picture please send it to Cheers, BBP

  4. Your containers are exquisite!
    Love the selection of flowers perfectly suited for each vessel.
    And photos of Cliqout are always a delight .
    The only thing better, was to have the pleasure to see your treasures in person – including Cliqout

    1. Loved seeing you…and Clicquot’s still talking about your visit. B.

  5. My word,what a wonderful collection of containers!!! Hopefully , you have written down the story for each. I have a large brass bowl of my Mothers. When they were moving from Pensacola to Coronado ,their effects went by ship. The cargo ship partially sank/beached on the voyage. My father had to go to Mexico and buy back all their belongings from the salvage company!!!


    1. Tony, you’re great to bring your perspective to this post; I’m so glad I had the opportunity to know your mother. xo Bettie

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only NUT for containers, unfortunately mine are not nearly as glamorous or exquisite as yours ! The ones I have left were the ones not knocked over by Bailey
    Time for Clicquot to teach him some manners! Crazy about the vignettes you showed!
    Can’t wait to see you & Clicquot this summer! XX Jane

    1. Can’t wait to see you, too! And Clicquot’s brushing up on her manners so she can be a good example to Bailey. xo

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