Basic Line Design

Submitted by Diane White, SPGC Design Chair


Members’ reference: Additional information regarding the traditional line design can be found on page 182, Handbook for Flower Shows(2007).


Basic Line Design

1.  Traditional line designs are usually naturalistic and show Oriental influence.

2.  Simplicity is achieved by restraint in materials used.

3.  The line is the dominant form with little or no additional plant material, resulting in

a sharp silhouette, that draws your eye through the design.

4.  It has a strong thrust of line material.



1.  Select clean-cut material with similar characteristics.

2.  The individual qualities of each piece of plant material should be clearly seen and

shown to their best advantage.

3.  Branches, leaves and flowers may be pruned to emphasize line.

4.  Lines provide directional movement by forcing the eye to move along its length, thus   establishing rhythm within a design.

5.  Rhythm is the most important principle in a line design. It is a communicating factor,

promoting harmony, unity or contrast and suggest motion.

6.  Remember to consider the NGC Principles and Elements of Design. To read more, click here.



1.  Shallow and cylindrical containers are suitable for vertical and side triangle line designs.

2.  A compote, or low bowl is excellent for horizontal and crescent line designs.

3.  The traditional oriental triangle line design and zig zag designs are complimented by oriental style containers.

4.  The number of lines used must appear in proportion to the size of the container.


Placement of Plant Material

1.  The line is established first.

2.  All stems should be placed as close together as possible and appear to radiate from one point.

3.  The unity of the design is destroyed by a variation of lines radiating out in different directions.

4.  Some suitable line materials include: pear branches yucca gladiolus glad leaves Scotch broom liatris bamboo sanseveria bare branches w/ interesting side shoots.

5.  Any line direction within a design may consist of only the chosen linear material

or it can be created through the repetition of shapes, forms, textures and color

which have been placed in a specific linear direction.

6.  The design may have a center of interest if it is needed for strength and stability, but the center of interest must not crowd the design, obscure the line or become a bull’s eye.

7.  Using an abundance of plant material at the base of the design will create a collar effect and should be avoided.

8.  Linear, oval , pointed flowers or seed pods will reinforce the main line, but round forms hold attention too long unless they have been graduated in size.


1.  Balance in line designs is usually asymmetrical, as varied heights of three branches

create a triangle.

2.  This balance reflects what we see in nature, thereby giving opportunity for freedom and originality in floral design.

3.  Density at the top and outer limits of the design can affect balance, therefore extra leaves or flowers should be removed adding clarity and rhythm and contributing to better balance.

4.  A base, such as wood, mirror, marble, etc. may be used to add visual weight.



1,  Some plant material may be altered to a desired shape by placing it under water and

laying a towel on the plant overnight to acquire a desired shape. Scotch broom works well this way.

2.  The direction on many stems, even woody ones, can be changed by careful bending.

3.  Rolling a leaf while gently rubbing it, changes its direction.

4.  When all else fails, we can resort to wiring a stem, even the underside of a leaf, to form a desired line.

5.  In line designs, two dimensional shapes, particularly those of foliage, give a transition

from rounded forms to linear forms. They bridge the gap between bold, round forms and strong, linear forms. As a result, they allow the eye to move in any direction in the design.