Breaking the vases Prahran market in Melbourne

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Every Thursday I visit the Prahran market in Melbourne to buy cut flowers. After moving from a flat vases that had a garden, I have been arranging flowers for my dining area. A plain, classic-looking glass vase is what I use. I use a plain glass vase with a classic design (i.e., a narrow bottom, long cylindrical bodies, and fluted top). What is it that draws me to the idea of arranging flowers in a vase?

One reason is that I don’t have a garden anymore. According to the IBIS World Industry Report, 3/4ths of Australians own a garden. This decreases the demand for cut flowers in Australia. Even though I don’t have a garden, I spend more time indoors and still long for the joy of fresh flowers. But that joy doesn’t extend to buying flower vases.

One wonders, with all the concerns over sustainability, what are the benefits of keeping flowers in a vase. Flowers can grown sustainably. Australian Flower Industry claims that 90% of flowers bought in Australia also grown there. Are we really going to use the 50 IKEA vase designs? Are flower vases helpful in overcoming limitations and contributing to our well-being? To determine the social value of a flower vase, I use the Triad of Limitations and Triad of Wellbeing.

The Triad Of Limitations And Flower Vases

Victor Papanek, an Austrian designer, introduced the Triad of Limitations concept in his book Design for the Real World. Papanek used Robert Lindner’s research to determine the social value of design. A design that helps people overcome their limitations in biology, habitat or mortality is considere to have social value. Is the flower vase socially valuable within this framework?

Some of the biological limitations humans face include poor vision, weak claws and inability to withstand cold temperatures. The flower vase is not able to overcome these limitations. The bacteria that grows in the vase could cause more damage than the flowers. Medical researchers Dr. David Taplin and Dr. Patricia Mertz discovered:

The water contained in flower vases found on two Miami hospitals’ surgical wards and in a burn unit had high levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria. The number of bacteria in the water reached 1×1013 colonies-forming units (C.F.U.). per ml. Within 3 days of placing flowers into clean tap-water.

Although it has been shown that flowers pose very low infection risk in hospital wards, subsequent studies have confirm that this is not the case. However, it is evident that flower vases are not able to overcome biological limitations.

A History of a Vase s

The particular habitat limitation can be overcome by flower vases. The lack of space or access to fields has often driven flower arrangement in vases. Yuan Hongdao, a Ming Dynasty Chinese scholar states in his 1599 C.E. The treatise A History of a Vase, is available here:

Even so, my official residences were small and meager, and I was constantly moved from one place to another. I therefore had to resort to gall-bladder-shaped vases and cut flower arrangements, which I can change according to the changing seasons.

There may be an increased demand for flower vases as a way to overcome the habitat limitations caused by today’s rapid urbanization

Religious practices are the origin of arrangements in vases. The Goddess Isis was offer lotus flowers by the Egyptians in vases back at 2,500 B.C.E. The Japanese art of flower arrangement, Ikebana (or Japanese flower arranging), was develop in the 10th century C.E. It is an integral part of Buddhist temple offerings for the dead. This connection between the vases and the flowers is reinforce by the sacred design motifs found on early flower vase designs. The original purpose of flower arrangement in vase was to override the limitations of death.

The opulence of flower vase has reflected a belief in conspicuous consumption, rather than spiritual piety. Today, flower vases are not able to help us overcome our mortality limitations.

The vase is award 1.5 out of 3 points for its contribution to the Triad of Limitations. Although there is some social benefit, it has a greater connection to its original purpose in religious ceremonies. Its value could be measure against the Triad of Wellbeing.