If it holds water, it can be a vase

Words & Pictures: Tiffany Daneff

In my world every home that wanted one would have a flower room. What’s that? Well, the only example I have is the flower room in my grandmother’s house which was a downstairs cubbyhole with a door that led into the back of a small rose border. The walls were lined with cupboards that ponged of gutta percha and canvas from my great uncle George’s army kit. Opposite was a double sink above more cupboards filled with nothing but vases in every size, shape, colour, texture and material a flower could need.

I used to help pick flowers for the house, scavenging through the borders with a pair of secateurs and wedging into the large trug flat ribbed leaves of montbretia, as we knew it then, vicious dark red roses, pollen dusted violet saucers of scabious and frothy baby’s breath.

Then it was back to the flower room to riffle through the dark insides of the flower cupboard to find the right vase. Clear fluted glass suited the orange montbretia with its peppercorn buds. The Bristol blue was just right for roses though the hedgehog stem holder was essential while primroses and snowdrops asked for something small. I liked them in the Fifties wavy green log (made by Wade).

The flower room only lives in the memory now and the vases were probably auctioned off with everything else when my grandmother died. Now only a few of the best which occasionally appear on family dining tables.

Who has space for a flower room or grow enough flowers to need one? Not many. But everyone can give up a cupboard. Real luxury is to have vases in a cupboard, not on open shelves gathering dust.

For years now friends have given me vases and I always treasure them for the reason that each time it is used it reminds me of that friend. I also scour car boot sales and charity shops because you just never know what gem might emerge. And having a purpose to charity shop shopping adds a bit zing to the enterprise. (I used to collect Ladybird books until they were sucked on Ebay.)

Being a handy size collecting vases is quite maneagable. Almost anything will hold a flower from old jam jars – look out for straight sided Victorian glass jars with pretty rollover rims – to a single water glass, the last of a set that someone’s descendent couldn’t see the point of keeping. Great for a handful of buttercups. They’ll drop by the following day but offer beauty until then.

Clever stylist people always group things to make an effect so I just copy them. Pretty much anything and everything can make a good vase. It’s all a question of having an eye for what works, marrying shape and form. Apparently Constance Spry would ransack the kitchen cupboards for tins. I collect old jam jars, ordinary tin cans stripped of their Baked Bean blue wrappers, green glass, blue jugs, old wash stand ewers. Enamel, copper, or Wedgewood. It doesn’t have to be expensive to look fab.

After interviewing Nikki Tibbles, founder of I discovered that she collected the cream coloured Fulham Pottery ware that was commissioned by Constance Spry. So now I am on the look out for those and have found some lookalike pieces from Dartmouth Pottery and Arthur Wood for under a tenner in the local charity shop.

* Vase from the latin vas, a vessel