Understand Plant Material 

This page is one of a set of guidelines aimed at helping competitors.

These BB&O guidelines include extracts from the NAFAS Competitions Manual (2015) and NAFAS Plant Material in all its Forms, presented in a way that makes it easy for competitors to understand.  For official information readers are advised to also refer the following official NAFAS publications:

This page describes what constitutes plant material in a competitive show.  It covers Natural Plant MaterialComponents of natural plant material and Artificial Plant Material. In all competitive exhibits operating to NAFAS rules natural plant material must predominate and artificial plant material is not allowed unless otherwise stated in the Show Schedule.

Natural Plant Material

Natural plant material is any vegetable matter.  Unless specifically excluded by a show schedule it can be used in a variety of forms including:

  • Fresh plant material is material from living plants which must remain turgid for the duration of the show by being in water, water-retaining material or be long-lasting.  Long-lasting material includes: air plants, cacti, fruits, fungi, grass, turf, lichen, moss, succulents, vegetables and tropical plants.  Fresh plant material may any of the following:
    • Purchased from a florist, supermarket, garden centre, wholesaler or other supplier.
    • Garden plant material, not necessarily from your own garden, but which can be cultivated outdoors in the United Kingdom.
    • Wild plant material, which can grow uncultivated outdoors in the United Kingdom, where appropriate permission has been sought.  However the use of endangered or invasive species is not permitted.
  • Dried plant material includes dried, preserved, bleached, skeletonised material etc.  Dried plant material includes seed pods, spathes, dried lichens and moss etc, or any item made of dried plant material such as baskets
  • Driftwood is any bark, branch, wood or root in a dry condition excluding seedpods and spathes.
  • Manipulated plant material has been crafted into a different form. For example manipulated by bending, knotting, plaiting, weaving etc
  • Coloured/Enhanced plant material in which the colour or texture has been altered by bleach, dye, glitter, paint, varnish, oil, milk, wax, leaf shine or similar products, unless specifically excluded by a show schedule.
  • Processed plant material has been domestically or commercially processed so that it presents in a different form – see NAFAS Plant Material in all its Forms.  For example:
    • Components made from wood such as: beads, boards, bowls, boxes, cutlery, buttons, candlesticks, carvings, flowers made from wood shavings or similar, kyogi paper, veneer, wood shavings etc
    • Components made from cotton such as: balls of cotton yarn or ribbon; knitted, crocheted or woven items, etc.
    • Components made from jute such as: bags, balls, burlap, canvas, espadrilles, jute fabric, fishing nets/netting, hessian and scrim, home textiles, macramé, mats and carpets, sacking, string and rope, etc.
    • Components made from straw, hay, grass such as bags, birds’ nests, corn dollies, paper, spheres, string and rope etc.
    • Components made from cork such as: bottle stoppers, mats/matting, etc.
    • Components made from cane such as: baskets, mats, spheres, etc.
    • Paper from fibres such as: agave (eg agave bagasse paper), bamboo, banana, cotton or cotton rags, daphne (lotka paper), fig (bark cloth), flax rice, grass (chapri paper), hemp, jute (gunny paper), maize, mango, mitsumata, mulberry (washi/rakushi paper and others), nettle (ramie paper), papyrus (bagasse paper), sugar cane (bagasse paper), rice, mixed organic fibres (eg coconut, water hyacinth, gampi, mulberry), etc.
    • Components made of paper/card such as: boxes, cut/moulded/glued/shredded/woven items, egg boxes, origami items, flowers/leaves/vegetables, fungi etc
    • Various other items originating from natural plant material such as: cereals, coconut fibre, hapene, loofah, midelino (rattan), pasta, plant fibre/tops such as soya and bamboo, seaweed (nori, gim, wakami, etc), sisal takenokawa (bamboo culm sheath), ting-ting, waxed fruit and vegetables, sugar or chocolate flowers, etc
    • Where does raffia fit in??  Cellophane ?

This list, although long, is not exhaustive.  Additionally some plant material may fit into more than one of the above categories.  For example: sisal is dried, coloured and often manipulated; jute is often woven, coloured and manipulated.

Components of natural plant material

The following definitions of plant material parts are not necessarily botanically correct but nevertheless should be accepted for the purpose of flower arrangement competitions.  A useful reference document is Foliage and Plants for Flower Arrangers

  • Flower/Bloom: A single stem supporting one or more flowers
  • Foliage: A class which is specified as ‘featuring foliage’ must have foliage as its dominant component.  For this purpose the term foliage includes
    • Leaves of any plant
    • Unopened buds not showing petal colour
    • Flowerless bracts, although these should not predominate
  • Bracts: Flower-like bracts are acceptable as flowers or foliage.  This includes plants such as: anthurium, ballota, clary, euphorbia, hellebore, hydrangea, moluccella, poinsettia, etc.
  • Fruit: Berries, cones, fruit, fungi, nuts, seed-heads and vegetables. The following may be classed as flowers at the appropriate stage of development, and may be used as fruit at any stage of their development: catkins, cereals, heads of grass, reedmace, reeds, rushes, sedges.

Artificial Plant Material

Unless specifically allowed in the schedule. artificial plant material is not permitted in any competitive exhibit that is working to NAFAS rules.  Artificial plant material is any realistic or fantasy plant form, made wholly or partly from non-plant material which is used as a substitute for natural plant material.  Examples of artificial plant material include floral/plant forms made from:

  • Metal, glass, clay and similar
  • Fabric and ribbon which originates from non-plant material; eg: wool, silk, polyester.  Fabric which originates from plant material such as cotton, jute, hessian etc is acceptable.
  • Artificial grass turf
  • Shells, wax

Artificial plant forms that are an integral part of a container, base, background or accessory are usually are permitted – see Understand a Show Schedule. Artificial grass is not permitted for any purpose, including bases,