Rose Show Arrangement Classes

Arrangements are an important part of any Rose Show, so below you will find some useful information if you want to give it a try. See our rules PDF for details on requirements, but mostly just have fun.

For most of the classes there is a Standard sized rose class and its Miniature counterpart. I have displayed them here with the Standard size in the left column and the Miniature in the right column, so the numbers may not be exactly in order.

Traditional Arrangements

Hogarth curve
Hogarth curve, note the 5:3 ratio.

Line and Line-Mass Traditional arrangements are “open” forms in which the plant material does not completely fill the geometric form on which the arrangement is based. One example, for both Standard and Miniature classes, requires a Hogarth curve.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a Hogarth curve – Don’t Panic! There is an illustration of a Hogarth curve for purposes of rose arrangements to the right.

The dotted lines depict the two ovals upon which the Hogarth curve is based. The top oval is larger than the lower one; this is usually a 5:3 ratio in height.

Illustration and information from the article “What is Traditional?” by Kathy Noble in the Rose Arranger’s Bulletin Late Summer/Fall 2010.  (This article is no longer available, but is available below.)


Traditional Mass arrangements are “closed” geometric forms, completely filled with plant material, and are usually based on the sphere or pyramid. Mass arrangements, therefore, require a great quantity of plant material, usually a minimum of two dozen fresh roses in addition to filler material.

A Line-Mass arrangement, for both Standard and Miniature classes, specifies a Crescent shaped arrangement.

On the left is an illustration of a Crescent shaped line mass arrangement. This is just one example.

For more articles and information on Traditional rose arrangements visit our page on How To Create Traditional Rose Arrangements. 

Modern/Creative or Abstract Arrangements

If you are considering a Modern Creative or Abstract design, a good place to start is the article Modern Design —Free-form or Abstract? by Kathy Noble. See below.

You may also want to pay a visit to our friends and neighbors at the Tri-City Rose Society to view Rose Arranging 101 – Modern Arrangements by Jane Melville, ARS Accredited Arrangement Judge and TCRS Member.

Modern Design — Free-form or Abstract?

By: Kathy Noble

When well done, no two modern arrangements are alike. All of them are free of the geometric patterns and design rules that characterize traditional arrangements. This allows an almost infinite range of design possibilities. With this freedom, however, there comes a challenge of placing components into patterns of lines, forms, colors, textures, and open spaces, which are exciting, yet adhere to the six principles of design. (Those principles are best remembered by the mnemonic phrase BaD CRoPS: balance, dominance, contrast, rhythm, proportion, and scale.)

Within the boundless freedom of modern design, there are also classifications of design styles. Two of the most popular are labelled free-form and abstract. Learning these two styles will carry you through 99% of the modern classes in rose shows today.

What do these two styles have in common? They contain a minimal amount of material, creating an uncluttered look.

  • They feature strong, dynamic lines, conveying a sense of movement.
  • They incorporate space, within and around the design.
  • They utilize bold colors, forms, contrasts and/or textures
  • They showcase roses of exceptional quality.

So, what makes them different from each other?

Free-from design takes its inspiration from nature. Just look at the twists and curls, zigs and zags, loops and spirals of natural line materials. Look at the colors and textures and forms available, and imagine how they can be used in bold and intriguing combinations.

A free-form design might display some traditional qualities, like a general line-mass structure, and yet be distinctively different because of the unusual materials used or the presence of contrasting lines (vs. a single line predominating). In fact, some traditional characteristics, like lining up roses in a graceful curve through the center of the design, can create a sense of unity in the midst of contrasts.

Free-form designs may have more than one point of emergence, or more than one focal point (featured area). There may be parallel lines or repeated patterns in the placement of materials. The overall effect is surprising, fresh and new, but harmonious and natural.

Abstract design, on the other hand, takes its inspiration from other forms of art, especially painting and sculpture. For abstract arranging, do not think of materials as the objects they are (roses, leaves, stems, containers), but rather think of them as objects which have certain characteristics (shape, color, texture). Forget the identity of the object, just manipulate it for its visual qualities.

Abstract design is total concentration on space, line, form, texture, color, pattern, and contrast, to create a purely decorative or expressive design. Materials can be placed in unnatural positions, like the time-honored trick of hanging a rose upside-down. The arranger can exaggerate the sense of abstraction by knotting, twisting, cutting, curling, or tying plant materials. Man-made materials can also be used to good effect, but the roses must always predominate.

The most important aspect of abstract design is not performing unnatural acts on unsuspecting materials, but rather, putting materials to their best use for visual effect. For example, there was a design at the ARS National Show in San Jose, entitled Modern Art, composed entirely of feathers (which created a mesmerizing pattern), except for the single rose at its heart. A good abstract design first evokes the reaction of “Wow!”, and afterwards, the question of “How did they do that?” There should never be a question of “Why?”

As stated in the ARS Guidelines for Judging Rose Arrangements, each arrangement is an individuals signature in plant material. This is true in the sense that each arranger develops a unique look and personal style. But it is also true, as in handwriting: poor penmanship (i.e., not adhering to the six design principles) can render the result indecipherable, resulting in a failing grade! So, rejoice in the expression of your individuality through the creation of modern free-form and abstract designs. But remember that freedom does not equal chaos. Let there always be a method to your madness!

This article first appeared in the American Rose, a monthly publication of the American Rose Society. It has been removed from their site and was recovered through 

Arrangements in the Oriental Manner

If you would like to try your hand at an arrangement in the Oriental manner you might be interested in this article (PDF format) by Julie A. Matlin, Moribana: An Arrangement “In the Oriental Manner.

Variations on these arrangements: 

    • Arrangements in the Oriental Manner in a Tall Container
    • Arrangements in the Oriental Manner in a Low Container Showing Water

Arrangements with Roses and Rose Foliage Only

As the title indicates, you may only use rose plant material. That means you can use rose hips, rose stems, and rose roots. Be creative here. You can choose your favorite design style, just remember to state it on the entry tag.

Arrangements with Fresh Roses and Dried and/or Treated Materials

In this class roses are the only fresh plant material allowed. All other plant material must be fried or treated fresh plant material other than roses. You may select your choice of design style; be sure to state the design style on the entry tag.

Dried Arrangements

All dried arrangements must have dried roses as a dominant factor. Natural dried material may be used, such as dried and/or treated foliage, cones, or pods.

Classes 19 and 20 allow for a broad range of entries: a wreath or plaque; or a door, picture, or wall hanging – with suitable ribbon, or bows if for holiday.

Table Class

This year the Table Class calls for a functional table setting with rose arrangement. It should compliment the setting.

Designer’s Choice Arrangements

Designer’s Choice Arrangements allow the Exhibitor to select a design style or type, but you must state the style/type on your entry tag. All plant material must be fresh and garden grown. Accessories are permitted. Class 26 is open to all, but there are certain limitations on who can enter the remaining classes, so see the Show schedule.