Tips for Good Designs

by Roberta Ross, Flower Show Chair

All art forms conform to the same basic design standards, including floral design. The basic art standards by which all floral designs are judged are the: Principles and Elements of Design.

Judges base their decisions on a point scale, employing the National Garden Club Standard System of Awarding using these example parameters.

Principles of Design

  •  Balance – visual stability – does it look like it’s falling over?
  • Contrast – use of unlike or opposite elements – dark/ light, smooth/rough.
  • Dominance – greater force of one or more elements. (See Elements below!)
  • Proportion – ratio between areas as they relate to each other and to the whole.
  • Rhythm – a dominant visual path of line and color through design.
  • Scale – size relationships of components to each other – size does matter!

Elements of Design

  • Light – illumination necessary for vision- how the light is reflected back to the viewer.
  • Line – one dimensional visual path through design.
  • Space – open area in and around design – watch your spaces between!
  • Size – apparent or actual dimension.
  • Pattern – design formed by solids and spaces.
  • Texture – surface quality of material – shiny, matte.
  • Color – how eyes see wavelengths of light- watch your hues!
  • Form – three-dimensional object- triangular, square, round, etc..



Joyce Colvario was the top winner in the Design Division of the 2013 Naples Flower Show, “Black Tie, Green Thumb.” She won the Tricolor Award for best design in her Section, and then won the Award of Design Excellence for the best design in the entire Design Division.

How does a designer get to be the winner? Is it long experience with garden clubs? No, Joyce was never a member of a garden club until 2011 when she joined Naples Garden Club. Is it extraordinary knowledge of design and horticulture? Maybe not. According to Joyce when asked if she would allow herself to be interviewed, she responded, “it would be okay with me with one exception;  I really had very little knowledge about horticulture & floral design.” What, then, is the secret to winning?

The secret to Joyce’s success is her eagerness to learn, her love of flowers and gardens, her enthusiasm to participate, her willingness to learn from mentors and her artistic ability. Joyce said that she has taken every available class offered by NGC. She has always been interested in gardening. She signs up for everything. She has had good help and advice from other members of NGC. “How many people do you know who are as willing to share their knowledge and expertise?” she asked. Joyce does have an artistic  background.  Joyce attended the School of Museum of Fine Arts.  She paints and has had her own studio in the SOWA district in Boston. She managed the art department at Verizon Yellow Pages, and guided 125 employees from pen and ink illustrations up to computer design.

What was her thought process in creating her award-winning floral design? She started with an interesting sculpture from a friend’s garage. To that she added a glass covered hot plate, a metal rod from Home Depot an empty tomato can, sprayed black and wire. She tried a new floral design with different flowers every week over a five to six week period.  She kept the theme of disco in mind with its colors, neon, disco feel. She settled on a design using Hypericum, billy balls,(Craspedia)  Fuji mums, Aspidistra leaves and Protea.

Her advice to other designers? It’s a matter of trial and error. Have fun with it.  Don’t get nervous. It’s a matter of good taste. If it appeals to you, it will appeal to others. Embrace the creative energy of Naples Garden Club.