Ikebana: The Japanese art of flower arranging

A single stem never dies. That’s the Japanese floral philosophy. This isn’t a new concept. Far from it. In fact, Japanese Shinto priests – Japan’s indigenous religion – offered evergreen branches to the spirits for centuries to try to capture natural beauty. Then when buddhism came along in the sixth Century, Buddhist monks evolved these Shinto offerings into beautiful arrangements: the art of ikebana was born.

"Happiness is to hold flowers in both hands"

– Japanese proverb

Ikebanawas formed as a response to the beauty and variety of flowers and plants. It’s a way of arranging flowers according to ancient principles. Branches and flowers are placed at specific angles to represent ten (heaven), chi (earth), and jin (man). The way they’re placed represents the strength, delicacy, and ephemerality of living flowers. Funnily enough, the word ikebana comes from ‘ikuru’ – to live and ‘hana’ – flowers: literally ‘living flowers’. Ikebana is more than an artform, the practise and philosophy is believed to be a journey to self-realisation.

If you’ve ever dabbled in floristry or arranged some flowers in vase, it’s easy to see why. The act of looking at a flower, admiring its shape, form, and colour. Then deciding to put it just so in a vase. It’s an art that restores our sense of inner harmony. A sort of lovely mix of therapy and meditation. Anyone can ikebana. It’s about intuition – your natural response to the flowers and creating something according to how you feel right at that moment. There’s no right or wrong. It’s self expression!

The Ikebana Principles:

Less is more: Where western-style arrangements go for flowers in a vase on mass to make an impact, ikebana goes for structure, space, and minimalism.

Asymmetrical balance: It’s common to see tall branches balanced precariously in ikebana. That’s because it uses a 30/70 balance ratio, rather than the normal 50/50.

In and Yo: Japanese Yin and Yang is about opposites completing one another.

Ephemerality: Ikebana aims to capture the fleeting beauty of things. A lot of ikebana arrangements feature a bud to represent the promise of hope.

Space: Not just emptiness, but an important part of the design as a whole.

More than decoration: The art of creating an arrangement leads to self awareness (and happiness!).

DIY: At Home

Many of the tools needed for ikebana will seem familiar (phew): sharp scissors to trim stems, containers of different shapes – from cylindrical vases to shallow dishes, and something called a kenzan that is a sort of heavy lead pincushion to fix stems to. If you want to give it a go for the first time, we suggest going for a nice tall cylindrical vase! And if you don’t have a pair of secateurs, using a sharp knife (not serrated) will do the trick. Because of their simplicity, the best place to put an ikebana arrangement is a clear space that’s not too cluttered. Show it off as a striking piece of art!

Why not take a few stems or branches from you bloomon bouquet and have a go at creating an ikebana arrangement? Don’t forget to show us the result or share it with the bloomon community. Post a photo on Facebook or Instagram using #bloomon. Happy arranging!

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