Mother Earth Living

Ikebana: The Art of Japanese Flower Arrangement

With their strong branches and textural foliage, herbs gracefully lend themselves to the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging.

Ikebana arrangements are always described from the Buddha’s perspective. So elements to the viewer’s left are described as being on the right, and vice versa. The chabana style has no formal rules of proportion; it relies on the artist’s eye to achieve a sense of rightness and harmony. This spring arrangement includes a tall river willow branch in bloom. The yellow flowers, symbolic of present, past, and future, are salsify. They are anchored in a small kensan. The elements were chosen to echo spring light as it comes through the garden.
For this fall arrangement, the shin, soe, and hikae are branches of frost-kissed red raspberry. The shin and soe are to the left of the centerline, and the hikae moves to the right. The jushi are calendula blossoms in full bloom, representing the height of the season. The kensan is centered in the oval, shallow pottery bowl, a family heirloom. Hiding the kensan is golden oregano that blends well with the container. The effect recalls a clear fall day.
For this wintertime nageire arrangement, a tall, narrow handmade vase with a line in the glaze that accents the arrangement’s motion. All of the plant material was killed by the frost and collected from the author’s winter garden. The shin, used in a left upright style, is a stalk of echinacea that has gone to seed. The natural branching of the stalk into three emphasizes how nature creates its own arrangements. The soe, which moves to the right, is a dried mullein stalk. The hikae on the left is a single stalk of dried Queen-Anne’s-lace with jushi of more Queen-Anne’s-lace, rose hips, and yarrow. The arrangement is stark and plain with subtle color shadings that take second place to the dramatic lines.
For this summer arrangement, the material was grouped tightly together in the kensan to look as though it rose from a single stem. Simple colors reflect the many shades of green found in the garden. The shin, in the left upright style, is a long-stemmed rosebud that echoes the container and represents the future. The soe, on the right, is a branch of wild aster. The hikae, on the left, is a miniature rose at its height of bloom. Lushness and textural density are achieved with jushi of valerian leaf, a miniature rose almost past its prime, aster, double feverfew, thyme, a fennel frond, Italian parsley, and tansy leaf. Although not classical in ratio, this arrangement attempts to depict the essence of summer.

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Peggy McMahan
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