Mother Earth Living

The Good Life

All things Mother Earth Living

Add to My MSN

Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: Non-Arranging Wabi Flowers

6/8/2011 10:52:25 AM

Tags: wabi-sabi, wabi-sabi flower arranging, wabi flowers, wabi-style flower arranging, nagarie, chabana, tea ceremony flowers, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail On Wabi-Sabi Wednesdays, I feature excerpts from my book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, released this month. 


“If you fiddle this way and that with the flowers and consequently they wither, that will be no benefit. It is the same with a person’s life.” —Sen Soshitsu XV

Wabi-sabi flowers (chabana) aren’t arranged. They’re placed, in their most natural form, into unpretentious vessels.

Nagarie, a simple, austere style of arranging flowers that literally translates as “throw in,” evolved alongside tea ceremony in the 16th century. This method requires no training or talent, but it does require humility, in admitting we can’t improve on nature, and a willingness to observe without judging or meddling. (No problem, right?)

“It is just meaningless to employ readymade ideas when arranging flowers,” Shogo Kariyazaki, Japan’s most famous flower arranger, told the Daily Yomiuri. “Flowers are already complete in their natural beauty. You need to have originality and ingenuity when making beautiful arrangements with them...Arranging flowers can be compared to cooking, You can make tasty dishes once you are able to apply your own ideas to basic recipes.”

Unlike ikebana, which has a litany of stringent, stylized rules about how to combine and arrange flowers, chabana (“tea flowers”) has only one: strive for a simple, natural look. Wabi flowers are always seasonal, arranged to look as they do in the fields. Each stem gets room to breathe; they’re never crowded into big, frothy mounds. Stems aren’t cut down to create uniformity; no frogs or wires are used. Branches are never forced, and tulips bending in their final days are as welcome as sprightly daffodils.

Minimalism is key: One wild rose bud trumps a blowsy display of English roses. Pick a few chicory stems from between the sidewalk’s cracks and let them settle into an old bottle. Work with single flowers and small, odd numbers. (That tired old design rule that sets three as the standard became the norm because it works.) Forget about flowers and use a solitary branch (bare in midwinter, budding in springtime) or a few tall grasses. Trade in crystal vases for humble containers: baskets, bamboo slices, hollowed gourds, old jars, a well-shaped bottle that held dessert wine. (Pretty old wabi-sabi bottles—ranging in price from $1 in parts of West Texas to $15 in Northern California—are prolific at pawn shops and flea markets.)

 wabi flowers 

Wabi flowers are arranged as they're found in the field, in humble containers. Photo by Joe Coca 

Related Content

What is Wabi-Sabi? Pictures Tell the Story

Wabi-sabi is wildflowers, not roses; weathered wood, not plastic laminate; native landscaping, not K...

Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: 7 Wabi Gardens

In a wabi-sabi garden, plants are chosen because they belong in that garden and in that climate, and...

Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: How to Non-Arrange Flowers in the Wabi Style

There's only one rule for wabi-style flowers: strive for a natural look, with seasonal blooms and br...

Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: Simplifying the Tea Ceremony

In ancient Japan, preparing and serving bitter green tea became a means for ordinary people to escap...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.