One of the most natural, aesthetic, simple, and pleasing floral arrangements, ikebana focuses on the harmony between the elements and their connection with nature. It comprises beautiful flower arrangements and is characterized by the principles of minimalism, simplicity, asymmetry, structure, shape, line, peace, nature, humanity, form, and aesthetics.
The origins of ikebana lie in the ancient Japanese Buddhist practices and rituals of arranging flowers to invoke nature and please the gods. The ikebana that we know today, first evolved around the mid-1500s. Literally translated, it means ‘flowers brought alive’, and is a stunning art form of flower arrangement that points towards heaven as a sign of faith. Its purpose is to establish a harmonious relationship between the plant material, the container, and the background. A point to remember is that the arrangement should focus on achieving a fine balance between lines, color, and simplicity, to reflect the beauty of nature.
Ikebana is expected to be followed in such a way that it can be admired from all angles, which is why the elements should be carefully arranged in a three-dimensional view.
This structure comprises three elements – heaven, man, and earth. Heaven is the main element and lies in the center. The second element is Man; it is two-thirds the height of the primary stem and is placed beside the same. The last element is Earth; it is the shortest stem and is placed in front of the primary stem or opposite the secondary stem. Remember to place these elements such that they appear to be originating from one source.
General Tips for Ikebana
Try to maintain sufficient space between the flowers, leaves, and stems. Fill any gap, if present, considering the color and effect of the elements.
Always draw or sketch the arrangement you wish to create. Once you are clear with what you want to display, choosing the elements and arranging them becomes easier. This technique of laying out the desired arrangement on paper is termed as ‘kakeizu’ in Japanese.
Ikebana Vase Selection
Containers play a crucial role in the flower arrangement, and there are different types one can choose from. The most common ones include vases that are small and shallow or tall and slender.
When flowers are arranged in a shallow vase, it is called moribana. In this style, flowers can be arranged upright or in a slightly inclined manner. Arrangements in a tall vase are called nagaire, which usually includes fewer elements.
Various types of containers can be used for this arrangement, and the choice varies as per the season. For instance, summer demands the use of lovely baskets, while winter demands the use of metal containers. In spring and autumn, the use of clay pots or containers is more popular.
Flowers for Ikebana
While arranging the flowers, remember their significance. If you use fully-bloomed flowers, the arrangement represents the past. Partially-bloomed flowers represent the present. Flowers that are still in the bud phase, apparently represent the future.
Flowers should always be fresh – really fresh, because the freshness of the blooms adds to the charm. Avoid using slightly wilted, diseased or infested flowers as the aesthetic appeal of the arrangement is lost.
Fresh flowers have bright colors with thick and vivid petals, and the leaves and stems are bright green as well. Once they are severed from their roots, they start dehydrating. Therefore, place them in water before they start wilting.
Prior to arranging, spray water on the flowers using a atomizing spray. Then, leave them to air dry in a ventilated area for a few weeks.
An ikebana arrangement primarily uses 3 types of large flowers that possess individual significance. Peonies symbolize riches. Chrysanthemums have a special place in Japanese culture. They last long, and symbolize royalty, longevity, and the sun. Lotuses symbolize purity and immortality.
Besides peonies, lotuses and chrysanthemums, camellia, magnolia, wisteria, azalea, tulips, narcissus, forsythia, orchids, rose, aster, jasmine, and iris are also used.
Some artificial elements like flowers, stems, branches, pods, etc., are added to enhance the appeal. Artificial/Filler flowers are termed ‘jushi’, and they provide the necessary finesse to the final structure.
While selecting filler flowers, consider the overall look of the arrangement. Thin stems and branches would demand large fillers, while smaller blossoms go well with thicker leaf designs.
Showy blossoms lend a balance and attractiveness to the overall look.
A natural balance between the elements is achieved when you use odd number of flowers – for both, the actual flowers as well as jushi.