Flower arrangements create amazing decorative displays using fresh-cut flowers and other plant materials. Many cultures around the world have practiced this art for centuries. The Japanese art of flower arrangement is called ikebana and can trace its origins to the Heian period of 794 to 1185 AD. Since then, many styles have developed and people all across the globe have taken up the practice.
Ikebana arrangements sit in wide-mouthed containers rather than the narrow-neck vases common to other bouquet styles. When preparing for your ikebana project, look for a wide, shallow dish. This container choice comes from the Buddhist influence on ikebana, which stresses keeping the flowers alive for as long as possible.
Once you've sourced the perfect container, find a flower frog. These come in many varieties, including just pushing your flower stems into stiff foam. The kenzan, which is called "sword mountain" because it consists of needles sticking up from a plate, is another popular type.
Make sure your flower frog fits comfortably in your container. Some people center their frog in the dish, while others opt for an off-center arrangement — asymmetrical designs are quite popular in Japanese flower arranging and other art styles. Once the frog is where you want it, add water to the container to above the spikes.
Be mindful of size, style, and complementary colors when choosing items for your ikebana arrangement. Stems, leaves, and other plant materials are just as popular as flowers. Consider the current season and select pieces that harmonize with nature at this time. Turning leaves make a beautiful addition in autumn, while bright sprigs suit the new life of spring.
Every flower arrangement has to start somewhere. The first component should be about twice as long as the width of the container, so it will stand out somewhat will still remaining proportional to the whole thing. Consider positioning it at a slight angle, as these quaint imperfections echo how plants grow naturally.
The second component should be a centerpiece, so many people choose an eye-catching flower or complex sprig of some kind for this step. There are a couple of ways to make the second component stand out. First, make sure that it is about one third the length of the first component so that it occupies a separate visual space. Second, put it at a deeper angle so that it seems to lean towards the eye of the beholder.
Now you can arrange the rest of your items as you see fit. Type of plant, position, and angle are all up to the artist, so this is a good chance to exercise your creativity. Again, ensure everything complements the first two pieces you added, not overpowering but enhancing their visual appeal. Leaves as well as other plant materials such as moss can also be used to hide the flower frog.
You likely chose bright, healthy sprigs for your ikebana, but you'll still want to check it over after you've arranged all the parts, ensuring no dead, damaged, and otherwise unhealthy-looking bits take away from the overall beauty of your piece. That being said, sometimes these imperfections can enhance certain arrangements. Depending on how tidy you want your arrangement to look, you may also want to cut away branches sticking out at weird angles and anything else that appears incongruent with the design.
Though it can be tempting to cram as many flowers into your ikebana arrangement as possible — and sometimes this maximalist approach suits the design — traditional ikebana is usually kept quite sparing and minimalist. In other words, empty space can be just as striking in your arrangement as filling it up with flowers.
Ikebana is supposed to be about self-reflection throughout the process, as well as creating an amazing display. As such, don't get too focused on creating the perfect arrangement. The Buddhist influence of this art form incorporates a world view called wabi-sabi. In short, the term denotes accepting the transient, imperfect, and incomplete nature of the world — the asymmetry, austerity, intimacy, roughness, and appreciation of natural elements that is so common in Japanese art. Try to embrace the perfect imperfections for your beautiful ikebana arrangement!