Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 3
   June 2010

Wendy Batson recently had one of the greatest honors of her life bestowed upon her. The Ottawa, Ontario, resident has studied Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, for more than two decades and when the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited her city recently, she was asked to create a traditional Japanese flower arrangement for the royal couple. "I had the honor of doing the flowers for them," she said. "I got to meet them and had a private audience with them."

Like many Ikebana students, Ms Batson was first drawn by the understated simplicity of the art and the way flowers and other materials are manipulated to mimic the natural world. "I was always attracted to it because in Ikebana, less is more", she explained. "You really get to admire the true beauty in the line of the branch, or the flower."

Loosely translated as "bringing life to flowers," Ikebana arrangements follow strict guidelines of structure and space, and always emphasize harmony with the materials, the container and the environment in which the arrangement is displayed. Ikebana flower arrangements are recognizable because they are asymmetrical. Balance in the designs is usually weighted in a 30:70 ratio, as opposed to the symmetrical 50:50 ratio found in Western flower arrangements.

Sogetsu by Lili Chu   Artist unknown
Sogetsu by Lili Chu.   Artist unknown.

In addition to balance, Ikebana encourages sparseness when creating a piece. "Space always forms an integral part of the arrangement. Emptiness is an elemental part of the arrangement", explained Ms Batson. The arrangements usually stand in low containers that don't hide the water in which the flowers and branches stand. "We use branch material as our main line, and just one or two flowers." In such a way, Ikebana expresses a profound respect and celebration of nature.

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