There are flower arrangements and then there are flower arrangements.

Personally, I detest the overly-colorful and tightly packed arrangements that I associate with almost anything you can order through FTD. I have finally trained my husband to get a bunch of fresh flowers from the florist–or even the grocer–that I can arrange at home in my own lovely containers. But Ikebana is another matter altogether. Take a look at these displays from the Philadelphia Flower Show and tell me what you think. They are competitive examples of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.

You won’t find abundant and exuberant displays of bountiful blossoms. This is all about line and form. Restraint even, from what I can tell. And the container is as important as the arrangements, which often rely on twigs or other materials to make a line to draw the eye and create the form. Frankly, I find the arrangements artful and, well, refreshing.

Those exceptionally sophisticated and informed folks up in Philadelphia even have a local chapter of Ikebana International. I saw some of the participants spending about 45 minutes on their arrangements, which had already been judged, trying to improve them, gently twisting a twig here, adjusting a flower height there. This is flower arranging for the exceptionally patient.

I spent a good deal of time examining these arrangements before heading off to the vendor section to pick up a couple of “vessels” for my garden flowers. I adore the fact that you don’t have to have dozens and dozens of blossoms to make a beautiful arrangement and that you can use other materials–even dead stuff–to an artistic end. Right now, I have a good deal of dead-looking stuff to use in arrangements. While I doubt that I’ll ever spend more than 10 minutes on an arrangement of flowers, I do believe I have picked up a trick or two from the Ikebana aficionados.

With that said, here’s a little Ikebana walking tour from the Philadelphia Flower Show for you…










I’m fascinated. What do you think? Is Ikebana for you?

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  • I don’t know if it is for me… don’t they have some “rules” on form and balance and all? I don’t do good with that kind of stuff. And I’m not all that attracted to them, though I am attracted to bonsai, which is similar in some respects. Go figure.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

    (I saw you on the list of attendees for the spring fling… we shall meet in person!)

    I’m not much for too many rules myself. But I still find the form attractive and a breath of fresh air compared with what I see in a lot of florist windows.

    And yes, I’m on for Spring Fling. Can’t wait!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • naturegirl says:

    Beautiful displays..I took an Ikebana course and proudly created my own and posted it last year! It is a true art once mastered! sunkissed NG

    I must go look for it!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Ken says:

    Hi….your love for Ikebana is admirable but most folk do not get it. They insist on selecting an image on a web site or in a shop that has lots of tightly arranged flowers. Most floral designers can make Ikebana or similar higher styled arranegments with lots of negative space and air between flowers. But most of the public would feel cheated and would scream for more flowers. Most will not leave it to the designer to create a piece of art as their gift. Roundy moundy image on a web site preferred!

    Well, Ken, I expect you’re spot on about what most folks want–quantity rather than quality. I also think that if people saw MORE of these types of arrangements, it would be an education to the eye. And I have to say too that when I have asked for something different from some florists, they look at me as if I have sprouted a horn.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • jodi says:

    Yes! I love all of these, Robin…they’re very tranquil, and so much more pleasing to my eyes than the garish, over the top things I saw at Canada Blooms a few years back. I have a couple of kenzans and use them for simple but pleasing (to me) arrangements now and again. RIght now the only thing I have is a spray of cornus sericea in one of the kenzans, about to sprout a few leaves, soon, hopefully.

    I bought a couple of kenzans too–one incorporated into a shallow vessel. I created my first arrangement yesterday and it’s on my desk. I’m sure I would not win an Ikebana competition, but I like it.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Jennifer says:

    Beautiful! I haven’t heard of Ikebana – I’m glad you shared. I like the minimalist forms and the bold use of background color to set-off the arrangement. These works are so sculpural. They have a life of their own and are more visually interesting than a bunch of flowers. I also like the fact that you can use “dead” items to give them new life in this type of arrangement.

    Hah! Yes, it’s one form where dead is acceptable!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Mary says:

    Those arrangements are great. Like you, I prefer “less is more”. They’re strickingly beautiful. I’d rather have one single rose…


    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Meems says:

    okay- I have to admit I scrolled down to look at the photos prior to reading the post and thought “hmmm, those look quite oriental” at which time I scrolled back up to read your great writing (I am a huge fan of your writing).

    Anyway, as one who does all my own arranging I like the look of sleek and minimal for certain occasions/places. I don’t love all of the ones you’ve photographed but I could certainly learn (and use) certain aspects of each from them. I am all for using “dead” branches for texture in almost any arrangement. It was a fun post and thank you for sharing the show with us.

    Hi Meems,

    Thanks so much for the nice complement. I think I needed that today!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • Kate says:

    I, too, am a fan of your writing. It seems to come naturally to you and it’s always an interesting read.

    We had a florist in our town years ago who practiced this art to a small extent, however I didn’t know what it was called until now. Our school never used him because he ‘wasn’t traditional’. He went out of business and ended up managing another florist and he still has this flair for practicing this ancient art. I find it very interesting.

    Thanks, Kate!

    I wonder how widespread the sentiment about “traditional” flowers really is?

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • […] couple of days ago I talked about how I am just mad for Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Don’t call the Ikebana police on me, because I’m […]

  • Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I can see why you were enamoured of this art form. You can appreciate every leaf, stick and petal.

    I wonder how they bend things. Do they use wires as is done in bonsai? Or do they just look for the exact stem that bends the way they want it to?

  • John says:

    Ikebana seems to be a growing community. These were some beautiful arrangements too. Had you gone to the flower show?

    “Friendship through Flowers”
    Come browse our forum or look at the photographs

    Let me know what you think…

    I’ve been to the Philadelphia Flower Show, which is where I saw the arrangements shown here. Thanks for the link to the Richmond site.


  • Sue says:

    Great arrangements. Do you choose the flowers first and then the arrangement or do you design the arrangement and then choose the flowers?