Friday, March 4, 2016

Kusamono, Shitakusa, and Kokedama for Ikebana: Part 2

Moribana Ikebana


Step One: The first step is to determine the style of Ikebana you wish to create. This will probably be based on the container(s) you have on hand and the flowers and other natural materials you wish to use. This choice determines the Kusamono or Shitakusa you will use.
Ikebana Styles:
A. Upright (Moribana) which is essentially a formal arrangement in a shallow container that uses Kenzan (flower frog) to stabilize the arrangement.
Upright style Moribana arrangement.
Holy Mountain Trading Co. photo.
B. Upright (Nagerie) which uses a tall, narrow container and no Kenzan.
Upright style Nageire arrangement.
Holy Mountain Trading Co. photo.
C. Slanting (Moribana) which again uses Kenzan to stabilize the arrangement which is tilted/slanted.
Slanting style Moribana arrangement.
Holy Mountain Trading Co. photo.
D. Slanting  (Nagerie) which uses a tall, narrow container in which the arrangement is tilted/slanted.
Slanting style Nageire arrangement.
Holy Mountain Trading Co. photo.

E. Cascading (Nagerie) which uses a tall, narrow container in which the main stem hangs lower than the top of the container.
Cascading style Nageire arrangement.
Holy Mountain Trading Co. photo.

Step Two: Select your container and collect the natural materials you have purchased and/or have on hand. Below are the two containers I plan to use for both Upright (Moribana) styles. For this post, I'll be using the Upright style with Kenzan.

Traditional Ikebana bowl for Upright style (with Kenzan)

Non-traditional vase for Upright style.

My selection of materials:

Pussy willow stalks and twigs from tree branches.
Yellow mini-carnations, purple mums, Asiatic Lily and florist's greenery in recognition of Spring.

Step Three: Creating the arrangement:

Collected pussy willow, twigs, flowers, Ikebana container and snipping tools.

After I set the Kenzan in place and added water to the bowl, I began placing the first set of carnations. Note that I always remove most of the leaves on flower stems as they not only draw water from the flowers, they are also the first elements to begin drooping. Of course, if you want, you could remove them when the drooping begins. I just find it easier to do it in the beginning so that I don't disturb the completed arrangement.

Having determined the height of the willow stalks that are to be the tallest elements in the arrangement, I began snipping. Note that each stalk will be slightly shorter than the previous one. Keep in mind, as you go along, two basic Ikebana principles: 1) odd numbers; 2) Heaven (highest element); Humanity (middle element); Earth (lowest element).

Setting the third willow stalk in place after determining where I want it: centered, off-set right, off-set left.
Using the same Ikebana "odd number and staggered height principles" for the chrysanthemums, I placed them beside the carnations. This is the point at which I usually evaluate the total arrangement for balance, principle, harmony and scale.

I added evergreen leaves at base of composition. At this point, I chose not to use the Asiatic lilies but kept to the 3s: willow, carnation, mum.

The completed Ichiyo Ikebana with moss Shitakusa on right foreground. Note how the curved twigs seem to 'embrace' the arrangement.

This arrangement was the most satisfying one for me to date. I still have a long way to go but look forward to the journey.

Your comments and critiques are welcome. 
  1. What would you have done differently, given the elements I had to work with? 
  2. Has this post prompted you to try creating Ikebana arrangements?


  1. Love the arrangement! Two question: What is it that draws you to Asian floral designs? Secondly, how long would an arrangement like this last?

  2. Good questions, Anon. I'm drawn to all kinds of flowers, gardens, and styles. However, for several years now, I find myself attracted more and more to Japanese designs....their simplicity, elegance and refinement. Our visits to the Japanese gardens of Gibbs Gardens in Ballground, Ga. have reinforced that attraction. At the last visit, an Ikebana master gave a demonstration on various styles. That hooked me!

    As to you second question, like all arrangements using cut flowers, the lifespan depends on the freshness of the flowers, the choice of flowers and room temperature. The fresher the flowers and the cooler the room, the better. My Ikebana arrangements usually last 8-10 days. I use, for the most part, flowers known to be long-lasting, and our house is on the cool side. Often, I'll move the arrangement to our garage at night to extend the bloom time.