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Ikebana-ish for Autumn

You can't stop us. It's dahlia season and we've got kenzan. What is not to absolutely love. Jodie, our resident gardener and green fingered friend, takes to the secateurs and shows us how to use a flower frog to maximum effect with our favourite blooms ever. Also, just saying, take a trip to Gilberts in Sherfield English if you want to see a field of dahlias dialled up to 11. Also if you want a brilliant gardener, just saying, Jodie is a gun for hire (just don't borrow her on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays, we've baggsied).

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What is Ikebana?

Translated as ‘living flowers’ Ikebana is a form of flower arranging with very precise rules about colour, form, symbolism and seasonality. First introduced to Japan in the 6th Century (during the Heian dynasty, since you’re asking) by Chinese Buddhist missionaries, it was originally a form of ritualised offering to the Buddha. By the 15th century (the Muromachi period) it became established as an art form independent of its religious origins. Ikenobo Senkei, a monk in the Rokkakudo in Kyoto, formalised the philosophy of Ikebana and Ikenobo remains the largest and oldest school of the art in Japan.

'Not only beautiful flowers but also buds and withered flowers have life, and each has its own beauty. By arranging flowers with reverence, one refines oneself.’


Moribana and Freestyle

Moribana is a particular type of Ikebana: a modern style which developed in the early 20th century. Using a shallow container and a kenzan, it is characterised by full bloom flowers and greenery. In Moribana Western flowers may also be used. This allowance proved enormously helpful in Hampshire at the beginning of February when Japanese cherry and lotus blossom was thin on the ground. A Moribana arrangement is traditionally organised into a primary stem (or subject) which should be as long as the sum of the diameter and height of the vessel and is placed vertically. The secondary stem should be 2 thirds of the primary and placed at a 45 degree angle. The ornamental (or object) stem should be half the length of the primary and placed at a 60 degree angle. Luckily there is also a Freestyle style which was more readily adopted by those Hambledoners who found the trigonometry and rigour of Moribana prohibitively challenging.

Round Flower Frog from the Mini Set in a Pearl White Mini Bowl


A kenzan (a sword mountain in English, and if you’ve accidentally stabbed yourself on the spikes you will appreciate the translation) is a flower frog which uses sharp brass pins to secure the stems of plants and flowers for displays. It removes the need to use florist foam to tame recalcitrant blooms. And, for our purposes, it means that all manner of plates and bowls and trays and pots, usually too shallow or flared for use, become ideally suited to the task.

The Arrangements

A celebration of the wonder that is the dahlia. Jodie has worked her Constance Spry magic on every single beautiful variety from cactus and pompoms to balls and waterlilies. Use a tiny Twig espresso cup for a single stem; a pearl glass bowl for a modest cluster and a Costa Nova serving bowl for a full extravagant display. Tableware takes on a very different purpose when paired with a frog. Dahlias aren't the longest lived cut flowers. To maximise their vase life, make sure you cut the stems cleanly with sharp secateurs, quickly put the cut stems in hot water and allow to cool to room temperature. Keep the water topped up regularly. Use the optimum size kenzan for your purpose.

Mini Pearl White Bowl with the round Flower Frog from the Mini Set.

The Twig Espresso Cup (top left) have been paired with the Mini Kenzan Set. The Pearl White Centerpiece Serving Bowl (top right) have been paired with the Kenzan Flower Frog Extra Large. The Twig New York Amelie Bowl (bottom middle) have been paired with the Kenzan Flower Frog Small. The Pearl Dessert Bowl (bottom right) have been paired with the Kenzan Flower Frog Medium.

Try it Yourself

If you would like to try out a version of freestyle Ikebana yourself, kenzan (flower frogs) and all the unlikely vessels are available here. With apologies to any practitioners of Ikebana, our efforts are an homage to the art but evidently quite a long way from mastery.

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