Ikebana for beginners

Ikebana for beginners

July 10, 2019

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. The word stems from the Japanese words ikeru, which means 'to arrange' and hana, which means 'flowers.' However when you put the two words together they more accurately translate to "making flowers come alive". You may also hear the art referred to as kado, which roughly translates to 'the way of the flower.'

Ikebana combines nature with a human touch. The intent is to enhance nature by arranging and manipulating the materials. Ikebana often emphasizes the bend of a branch or the curve of a leaf, which allows the practitioner to discover new aspects of a plant. There is great emphasis placed on the intention behind each stem in an arrangement, with the goal being to use each stem to maximum effect.

Ikebana can be practiced by anyone, anywhere! Here are a few tips to get you started:

1) Collect your ikebana tools and arranging materials

i) You will need a vase (see our post on the different types of ikebana vases), clippers, and kenzan (spiky flower frog to hold the flowers upright)

ii) Collect a variety of flowers, branches and leaves. Think about the mass, line, and color of each, and how to combine all three. Try to use seasonal materials by going outside and snipping materials from your garden, or walk around your neighborhood or park to find an interesting branch or leaf

iii) Expand your idea of materials by incorporating dried materials, or even non-natural materials like paper, or wire

Ikebana tools, including clippers, vases, and kenzans

2) Start Arranging

i) Asymmetry is a key component of ikebana, so arrange your materials in different heights and angles
ii) Pick an adverb (tall, swooping, bouncy) and try to express it through your arrangement

iii) You're creating an arrangement for yourself, so express your own personal style! 

Instructions for a simple arrangement:

  1. Place your kenzan in the vase to the right side, and fill your vase with water to cover the kenzan
  2. Select the branch or leaf that will be your longest stem. Cut it to 2x length + height of the vase (for example, if your vase is 10'' long and 3'' high, your longest stem should be ~26''). Trim off any leaves from the bottom of your stem so they don’t sit under water. Insert the stem leaning 45° to the back left
  3. Select the largest flower to serve as your focal flower. Cut it to 1/3 the height of your tallest stem, or ~8-9’’. Remove the leaves that will sit below the water. Insert the flower leaning forward 15°
  4. Add two more flowers behind your focal flower. Clustering flowers makes them more powerful
  5. Add a few leaves or small branches to cover the kenzan and provide contrast with the flowers

Simple arrangement using peonies, italian ruscus, and tree fern

If you want to learn more about ikebana, we offer a monthly banabox subscription that includes fresh flowers, tools, and lessons for a unique design that you can create at home! You can also find in-person ikebana classes by looking for your local chapter of Ikebana International.