Blooming Mondays: Basics


Today I am introducing some basics for Ikebana and the Ikenobo school. This will also be my format for the rest of the series.


First: Tools

Starting from the top of the photo.

1. Hasami or scissors – In a pinch any sharp scissor will do but if you want strong, fluid cuts – guide through oversize leaves and shorten a tree branch – you want Japanese scissors specifically for flower arranging. They come in various sizes and styles and even the cheap ones – those are mine in the photo – stay sharp.

2. Kenzan or bed of spikes – This is the foundation for any ikebana arrangement. The metal spikes hold the arrangement together. Traditional western arrangements are designed toward symmetrical fullness while ikebana replicate or represent the beauty of nature/seasons through asymmetrical arrangements and negative space. The entire area is a part of the arrangement even if nothing is there. The kenzan, in a variety of sizes and shapes, provides a study base and ability to manipulate flowers into precise positions.

3. Vase – In Japanese there different names of different vases so I decided to go the easiest route. Vases around the world come in many shapes, sizes, styles, and colors. In ikebana you may see large shallow vases, short/long rectangles, tall and deep vases – like the one above- with a suspended platform to rest the kenzan on, and many others.


Second: The Flowers

Every class you pick a “bouquet ” wrapped in newspaper. When you unwrap it at your station that is what you are working with for the day. Without instruction from teacher you get started. Talk about getting thrown in the deep end. However, it is a chance to showcase what you remember from the previous lesson and experiment; to use the tools you were taught to create something new.

Today’s flowers: yellow gladiolas, pink amaryllis, and purple German status

Third: The First Attempt

My first try – usually having no clue what I am trying to do.


Fourth: The Teacher’s Lesson

At the end of the first attempt – or when I can’t figure where a flower or branch should go I ask the teacher to critique the arrangement. It usually results in something quite different. The teacher is not afraid to cut a giant leaf down with a sharp angular cut and I am constantly blown away by a simple turn of a branch that brings the whole arrangement to life.


So there you go the basics of ikebana. Stay tuned for next Monday when I review the basics to Ikenobo arrangements!


  1. That was really cool. Is the final photo- where that leaf is sticking straight out the right side- part of the whole asymmetry and negative space? If so, then you are right about Western culture preferring symmetry because I find it a bit strange to look at compared to the other picture šŸ™‚

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