Sho-Chiku-Bai Serendipity

As some of you may know, I’ve been wanting to do a sho-chiku-bai (歳寒三友. Three Friends of Winter) pretty much since I started learning and practicing ikebana. Unfortunately, plum branches are very difficult to find around here. They’re finicky, they’re expensive, they’re fragile, and most florists just don’t bother stocking them. So I shelved my plans and moved along.

Last week, my favourite local florist posted some photos of some, so of course I made a beeline for the shop. Unfortunately, they were put aside for a big contract project, but the owner said he’d keep any leftovers for me.

Today I made a detour to the walk-in clinic (nothing serious, just a weirdly swollen painful toe), but frustratingly, they weren’t accepting walk-ins anymore. However, the clinic is right next to the florist so I figured I’d duck in just to see. Lo and behold, he had a container full of freshly budding branches on the counter. It was meant to be! My trip to the clinic may have been a gigantic waste of time, but at least the trip wasn’t. I chose the one with the most appealing curve to it, and then three branches of lucky “bamboo” (it’s actually a variety of dracaena, but close enough…) to balance things out. I knew I could get pine branches from the park near my house. Funnily enough, when I got to the park, there was one large, perfect branch lying right in the middle of the path. I didn’t even need to cut anything, it was like it was waiting for me. Truly serendipitous!

The only thing that didn’t just click right into place was the actual photo, sadly. The lighting just wasn’t working out in this nook, and the arrangement is too big to fit unobstructed anywhere else. I might try again tomorrow before work, while the sun is higher. If it works out, I will update the picture. *Photo updated 02/23/2019

Yellow Iris Ikebana

Winter continues to be horrible here in Montreal, so when I saw these gorgeous white and yellow iris flowers for sale I thought they’d be a great way to bring a little sunshine into my dreary corner of the world.

I’ve always loved irises, they’re one of my favourite flowers. I love how showy and interesting and almost sculptural they are, and I love the absolutely incredible spectrum of colours they come in. They were, after all, very aptly named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Since they have such a wonderful, almost architectural quality, I wanted to create a very modern and fluid-looking arrangement and I feel like I succeeded well here. I really love the flow of this piece, and how balanced it feels. The big waxy leaves (I admit I have no idea what they are, I just liked the way they looked) form a great anchor and textural contrast, as well as hiding the kenzan. I saved the protective outer leaves of the flowers as I was trimming them down, and I think they add the perfect sharp finishing touch. This is one of those arrangements that came without a huge amount of forethought and succeeded in spite (or because?) of it? It just flowed very naturally from beginning to end, and I love the finished product.

Silk Peony Ikebana

Last year, I made an origami ikebana arrangement as a gift for a friend. This year, I wanted to make something for my aunt that would coordinate with her decor and last a long time.

Everything here came from Michaels. I started with the gorgeous, bold red peony that I knew would be the focal point of the whole arrangement. Typically I’m not a huge fan of faux greenery, but these monstera leaves had way more substance and punch than most fake foliage, and since real monstera leaves are quite shiny and waxy anyway, these look much more realistic than most. All I needed after that was a something with height and airiness to balance the earthy, heavy quality of the flower and leaves. My father actually found these very thin branches with pretty silver beads on them that work as the perfect finishing touch.

Of course, I needed some sort of vessel, and I spent a fair bit of time rummaging around in a few different aisles until I found this one and fell in love with it. It’s an almost-perfect match for my aunt’s wall colours so I knew it would coordinate well and while it’s simple enough not to compete with the flower, the bit of texture makes it very earthy and interesting.

Typically, ikebana needs to be done with live, fresh, seasonal flowers. However, there are always acceptable reasons to deviate from the norm. Overall, I think for a silk flower arrangement this was very successful. And my aunt seemed to like it, which is the important part!

Autumn Rose Ikebana

I finally had the time and money to stop by the florist’s today to see if anything inspired me. After a bit of browsing I came across these gorgeous miniature roses that reminded me of autumn foliage. It’s actually been snowy here for nearly a week already, but I’m determined to ignore that for as long as possible, and I thought they’d make a beautiful farewell to the season.

Alex, the kind and friendly owner of the florist shop, suggested the stem of large, shiny green leaves as some contrast foliage, and they look great. I’ve sadly forgotten what they’re called. I also wanted to practice forcing a curve in a stem without breaking it, and I think I’ve finally got the hang of it! The branch was originally perfectly straight, but I managed to get a nice, natural-looking curve to frame out the roses perfectly. It was feeling a little bit empty so I picked up some of this fluffy yellow plant at the flower counter in the pharmacy to fill it in a little bit, and it feels much more balanced now.

I’ve missed practicing my ikebana, and I feel like things generally weren’t flowing as well as they used to because I was rusty. But this turned out very much how I’d envisioned it, and I think it features the flowers perfectly, so I’m quite happy.

Fukiyose Ikebana

Fukiyose (吹き寄せ) is an autumn motif comprised of wind-blown foliage, pine needles, and other vegetal vestiges. From the very beginning of my ikebana journey, I’ve known I wanted to attempt an arrangement based on fukiyose. Unfortunately, Japanese maples are exclusively a prized and well-guarded ornamental plant here, so it’s not as though I had easy access to one, and it felt vital to the composition.

However, my aunt now has one in her garden and was kind enough to allow me to liberate a small branch. Once I had that in hand, getting the other bits was much easier. The neighbourhood where I live has planted ornamental ginkgo trees in a lot of public areas, and I’ve been assured in the past that so long as I’m careful and respectful of the plants I’m welcome to harvest a branch or two. So I grabbed a couple of those on the way home, and then used some of the pine boughs from a tree in our yard.

I have to admit, arranging branches in a way that looks natural but still intentional and aesthetically pleasing is more difficult than I’d anticipated! It’s hard finding that perfect space between “unruly and messy” and “overly forced”, and I’m honestly not sure I accomplished it as well as I’d like. But I’d been dying to do this arrangement for so long, and didn’t have easy access to different maple branches, that I wasn’t going to give up. A few leaves fell while I was arranging them but I think it adds to the wind-blown feel so I left them there, and it helped with the balance. There’s a good circular fluid motion to the whole composition, so it feels finished and cohesive to me, at the very least.

This may not be my favourite ikebana ever but I persevered and got it done, and I am proud of that. I do know that lately I haven’t been posting as many ikebana arrangements as I used to, but unfortunately my access to blooms from the great outdoors is over for the season, and I’m in a situation where my budget for things like fresh-cut flowers is basically zero for now. But there will be more whenever I can splurge a little!