Japanese ikebana flower arrangement is an art form steeped in tradition, emphasizing minimalism and harmony with nature. As the crisp breeze of autumn ushers in a new season, there's no better way to celebrate its splendor than with a hand-crafted fall flower arrangement, according to Naoko Zaima, Ikebana instructor and author of "Inspired Ikebana: Modern Design Meets the Ancient Art of Japanese Flower Arrangement".
ET: Hello Naoko, thank you for talking to us about ikebana flower arrangement as we transition into fall. What are you thinking about as we make this seasonal shift?
NZ: In Japan we have a beautiful practice of incorporating the seasons into our daily lives. Not only in Ikebana, but also with food ingredients, food presentations, and even in dress like the kimono, we reflect the season very positively. In Los Angeles, there are not as many opportunities to experience the changes of the four seasons as in Japan, so when I am here I enjoy the changes of the seasons through Ikebana arrangement.
(Shown above: Bittersweet branch)
ET: What are your favorite flowers and branches for fall?
NZ: I love using fall colors, like orange, yellow, brown and black to create fall centerpieces. For branches, I love arranging Bittersweet branches, Chestnut branches, Chinese Lantern branches, Asclepia pods. Every year I look forward to arranging these branches in the fall. As for flowers: Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Rudbeckia, and Crocosmia are my favorite.
NZ (continued): Especially useful for fall centerpieces are the wild-rustic grasses such as Foxtail grass, Pampas grass, Explosion grass, Wheat and more. They can easily add nice fall accents to Ikebana arrangements. Fall-colored leaves of Nandina and Maple are perfect as well. In autumn, I'm drawn to leaves with holes, torn leaves, withered leaves, and gradations of leaf color that express the wabi of fall.
(Shown above: Pussy Willow branch)
ET: Moving ahead in the year, what are your favorite flowers and branches for winter?
NZ: In winter I love arranging Ilex Red Berry branch, Pussy Willow branch and Pine Tree branches. These three types are easy to get for most of us. Thankfully these branches are suitable for both Christmas and Japanese New Year's arrangements.
(Shown above: Nandina Red Berries)
NZ (continued): For the Christmas season in December, my favorite flowers are white Anemone and white Narcissus. With the additions of greenery of Fir, Blue Ice Cypress and Conifer, Ilex Red Berry branches and white flowers can create.a beautiful Christmas mood centerpiece.
NZ (continued): After Christmas, Ilex Red Berries are reused along with Chrysanthemum, Lily, Ornamental Kale, Pine Tree branches and beautiful glossy Camellia leaves to celebrate the New Year. If I can get it, I sometimes use Nandina Red Berries instead of Ilex Red Berries.
(Shown above: Halloween ikebana arrangement)
ET: What are your favorite fall and winter traditions when gathering with friends and family?
NZ: For Halloween, although it is an American custom, I know that more Japanese households have come to enjoy celebrating it. Since it's such a lively event, I use more materials to create a festive [flower] arrangement.
(Shown above: Christmas ikebana arrangement)
NZ (continued): Christmas is one of the biggest events of gathering friends and family in Japan. Every year I create Ikebana arrangements as well as unique Christmas wreaths using Ikebana techniques!
(Shown above: New Year's ikebana arrangement)
NZ (continued): New Year's Day and early January may be the most important family gathering of the year in Japan. We eat traditional Japanese New Year foods, visit a shrine or temple to worship, and display New Year's arrangements which are symbolic and important for celebration. We often use Pine tree, Bamboo, Red berries, Japanese Plum, Chrysanthemum, Orchid, Ornamental Kale for this occasion.
Thank you, Naoko for sharing your beautiful ikebana arrangements and inspiring us to display our favorite fall blooms in our home. You can pick up Naoko's book, "Inspired Ikebana: Modern Design Meets the Ancient Art of Japanese Flower Arrangement" and some of our favorite ikebana tools to start your journey of flower arranging today.