In a Vase on Monday: the Ikebana Challenge

Those of you who follow this meme will know that our wonderful host Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, has set us a challenge for today; to ‘have a go’ at an ikebana style vase.

At first I felt very daunted; many years ago I spent some time teaching in Japan, and one of my students was a Buddhist priest who I taught at his amazing home and temple. His beautiful wife was schooled in all the skills her position required, such as singing, performing the tea ceremony, and of course Ikebana. I often admired her stunning creations. Later on, a visit to a presentation for tourists explaining the background to Ikebana reinforced the idea in my mind that this was an art way beyond my comprehension.

However, as this past week progressed, and with encouragement from my sister, I found myself looking at Pinterest, contemplating the possibilities with the tools and plants I have at my disposal, and planning what I might try out. ย And I started looking forward to participating!

So here we are:


One tall Allium sphaerocephalon, a Hydrangea flower and some Crocosmia leaves cut off at an angle, all inserted into floral foam.

The second vase was intended as a backup should this planned one fail:


The vase itself was a present from my sister. ๐Ÿ™‚ The three stages of the Leucanthemum at different heights are tied together with grass, albeit invisibly.

I have always hesitated at cutting day lilies as they do only last a day, but the ephemeral nature seemed fitting for a Japanese theme, so this final effort was a simple ‘playing around’ with some props from my time in Japan, and the burnt orange day lily cut right at the base of the flower:


(Those chopsticks were the ones I used on a daily basis, carried around in my bag in a special case, to avoid the wasteful use of the throwaway chopsticks used at every eating place.)

This was so much fun, despite the intense heat which forced me to give up on capturing the first vase exactly as I wanted. The vase itself, however, was extremely satisfying as it was very simple to put together once planned.

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A big thank you to Cathy for hosting, and to her and all the other bloggers who post vases on a weekly basis for being so encouraging and inspiring – you are an incredible crowd!



52 thoughts on “In a Vase on Monday: the Ikebana Challenge

    • Thank you Christina. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think, for various reasons, I learnt that less is more while I was out there. My appartment was bare, knowing I was only there temporarily, and I loved it. (Although I have since collected a lot of clutter!)

  1. Oh, so lovely! Your experience of living in Japan sounds wonderful and you’re obviously sensitive to this aesthetic of flower design. Each display is so different and evocative I couldn’t begin to choose one over the other. I like how you’ve made each one a complete little world. Manipulating the crocosmia leaf created a nice, strong shape. The blue and white vase from your sister is gorgeous and it’s nice how you used the temporal stages of the flower to accent it. The bold color of the day lily commands attention, but then the eye is drawn into the rest of the setting to discover the other components. So glad you decided to accept the challenge. I enjoyed these so much.

    • Oh thank you Susie! I admire your arrangements so much, and you were the inspiration for cutting the leaves. So your kind remarks really are flattering for me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. How original and daring!
    The leaf shapes make a smashing ‘container’ for the flowers on the curtain. Great way to incorporate the surroundings.
    And your blue vase is a precious gift indeed.

  3. Interesting back story, Cathy. I love your arrangements – elegant in their simplicity. This challenge was outside my comfort zone, which was the point, I guess. I’m glad I didn’t know too much about the art form initially or I would have driven myself crazy trying to ‘get it right!’

  4. Gorgeous, all of them. Again I am feeling serious bulb envy ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have seen Ikebana in a lot of garden shows all over Europe and in New Zealand, but so far I have not been tempted to give it a go! Maybe I am missing out on something, since I adore your 1st piece especially and Cathy’s Botticelli-version.

    • Thanks! It was certainly a new experience for me, and pure luck that I had recently inherited the dish. You should try it out some time too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. You did a great job, Cathy! I love all 3 arrangements. You did a nice job with the props too – from the floral drape to the chopsticks and stones, they set the tone perfectly. The vase from your sister is beautiful too.

  6. I am thrilled you overcame your initial reluctance and enjoyed the planning and production of your 3 perfect vases Cathy – like everyone else I love all 3 of them. It is their simplicity that gives them their stylish elegance and I love the various touches – the cut leaves, the stems tied with grass, and the backgrounds you have chosen. Wonderful ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Cathy! I am glad you came up with this idea. The occasional challenge can make us all think out of the box and stretch our creative muscles! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. How wonderful to have seen Ikebana in Japan…you certainly learned a lot…the first is stunning with the Crocosmia leaves and that surprising allium. And I love the stages of daisies in that gorgeous vase. All 3 vases simple and beautifully displayed. Wow!

  8. What an experience it must have been spending time in Japan. I’ve always admired the grace of the Japanese traditions, and the simplicity and meaning behind the art, the flowers and the traditional homes. I’m sure much has changed, but it’s nice to see these traditions surviving into the western world.

    Congratulations and well done. It’s beautiful. It’s nice to use your sister’s gift and to have her there for encouragement, too.

    • I think you would like Japan, Alys…. one for the list perhaps! ๐Ÿ˜‰ My sister left on Saturday, so it was good to have the vase project to focus on on Sunday. Have a great week!

  9. A lovely threesome, Cathy! And how fabulous to have gotten to spend extended time in Japan! I love the simplicity of your choices and, in particular, the stems of Leucanthemum, which are charming… Thanks for sharing the grass stem ‘secret’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. I’m so impressed with these creations, Cathy. I love Japanese art, so this is perfect. I have a number of very pretty Japanese objects and you’ve really inspired me to try my hand! I’m not great at improvising, but I can copy! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Debra! I think a display of pretty objects with a single flower can be so effective too, and is not really hard to copy…. I also admit to getting my ideas from the internet! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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