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Flowers - the art of Ikebana

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doityourself.gif

This simple flower arrangement is based on the principles of Ikebana.

Meaning "flowers kept alive", Ikebana is the Japanese art of arranging flowers according to shape, line and form. Originally taught by Buddhist monks, it is a very popular form of floral arrangement that adds a simple yet graceful living touch to any home.

Lorian Roberts is a third-degree master of Ikebana, trained in Tokyo. She travels the world practicing the art form but stopped by in Phnom Penh to show me how it is done.

The first thing we did was look for vases at the Russian Market. The vases we chose were simple US$2 items; although the necks were a tad on the small side for the arrangement, we got the job done with some extra twisting and a bit of strong-arming.

Next we went to Floral Express on Sihanouk Boulevard and purchased flowers. We looked for the highest-quality flowers by gently pressing the heads to check for firmness.

Looking at the lines the stems created and the colours made it easy to begin to envisage arrangement options. Lorian and I chose roses, but any simple flower will work for this arrangement. We also picked up some filler; in this case, miniature purple baby's breath.

Subject, object, go

In Ikebana there is a subject and an object. These leafy green stems provided us with our subject, and we snipped and shaped them to create a 75-degree angle with the vase. The subjects are usually about one and half the length of the vase. Snipping part way through the stem and cracking it to create a better angle is OK as long as it is below the water line.

The first rose, which served as the object of our arrangement, was cut to be about a third of the length of the subject. Ideally, the object is placed at a 45-degree angle to the line of the subject.

Cutting roses under water is important. Air gets sucked in through their stems when they are cut in the open air and this travels up the stem before getting trapped below the rose head, causing them to sag.

The second rose is tall, creating a sweeping vertical arc and making a scalene triangular shape, which is central to the form of Ikebana.

When the subject and object are set, it is time to clip leaves. Any leaf that is covering a flower should be clipped, as should any superfluous leaves, which can make the arrangement look messy or cluttered. Finally, add a few filler embellishments, keeping in mind the form and line of the composition.

Ikebana is much more difficult than it looks, and after breaking numerous flowers my arrangement looked like something done by the blind. However,  with practice and patience Lorian assured me that I'd be creating beautiful arrangements in no time.

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