23 May 2023

A Step-by-Step Guide For Ikebana Beginners - Part 2

Even living in Japan, the opportunity to experience ikebana firsthand is a special treat. In the first part of our ikebana blog, we introduced how four of us from the office learned the basics of ikebana such as fundamental concepts, needed materials and useful techniques from the accomplished instructor of the Ohara School of Ikebana, Matsuki sensei.

In the second and third part of our ikebana blog, we will show you the results of our actual ikebana challenge. Filled with a lot of smiles, arm-folding, head-tilting and avid inquisitiveness, we enjoyed our time letting our creative juices flow and making our own ikebana arrangements.  

Have a look at our ikebana challenge and learn about more specific techniques and hints to make a beautiful ikebana arrangement.

Before we started, Matsuki sensei reminded us that it was important to work with, and not against nature's curves. The best way to see the curvature of a flower or branch is by carefully gauging its center point. This can be achieved by balancing it on the tip of your finger and closely monitoring how it bends.   

Now we were ready to start!
We each chose a favorite vase we wanted to use for our arrangement. 


  • Ikebana Arrangement With A Kenzan 
  • Ikebana Arrangement In A Small Flower Vase

Ikebana Arrangement With A Kenzan 

Mika-san and I chose the Gingado Reverse Mt. Fuji Takaoka Copperware Ikebana Flower Vase that comes with a kenzan.

We were instructed to place the main material first in the kenzan. Surprisingly, this does not have to be a flower. It can be a branch or even an interestingly shaped leaf.

When inserting a flower or branch in a kenzan, hold the end of the material and gently place it on the needles of the kenzan. Place the stem or branch into the kenzen on the angle you want to achieve. We assumed that using a kenzan would be difficult, but actually it turns out that a kenzan is much easier to use when securing the position of flowers in an ikebana arrangement rather than a vase.

Mika-san chose a bright yellow sunflower, a very fitting choice to match her radiant and kind personality. She then added leaves from a Soloman's Seal plant. She said, "Deciding the right height of the stems and how much foliage to retain was a challenge, but the experience of purely focusing on just the flowers was quite fun!"

The finishing touch was charming white flowers from a mock orange shrub. As the sunflower and foliage had a fair amount of height, the mock orange flowers were placed at the bottom to create a balanced triangular composition. 

The yellow looks lovely against the vermillion metallic surface of the Gingado vase. Catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji on the surface of the water next to Mika-san's lovely arrangement.

My choice of flowers was in more toned-downed hues. Matsuki sensei suggested I use bulrush stems as they are an interesting material to use with a kenzan. 
I checked the curves of the columbine flower and decided how to set it straight in the kenzan. Then I set a waxflower to cover the lower section of the vase.

Lastly, I added the bulrush stems. The delicate petals were a perfect match with the straight rigid lines of the bulrush. The pine tree-like needles of the waxflowers nicely decorated the stunning image of Mt. Fuji on the water of the vase. 

After showing my arrangement to Matsuki sensei, she suggested I add more bulrush stems to give volume to the whole composition. See how my arrangement gives more movement and elegance just by adding two more bulrush stems.

Ikebana Arrangement in A Small Single Flower Vase

Saori-san chose the Kinsai Korinbai Kutani Japanese Flower Vase, one of our popular smaller flower vases.

With the smaller opening, Saori-san said that it was fairly easy to set the flowers in the vase. One key point of this vase was to add volume to the left side of the vase as the opening was on the right side.

Saori-san's choice of a single hyacinth orchid and a dainty small waxflower nicely showcased the dynamic designs of gold on light teal. 

With a small opening, flowers are easier to set than a big vase, but it does take a bit of technique to find the perfect angle. Matsuki sensei adjusted the position of the hyacinth orchid slightly to the left. These small adjustments made a difference for all of the arrangements we made. Matsuki sensei said that a "feel" for the right composition comes from experience. 

Saori-san commented, "I see why it's important to understand the center point of a flower. To set a flower in a vase without a kenzan, you need to know how it's going to bend and which way the flower is going to face." 

Balance is always an important factor to keep in mind. The minimal amount of flowers in subtle tones seemed perfect for the vase.  

Yoshiko-san chose the Kutani Vase with a majestic red Fuji. Her main item was a branch from a dragon claw willow. The bell-like yellow flowers of the sandersonia hung nicely under the curved twigs of the willow.  

As Matsuki sensei examined her arrangement, she suggested that laying the branch to the left would create soft curved lines that extended from the left side of the vase. And after adding a stem of sea lavender, Yoshiko-san's arrangement was complete! 

It was interesting to see how Yoshiko-san's arrangement was quite different from Saori-san's. Her choice of using artistically shaped branches gave a totally different impression to the vase's shape. 

In Part-3, we come to the challenge of arranging flowers in large vases. This was the most challenging, yet the end results were a sight to behold. Please enjoy stunning floral displays presented in magnificent Japanese Kutani ware vases in the last part of our ikebana lesson blog.