Can we all agree for a second that the winter months can often feel quite gloomy. As the nights begin to draw in and the thought of going outside is just not quite as appealing as the rest of the year. As such, winter ikebana may be the perfect activity to indulge in the latter months, as well as being the perfect time of year in which to participate in this unique Japanese art form in general.
Participating in some winter ikebana can result in some unique combinations that you might not typically consider during other periods, whilst also being quite therapeutical and beneficial.
Let me tell you why.
An overview of ikebana
For those of you unfamiliar with the world of Japanese ikebana, it’s a world that revolves around flower arranging. Sounds pretty simple right? Well both yes and no, and that’s kind of the beauty of it.
At a basic level, it’s about bringing together any number of plants and arranging them in a manner that represents an idea or that work well together to create pieces of botanical art. Despite the name, It doesn’t have to be just flowers and arrangements can be composed of small branches, grasses, or loose foliage etc. The vase, dish or container also plays a big part and can directly affect the style of composition.
Anyone can immediately begin creating their own designs by finding things they like in the natural environment and arranging them in a certain way. Visiting a florist or garden centre can also be a cheap way of starting this new hobby as well providing much more variety to ponder over.
Yet, dig a little deeper and you will find that there can be far more to ikebana than you might realise.
Take a look at some ikebana compositions:
Good ikebana compositions are often unique and expressive, where each component is thoroughly considered. There is a lot of symbolism involved, where small objects and components can represent a larger concept. This is something that is common in Japanese artistry and especially when regarding natural elements.
Moreover, to achieve a desired composition, components are not just placed in hope but can be meticulously trimmed, bent, affixed, and even caressed in a way to encourage each element to display in a correct manner. In fact these kinds of actions are practically necessary, and are part of the skills that true ikebana practitioners must master.
Getting to the point at hand, winter ikebana is perhaps the best season to enjoy this Japanese flower art for a number of reasons.
Unique seasonal compositions
Compared to the blooming connotations of late spring and summer with their full colour vibrance and abundance, winter is a lot more subdued which forces you into thinking above and beyond typical ‘pretty’ arrangements.
Components like sparsely covered branches can complement or enhance other coloured flowers or grasses when arranged together; in a similar vein, colder colours or starker elements can highlight the warmth in others. For example, one or two coloured flowers against a backdrop of more commonly associated winter elements can produce the connotation of a roaring fire, or perhaps the slow progression towards spring — depending on how they are arranged.
Thinking about winter ikebana compositions in this way can also help you get into the mindset of what Japanese ikebana is all about whilst also giving rise to new themes and ideas. Practising in the winter can also help arrange compositions based on form or shape rather than just colour which may be in short supply; both of which are also integral parts of the art form as a whole.
With events such as Halloween, Christmas, and New year all hanging around the same period they could inspire creations based on those seasons too. Although it’s not typical ikebana, there’s no reason why you can’t compose an arrangement that perhaps showcases their meaning or tells a story.
Mood heightening and expression
As alluded to in my introduction; as the effects on winter begin to settle in, ikebana can be a perfect remedy for those that suffer during the darker periods of the year. Being able to bring in some life, especially something that you put together yourself can be very uplifting.
Having some plants and flowers in the home can always be a great boon especially when the outside world turns a little bleak, however the benefit of ikebana over simply buying flowers and plants ect is that it helps allow you to find the beauty of the winter season. The thought process of creating a display helps achieve this as you are actively looking at winter plants and flowers for their unique characteristics and It may actually make you enjoy the season a lot more.
The addition of colour and plant-life has proven to be mood heightenting and stress-relieving and practising ikebana allows you to create something entirely unique which can further the effects.
Along the same lines, winter ikebana is an expressive activity that can be performed in a time of year when there may be fewer activity options available. Much like creating any other piece of art, ikebana can be a form of self-expression allowing you to create and channel certain moods and feelings into your displays.
Winter plants to use
When it comes to choosing the right plants for ikebana, there are no hard and fast rules. That being said, there are some plants and flowers that are better suited to winter and are perhaps better options.
- Snowdrops – These little flowers are a great possibility for ikebana: they are hardy, resistant to cold, and have a natural arch that could be used for exterior overhanging. Their white petals also give off a very pleasing winter aesthetic.
- Winter pansies – The winter pansy variety is another hardy flower that is resistant to cold temperatures. The beauty of winter pansies is that they can bloom from late autumn to early spring and provide a plethora of colour options that can be hard to find in winter.
- Cyclamen hederifolium – These winter flowering plants offer something different once again. These shade lovers offer up a light pink flowering with a thin earthy coloured stem that can appear both rugged and beautiful.
- Winter aconites – Winter aconites are small but leafy looking plants that can bring a bit of greenery to a composition. Their small yellow flower often heralds spring and most suited to late winter.
- Corkscrew hazel – This plant can provide a bit more of a wild look due it’s twisting nature and can also flower in the later part of the year.
- Panicum ‘heavy metal’ – these types of plants have long straight stems that can give some elevation to a composition. They also have a lighter colour toward late autumn and winter, either light yellow or white. Just one or two can be very useful.
Practising ikebana in the winter certainly makes you approach the creation process in a different manner than in other times of the year, and there is a certain call for experimentation and abstractness that only the winter season can truly provide. But let’s not forget that it can also be incredibly helpful to chase away that winter darkness and provide some much needed natural elements in the home.
For those new to the ikebana art form, just simply gathering and arranging some natural plant life may be enough to awaken something positive. In truth however, this article barely scratches the surface in understanding its true depth and suggests some onward reading if you want to get serious. One article found on Japan Objects goes into a bit more detail about the entire movement and principles and may be worth a read.