The Western culture tends to emphasize a quantity and colors of the flowers. We pay attention mainly to the beauty of the blossoms. The Japanese emphasize linear parts of the bouquet and have developed the art to include a vase, stems, leaves and branches, as well as flowers. Although our visions of a perfect bouquet are different, the westerners started appreciating the Japanese bouquet arrangement long ago and use some of their major principles. What are these principles and what is their value?
The Japanese have an intimate relationship with plant materials they use for decorative effects. Thus, the usage of wild flowers, only known to botanists, and foreign flowers, with the names of which people are hardly familiar, is prohibited. The artist should feel the flowers he inserts into a bouquet, as well as understand its essential qualities.
When the Japanese are to arrange a bouquet, they select and study plant materials to determine how to get the greatest value out of them. The artists make a mental picture of a complete design and then select the necessary material. In selecting material for a bouquet, the Japanese rarely combine many species. Two or three species is the most common combination. They also observe Nature teachings or how the flowers are arranged in their natural surroundings. For instance, little flowers are naturally massed in a compact flower cluster (like clover), while large flowers are solitary or grow in small clusters (rose).
A line distribution is a basis of the flower arrangement in the Japanese culture. The entire structure of a Japanese flower composition is based on three main lines that symbolize the heaven, earth and humankind. The artists study directions, taken by different lines and branches, which would give a bouquet a peculiar charm. There should be no crossings or intersections of stems or branches and if they occur, the unnecessary elements are carefully eliminated. They pay attention to the relation of one line to another, the proportion of one space to other spaces, and the varying length of stems. In an ikebana bouquet, the Japanese do not place flowers in a vertical plane, but as we have already pointed out, each element has its own direction, where there is also a definite placing of the material. In every bouquet, there is a point of emphasis (the principal) and accompanying elements in a definite relation either in size or in length of a stem to this principal.
Creating their bouquet, the Japanese also consider three distinct characters, observed in both: flowers and leaves. The flowers enlist full blossoms, half-open blossoms and buds; and the leaves comprise a young green leaf, a full leaf, and a reddening or falling leaf. In a flower bouquet with one material, for instance cherry blossoms, a different character of blossom is selected for the main lines of the composition.
These are only the main principles of the Japanese ikebana. In fact, learning this ikebana art demands more studies and much practice in order to achieve rewarding results. The Ikebana arrangement is not a difficult task if you succeed in understanding and appreciating nature and its harmony and beauty.