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A Quick Guide For Flower Arranging

Flower arranging can be confusing or difficult to those of us who are new to the hobby. What should you do with stems? What should you add to water? How do you clean a vase? There are lots of questions people may have, so let’s try to answer a few here.


The end of a floppy stem should be seared in boiling water. This can be done for about 30 seconds. Wooden stems should need a little longer.

  • Boil water and put 1” to 2” into a mug
  • Put the end of the stem into the mug
  • Rule of thumb says to put about 10% of the stem’s length into the water
  • Don’t leave it in for too long or you will end up cooking it
  • Keep flower heads away from steam by wrapping them gently in a sheet of newspaper

Searing stems works better than burning them with a match or lighter, and wood-like shrubs give better results than hammering the stem. Flowers have been known to make a strong recovery after the searing process.


cut flowersUsing food for your flowers is important, and you can buy brands of water additives from stores. You can also make your own cut flower preservative, containing some bleach, vinegar or lemon juice to make the tap water slightly more acidic. This will keep bacteria away from the stem and allow the stem to take up water.

  • For a one-foot tall vase, use a teaspoon of bleach, or approximately 5 tablespoons of cheap, clear malt vinegar
  • You can also add aspirin or half a glass of lemonade
  • Both aspirin and lemonade contain acid, making the water more hostile for bacteria


florist suppliesIf you are going to be making floral arrangements, there are a few pieces of florist hardware you may need to have for your new hobby:

  • Florist’s Scissors: These have stronger blades and finer tips than normal scissors, making working with all types of stems easier.
  • Pails: These are used for picking flowers from your garden. Using pails means you can sling them over your arms to make carrying easier. You will need two pails: one with water for cut flowers and another for leaves you have stripped. Metal milk pails are great because they are so durable. Plus you’ll look good carrying them.
  • Floral Pin Holders: These are heavy disks with spikes to hold stems in place. These are used to create your arrangements. You can also use foam, but it is much lighter and pin holders may stay in place better.
  • Waterproof glue: This glue is used to stick your pin holders to the vase. The glue is best used if the vase and holder are both dry. If not, you may have a lot of trouble getting the holder to stick to the vase.


A dirty vase can ruin the look of a floral arrangement. To get them clean, you can use a bottle brush along with bleach and antibacterial tablets. For vases with narrow necks, or cut glass, you can use denture cleaner along with small copper balls used for cleaning decanters. These balls are available at wine shops.

Flowers can spruce up your home, and make your garden look fantastic. If you’re looking to get into arrangements as a hobby, take some time and learn some of the basics. Research and experiment and even reach out to message boards on the internet. Using all of these resources will help you have a nicer looking home both inside and out.

Ikebana 3

Ikebana and the art of contemporary floral design

If you have ever read anything about Japanese culture, it becomes clear how this Asian country strives to develop connections with nature in as many ways as possible. This is even true when it comes to arranging blossoms.

Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging is not anything like classic flower arranging. Rather, the goal in creating an Ikebana arrangement is to establish rapport with nature. The design becomes a living thing that creates harmony between a bit of nature and a bit of humanity.

What is Ikebana?

Ikebana 2Ikebana has a recorded history in Japan, with the floral arrangements displayed in important places just like fine paintings and other artistic pieces. Ikebana is a creative expression, and like other art forms, is a process in which the artist follows certain construction rules.

The main support structure of an Ikebana arrangement is a triangle with three unequal sides, typically made from twigs. The three points of the triangle can symbolize heaven, earth and man, or sun, moon and earth, depending on the intent of the artist. Since the structure of the arrangement is a scalene triangle, the number of basic shapes that can be built is numerous, which means the artist can achieve completely original looks in the finished arrangement.

In developing Ikebana arrangements, the focus is often on something other than blossoms. Ikebana is about clean lines and minimalism and it may be that only a small number of blooms are used among twigs, stalks and other bits of nature. When looking at an Ikebana collection, the eye is drawn to what the artist wants to emphasize. It may be a twig in an unusual shape, a collection of blossom colours or textures, or maybe a particular shape created from the composite pieces of the arrangement. The container holding an Ikebana arrangement is central to the composition, and numerous styles of pottery, stone, glass or natural fiber can be used depending on the visual impression the artist is striving to achieve.

Living Materials

IkebanaIn Ikebana, materials in the arrangement must be living. Items include leaves, twigs, grasses and flowers, all of which tend to have special meaning in Japanese culture. Mosses, seeds and pods are highly prized Ikebana materials as well as withered leaves, plant buds and fruit. The end product should give life to the materials as well as the intent of the artist. The arrangement should tell a story.

For anyone interested in pursuing the art of Ikebana at home, supplies are readily available online by doing a Google search.

The Spiritual Aspects of Practicing Ikebana

Ikebana 4It is not known how Ikebana came to Japan, but the general consensus is it came when the Buddhist monks arrived sometime in the sixth century, and began evolving into the classical style of Ikebana about nine centuries later. Because this is a practice brought to the rest of the world by monks, there is a spiritual component to practicing Ikebana.

The artist must maintain silence while working on his creation in order to experience the subtle intricacies in nature one does not usually observe in the course of a busy life. Over time, the practitioner of Ikebana begins to be more tolerant of differences in form and function, not only in his living material, but within people, as well. In due time artists who practice Ikebana in its truest form, become more spiritual in nature.

Ikebana and contemporary arrangements

Ikebana 3Ikebana typically distinguished itself from traditional flower arranging by its use of asymmetrical form and the attention the artist placed on creating empty space between materials. The goal with this type of arrangement has always been to produce a sense of harmony among materials and between the artist and the arrangement.

However, the influence of Japanese art and architecture has been affecting the way contemporary floral arrangements in the West are being created today. Modern contemporary arrangements tend to be a mixture of European and Asian influence without the deliberate Japanese attempt to use only living materials and develop a deeper understanding of nature and harmony between creator and created.

Where to buy contemporary arrangements

A quick online search will show you what type of contemporary arrangements are being offered in various floral shops in your area. You will most likely find a wide variety ranging from ordinary to extraordinary depending on the training and artistic flair of the florist. It seems likely that contemporary arrangements will become more and more popular because they speak to the individuality of the both the designer and the person who chooses a particular arrangement.