Ikebana: The Japanese Art of Flower Arranging

Classic plant picks for Ikebana design

Credit: Meighan Makarchuk

Arlene Tanaka shares her Ikebana plant picks

Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, is one of Arlene Tanaka’s skills, and certain plants that she grows serve a dual purpose, providing material for her designs as well as performing their role in the garden. “I feel Japanese floral arranging is a natural extension of my gardening,” she says, “and I’ve always appreciated flowers in the house.”

The beautiful Iris ensata is a classic Ikebana flower, while New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) offers stiff, slender leaves in colours as varied as green, purple, gold, bright pink or red.

Arlene TanakaArlene Tanaka (Image: Stuart McCall)

Pine, maple and bamboo are also traditional Ikebana materials, but Arlene has a long list of other plants she uses: “Taro and canna leaves, lilies of all types, peonies, smokebush, lady’s mantle, azalea, rhododendron, campanula, dahlia, agapanthus, grapevine, hydrangea…. nothing is sacred when I have the secateurs in my hand.”

Arlene belongs to the Sogetsu School of Ikebana and studies in Richmond under the tutelage of Kiyoko Boycott.

In designing her garden, she chooses plants that provide branches and flowers to complement the structure and style 
of her Ikebana 
arrangements. “This 
combines my two 
hobbies and 
personalizes the 
the practice more 
interesting for me.”