Ikebana Materials (Outdoors)

Ikebana Materials (Outdoors)

The practice of ikebana can be an expensive art.  For example, some flowers can cost as much as $10 a stem.  Very popular antique style containers which are no longer made, can cost up to hundreds of dollars.  Then there is the cost of traveling and attending ikebana conferences which are held all across the world.  

However, practicing ikebana does not necessarily need to be expensive.  Some very appropriate containers may be found in stores where people donate home items that they no longer want, but feel are too good to be thrown in the trash.  And these containers can be purchased at a very low cost.

This blog topic is about the outdoor plants the ikebana practitioner can use as materials for their ikebana arrangements.  Of course these plants are the kinds of plants grown in western New York State.  If someone lives in places such as a desert or in a tropical area, their inexpensive outdoor plant material options would be different.

The plant which has to be first on the list is the hosta–which is featured above.  The leaves are extremely beautiful.  But the only negative thing about these plants is that they are a favorite of the deer population which love to eat them.  According to the Rutgers Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance website, it has the worse possible rating (D–Frequently Severely Damaged).  So if one wants to grow these plants in their yard, the plants will need to be sprayed with deer repellent or physically protected.

Another favorite material is variegated or non-variegated Solomon’s Seal which is pictured to the left.  These plants have a beautiful natural curve and are a perennial that likes being in the shade.  This plant is not listed in the Rutgers website, but it is considered deer and rabbit resistant though sometimes deer will try eating it.  The plant has white, dangling flowers under the stem.

Another beautiful foliage plant is the “Golden Ninebark.”  The previously popular almost black-leafed ninebark is falling out of favor due to its susceptibility for a powdery mildew.  The newer cultivars such as this one is mildew resistant and considered deer and other animal resistant though not listed in the Rutgers website.  The stems tend to be a straight line but lower branches may have a curve to them.  The stems do not retain their shape after bending.  And they favor full sun.  There are other types of ninebark which have a darker green color and are resistant to powdery mildew.

Another garden favorite for ikebana is yarrow.  It is a perennial which comes in yellow, red, and pink.  It has a Rutgers rating of “B” (Seldom Severely Damaged).  The yellow flower plant produces a more woody stem which allows for it to be used dried in dry arrangements.  It likes full sun.  It is carried in most  nurseries.  It required very little maintenance.  The ikebana practitioner can count on this flower to be available for them in the summer.  But watch for aphids.

Astilbe is another shade-loving perennial which produces white, pink, red, lavender, and violet spike flowers.  It has a “B” (Seldom Severely Damaged) rating on the Rutgers website.  It will tolerate wet soils and the foliage can be used also, though the stems are not very long.  This plant is also a very reliable plant to have in one’s garden for ikebana arrangements.  The flower spikes have a soft texture and don’t have a “face” such as a daisy.  They are good for an arrangement where a mass of color is desired.

Allium is a very dramatic flower which comes in purple, white, yellow, or blue.  And it has the best Rutgers rating of all–“A” (Rarely Damaged).  Its sister plants (Daffodils and Narcissus) have the same ratings.  So, in the spring, these plants are the ones to have.  Unforutnately, the folliage of the Allium plant withers quickly so after they flower, their foliage can be an ugly site in the garden.  Another great aspect to these plants is that the dried seed head can be used in arrangements also. 

Baptisia (also known as False Indigo) is another highly rated plant for deer resistance which has a Rutgers rating of “A.”  The flower colors include purple, yellow, and red.  And after the flowers to go seed, the black stems and seed pods can be used also in arrangements.  The foliage also has its own beauty though the stems are a bit flimsy and tend to “flip-flop” so positioning can be a bit more difficult than the more woody stems of other plants.  

nother plant one needs to consider having in one’s ikebana garden is the Shasta Daisy.  This plant produces many flowers in the first part of the summer and over time will spread producing more plants.  It unfortunately has a Rutgers “C” rating  (Occasionally Severely Damaged), but still, due to the number of blooms, is a good plant to have in the ikebana practitioner’s garden.  The flowers last once cut for a reasonable amount of time unlike some flowers such as irises which may only last a day or two.  The plant is very hardy.

Another plant that needs to be mentioned is the iris.  Irises have the best (“A”) Rutgers rating (Rarely Damaged), but unfortunately their drawback is that the flowers only last 1-2 days at best.  Nonetheless, the plant can produce many blossoms and it has a good self-propagation rate.  Many gardeners end up having to cut some of the plant out of their garden because the plant can take over.  Nonetheless, the beauty of the flowers which come in many different colors (pink, yellow, light and dark blue, black, white, red, and purple) is unparalleled.  

Another plant to consider in one’s ikebana garden is the Flower Japanese Quince.  This is an unusual plant in that the flowers are interspersed among the leaves along the stem as opposed to the flowers being separated from the leaves and stems by more distance.  It has a Rutgers rating of “B” (Seldom Severely Damaged).  These flowering branches are good for a “one material” arrangements, but may be difficult to use with other flowers.

This last plant (Lady’s Mantle) is a great plant to have for “filler” material.  Filler material is plant material which is not considered to be branch or line material nor flower material.  It is interspersed among the flowers and stems to bring the arrangement together and fill in spaces that detract from the beauty of the arrangement.  Rutgers does not have this plant listed, but the plant is considered deer resistant.  The light, small and airy chartreuse flowers add an attractive lightness.  The leaves are so short stemmed that they are not used.

The plant material listed above is just some of the more common plant materials that are good to have in one’s garden when creating ikebana arrangements.  Many of these materials are harvested for sale in florist wholesaler and florist shops.  They help reduce the overall cost of taking up this beautiful art.

Check back here for upcoming blog on indoor house plants which can be used for making ikebana arrangements.