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The ikebana sensibility

The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement Josiah Conder Kodansha International, $35

November 04, 2004|Janis Rizzuto

The new edition of this 100-year-old classic is the perfect reflection of the art it discusses -- ikebana, the Japanese style of floral arranging. Respectful and restrained, the book's design, tone and text slowly reveal the history and application of the Japanese tradition of observing and enjoying floral nature.

The core ikebana concept is "bestowing admiration on the whole character of the plant or tree," Conder writes. The focus on the sweep of a branch or the texture of a stem separates ikebana arrangements from Western masses of flowers cut from their sources. Just 16 color line drawings and several black-and-white figures illustrate the ikebana way -- simple, open, almost austere.

There are fascinating lists of flower varieties categorized by season and significance. Conder explains why the Japanese favor common flowers over rare and how they match flowers to the occasion. Tip: Chrysanthemums work for happy events year-round. Orchids don't.

The book is a must for those seeking to understand the sense and sensibility of ikebana, and for any true flower lover -- someone willing to look beyond the bloom.

*

Janis Rizzuto

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