Why flower arranging is an art we could all cultivate | gardening tips

I am really so lucky to have my job. In 2017, I had the privilege of visiting horticulturalists across Japan, from top designers in Chelsea to Zen Buddhist monks, for a BBC filming project. They were people I would never otherwise have had the chance to meet, let alone learn about, and my God, I had so many questions. However, to my surprise, my most important lesson was not about the topics I wanted to learn more about, but about one of the random recurring themes that kept coming up in our conversations: their love devouring flowers. to organise. In particular, I learned how learning to play with different combinations of colors, textures and shapes was considered crucial in helping these experts hone their skills.

I say “to my great surprise”, not because I was unaware of the centuries of tradition in Japan of floral art, but because it was not considered a simple decorative hobby – as it is dismissed often in the West – but as an essential professional teaching tool with surprisingly wide applications.

“When you create these works, forming a kind of mental order out of chaos, you are really cultivating your own thoughts.” Photography: pullia/Getty Images/iStockphoto

I guess at the end of the day, whether you’re a gardener, a painter, a fashion designer or an architect, we all work with natural elements to somehow satisfy the instinctive visual preferences that are born out of millions of people. years of co-evolution with the natural world. You know how “fake” some combinations look, yet are suddenly soothing, striking, or pleasing with the smallest tweaks, even though we can’t explain exactly why? So it makes sense that experimenting with cut plants is an ideal way to connect with these instinctive laws of design, even if you apply it to what – at least in Western eyes – are entirely different projects. As with so many quintessentially Japanese concepts, it might sound weird until you realize we’re the weirdest ones for not appreciating simplicity and practicality from the start.

However, what surprised me even more was the fact that these experts told me not only how to be a better designer, but why. For them, the goal of creating these pleasing arrangements was not the end result, as we tend to think of in the West, but the process itself. When you create these works from bits of flowers, stems and leaves, forming a sort of mental order out of chaos, you are truly cultivating your own thoughts. It helps you explore ideas that you might otherwise struggle to gain cognitive clarity about – and you can pass them on to others. It was such a revelation for me.

Since then, I’ve kept sophisticated Japanese pruners with me to practice what those masters taught me, whether it’s pausing on a walk in the local woods to plant leaves on a log fall, or taking cuttings from my balcony to create an arrangement to brighten a friend’s day. I can’t believe I had to travel halfway around the world to properly appreciate something I had on my doorstep. So if you’re doing one thing this weekend not just to make you a better gardener, but to help calm your mind, take a walk outside with a pruner and gather some materials to make a masterpiece. artwork.

Follow Jack on Twitter @Botanygeek

Rosalie M. Dehner