IMG_2101Although my birthday is in early December, I often defer my treats, not liking the ho-ho-hoing, and so the other week Anne, Barbara and Carolyn took me to Jeremy’s for lunch which was very nice.   They also brought me flowers.

I belong to the plonk-it-in-a-jar school of flower arranging.    I went,  many years ago, to a six week flower arranging course, with Carolyn, Anne and the late Geraldine Lane.   I was surprised to discover that everyone had their own unique style which persisted throughout.   Carolyn, as with nearly everything, showed real ability, and produced elegant arrangements and went on to do more advanced courses.   She gave me, for example, an original and lovely arrangement of flowers in a box for my 60th birthday.   Geraldine followed the rules and her arrangements were precise and attractive.   Anne had a kind of over-flowing English summer garden exuberance about her charming arrangements, and I learnt to plonk it in a jar with slightly more style than previously.

I’ve never really liked flowers ‘tortured into shape’, and I positively despise those flower arranging competitions where an entry can consist of 5 flowers, an eggcup, a fishing rod, and a spider’s web, and the resulting collection is entitled, Sorrow.   (‘Sorry’ might be more appropriate!)

When I visited Japan however, I was intrigued by the beautiful ikebana flower arrangements that decorated some of the Zen temples.   A most elegant and arresting composition could be created using a very few flowers.

Last year I visited Fallings Waters, Pennsylvania, USA which in addition to being Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic house through which a river flows, also has a shop where every object is covetable.   We bought two of our children lovely wooden vases intended for ikebana.    I looked up books on ikebana to accompany this gift.  I wanted one written by a Japanese person, but I was astounded at the cost of these – £400 – £500 in some cases.   I read that ikebana takes seven years of training and to complete an arrangement consisting of a branch and two flowers might take two and a half hours.

In some respects I’m a Philistine in matters oriental.   I once asked a hapless young, kimono clad girl who was organising the reception of tourists at a tea pavilion:  ‘How long will this take, how much does it cost, and can we do it right now?’    She should have said to me, ‘Go home, geijin, (foreigner) such mysteries are not for you.’   But she was polite in the Japanese fashion, and simply arranged for us to participate immediately.  I still wasn’t impressed!

But to return to the birthday flowers, I assembled, in about half an hour, these two arrangements.   I enjoyed doing them.   Anne’s attempt at ikebana.

I like how you can use meaningful props.   So in these two photographs, (courtesy of John), the green glass bottle is my favourite vase,   It’s a Mateus Rose bottle I picked up on the shore beside my grandfather’s house on the island of Lewis when with my mother, and the rub of the ocean has rendered its glass opaque.


The other arrangement contains (apart from the flowers) a wooden tray I bought in Ueno, Tokyo;  a metal pinholder I acquired at Brodick, Isle of Arran;  a glass jar which once held pudding;   green stones that Rory picked up in Strahan, Tasmania and shoved in his pocket to carry round the world before giving them to me on his return.   The little green boar (to hold tooth picks, I think,) was a gift to me from a ceramics shop in Asakusa, Tokyo, where we bought – er  – one or two things.

So, clearly it’s not ikebana.   I haven’t trained for seven years, it didn’t take two and a half hours, and I’m geijin and will forever remain so.   But I enjoyed the process, I like the results, and perhaps I’ll get better at it.


About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.


  1. Eugene Windsor says:

    Interesting…for what it’s worth, I think the second one works but not the first one, which seems to me too symmetrical and, well, plonked-in-a-bottle! I like the second one because of its pleasing compositional assymetry, and of course it will become bolder and more dynamic as these lilies open out. That said, I have no skill myself in this whatsover – even when I plonk them in a vase Susan always has to re-arrange them to her own satisfaction!

    • adhocannie says:

      I have to confess to being immensely flattered at having phrases like ‘pleasing compositional assymetery’ and ‘bold’ and ‘dynamic’ applied to my poor efforts, especially when any real practitioner would simply sneer. Although * conscientiously I w*ater it every morning, the flowers don’t last as long. Heigh-ho! Anne

  2. Carolyn says:

    Yes, I agree with Eugene. My favourite of the two is the second one. The first arrangement looks a little sinister, as if the mass of ‘plonked’ spiked leaves are just waiting to grab the unwary.

    As to my ‘efforts’, you are too kind!

  3. adhocannie says:

    Bold, dynamic and sinister and death to the unwary… Let’s hope the arrangements don’t reflect the arranger too much!

  4. adhocannie says:

    You are somewhat limited when your vase is a bottle! Perhaps I should try one sprig of blossom…

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