Art of Ikebana

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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
A unique approach is the emphasis on the importance of the relationship between every aspect of a Japanese-style flower arrangement. In Japan arranging flowers means creating an artwork by paying attention to the total contribution of various elements, like the floral material, container, season, water, setting, space, light and purpose. ikebana is an integration of space and time.
Although ikebana has traditionally been placed in a special alcove in a Japanese-style room, my intention is for the arrangement to complement a contemporary living space to add pleasure & enjoyment to your life.
A certain level of technique is required to make an arrangement that fully realises your creativity and originality.
Do keep your eyes and mind open to the message of the beauty and feeling you truly want to express. An interaction with nature and your own self-expression through ikebana.
It is important to decide what kind of impression you want with an arrangement. but will ideas will only be accomplished with the help of the basic ikebana techniques allowing your imagination to reach its potential.
They include technique related to water absorption, cutting, stabilising, bending and shaping, trimming & maintenance which we would share more in details in the next session.

The shapes & Colors of Flowers

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Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden & decorate your own soul. - Mario Quintana
The shapes & colors of flowers are captivating. As children we were often drawn to their simple shapes: dandelions with their spherical seed heads and daisies in a carpet of green are just beautiful sight. As gardeners we can become obsessed with the height and shape of flowers and where we are going to put them to get the best out of the plant.
Both approaches are key when selecting flowers for arrangement to get the most joy out of a successful arrangement. If I am making a large arrangement, for example, I want to use a mass of flowers and foilages with very different shapes and textures. Perhaps I will need some tall spire-shaped flowers, like Delphinium, Eremurus, or Gladioli. For smaller arrangements I am drawn to shorter stems or miniature flowers heads that are more delicate. The right combination of flower shapes is as important as the choice of color. Indeed, it is all about balance and proportion. A great choice creates a beautiful arrangement that can make your heart skip a beat when you see it.
The baby’s breath is among my favourite shape. The inflorescence is usually a thyrse, branching intricately. Each white flower has a cup-like calyx of white-edged green sepals containing five petals in shades of white or pink. It is better known as the Gypsophila family. The name is derived from the fact that all the flowers in this family thrive on soil high in gypsum, a mineral that makes the soil to thick and heavy for many other types of plants. I used a lot of Gypsophila in my arrangements because I like the color, smell and texture. It makes a great filler and plays a supporting role to other flowers.

Stocking up your Toolbox

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Intution is the number one tool in the toolbox.

Think of the tools in a tool-box: there is a floral adhesive, pin frog, floral tape, floral knife, floral wire, cellophane tape, floral snips, skewers & all. - The function of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects.

We recommend stocking a floral toolbox with all your supplies so that that they are ready when you arrive homw with your bounty. Most of the supply can be purchased at your local craft store or floral shop as well as from online.

Floral Adhesive: A useful glue for affixing stems to one another or to a surface. Also to secure fruits onto skewers.
Pin Frog: A must - have for stabilizing stems in a low vase or just a few blooms in a simple cup.
Cage Frog: A unique grid-shaped stem stabiliser.
Floral Tape: Essentially for wrapping bouquets and boutonnieres, this tape becomes sticky when stretched, so make sure you pull it taut while wrapping.
Floral Putty: This waterproof adhesive putty secures floral frogs firmly to the vase.
Rubber bands: Keep assorted sizes on hand to easily bind bunches of stems so that they stay clustered in an arrangement.
Cellophane Tape: Use this tape to create an ‘invisible’ grind on top of a vase to hold stems in place.
Floral snips: These scissors are your primary tool for cutting flowers. Make sure your pair is very sharp in order to avoid crushing stems while making angled and sectional cuts. thess can be used for leaf and thorn removal.
Pruners / Secator: These shears make angled cuts on thick branches and woody stemmed flowers.
Skewers: Use these to create ‘stems’ for succulents and fruits.
Floral Wire: Available in different gauges and lengths, floral wire is used to skewer succulents and fruit and to attach flowers to displays.
Waterproof Tape: This tape is used to hold down a cage frog or chicken wire in a vessel. Like cellophane tape, it is also used to create a grid on top of a vase to hold stems in place. We wrap it around the bottom of amaryllis stems to prevent splitting.
Bind wire: This paper-coated wire is perfect for securing garlands and heavy branches to displays.
Chicken wire: A stem stabilised made by forming bendable coated wire into a ball shape and placing it in an unusually shaped or large opaque vessel.
Water tube: A small water vessel used to keep individual stem hydrated.
Lighter: Use this to burn and seal poppy stem.

Cutting Techniques

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Flowers can’t solve all problems but they are a great START.

Measuring stems to cut - Before making any cuts, it’s important to understand how your stems will sit in the vase. Place the vase on the edge of the work surface & hold your stem in front of it so that you can see where the foliage & blooms will fall. Once you can determine the length you need, trim using one of the cuts described below.
Angled cut - Cutting stems at a sharp angle creates more surface area on the stem, which increases water absorption. We use the angled-cut on all stems unless a tight grouping makes it difficult. Also, the stems in bouquets usually get a flat trim so it looks good.
Woody stem cut - This cut is used for thick, hard stems that have a difficult time absorbing water. Use your pruners to make an angled cut first, then cut the stem upward, vertically, about an inch.
Sectional cutting - Work with sprays & long stems that have multiple forks & angles. This technique will give you many pieces from a single stem. It is a perfect method for maximising flower & foilage usage from tall stems into short arrangements. If you are using sectional cutting on a woody stem, be sure to conceal any visible cut ends in your arrangement with the surrounding materials.

Containers

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The flower in the vase smiles, but no longer laughs. - Malcolm De Chazal

Arranging flowers requires a good selection of vases. If you start with a badly designed vase or a poor shape, even the most experience arranger cannot create a good arrangement. You need to have a choice of vases that suit the kind of flowers you want to use and the result you hope to achieve.
Basic everyday vases ranging from 4 to 8 inches in height for table flowers is a must. Bottles are useful for single stems, so a collection work well together on a mantle or a side table is worth looking out for. Saved used jam jars to cover with sticky glue and leaves, the terracotta pots always blend well for outdoor dining.
For taller arrangements, thinner vases 6 to 12 inches wide and 24 inches or taller in height are necessary for branches, tall flowers, and large headed flowers. Pitchers always work well with mixed branches, herbs, and grasses, as do with decorative watering cans. A group of glasses with different heights and widths is also useful.

Cacti & Succulent Story

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Life is like a cactus, full of pricks, but also very beautiful.

Cactus
The word 'cactus' is actually come from the Greek word, 'kaktos, which means a species of a spiny thistle belonging to the daisy family (Asteraceae).

Cactus leaves have been reduced to spines in order to reduce hte rate of transpiration during photosynthesis. The spines have 2 functions. Fristly, they protect the plant from thirsty animals since the plant is full of sap. Secondly, the spines help to reflect the light rays of the glaring got sun to prevent burns.

Cacti have swellon stems to store water in order to survuve in deserts with very little rainfall.

Cacti have areoles which are characteristic of cacti as it is from these where spines, flowers or offset will grow.

Cacti have one of the most beautiful flowers among flowering plants. Some are so vividly coloured that they are inflorescent in order to attract insects for pollinatiion under the glaring hot sun in a desert.

Cacti with ribs
Ribs help to shade the catus from the hot desert sun at any part of the day. Flowers usually rise from the areoles near the apex depending on the cactus genera.

Cacti with tubercles
tubercles help to shade the cactus from the hot desert sun at any part of the day. Flowers of this class (Mammillaria genus), arise between the tubercles & not from the areoles.

Cacti with pads
Like the ribs & the tubercles, pads also shade the cactus from the hot desert sun. Cactus belongs to the genus opuntia have an upward growth habit. Once the pad has matured, it will stop growing. New growth will appear from the areoles of this matured pad & the process starts all over again.
Some of the genera have glochids which are actually a collection if very fine spines which cause raashes to people with sensitive skin.

Succulent
The word 'Succos' in Latin means juice or sap. Thus, a succulent is a plant with water storage organs thereby enabling the plant to survive over a period of drought. Water can be stored in their leaves, stems & roots. They do not have spines.

Some succulents exude a milky sap when damaged. It should be noted that a cactus is a succulent but a succulent may not be a cactus. Cacti are stem succulents since water is stored in their stems. They do not have leaves & their roots are not fleshy too.

General culture of Cactus & Succulents

Light
Light is the main problem in many high rise apartment gardeners as not every one of us is blessed with a sunny balcony or a common corridor.
Most cacti & succulents require at ;least 6 hours of direct sun or very bright light in order to be compact. Lack of light will cause to etiolate which make them vulnerable to pest & diseases later.
Most of their flowers require good light in order to open fully.

Soil
Soil has to be free draining in order to grow them successfully as any pockets of stagnant water in the soil medium will cause roots to rots. In high rise apartment gardening, it is crucial for the soil to be dry up by the third day after watering. Commercial mixes contain too much peat which is bad for cacti & succulents. Peat is too wet when watered & too dry when dry. Besides, it is very difficult to wet peat after it has dried up.
Cactus & succelents dislike root disturbances & thus, it is not wise to undergo this operation annually. It is better to use loam-based potting mixtures as they are general free from peat.
Mix of own soil:
Sifted burnt earth or any commercial cactus mix 50% & diatomite 50%. (soilless medium for drainage enhancement like aquarium gravel, perlite, coarse sand, charcoal chips etc in varying proportions.)

Watering
It is very common to hear advice from nurseries that cacti & succulents require little water & can survive wks without water. Cacti & succulents contain 75% water & sometimes I just wonder how the poor plant can grow when there is no water in the first place. They need water just like houseplants.

Golden Rule
Water them generously when they are in active growth & sparingly when they are dormant or resting.

How to know my cactus is growing?
The spines at the apex, which is the growing tip of the cactus, will suddenly start to turn to a very red or yellow depending on the cactus genera. Then a cluster of spines will apper at the apex & it is time to water your cactus.

Protect from the rain
Always protect cacti & succulents from the rain as too much rain will cause our beloved plants to rot especially when they are resting.

When to water?
Always water your cacti & succulents when the top inch layer of the soil has dried up a little. You should water in the morning to prevent any possible fungi or viral infection.

How to water?
Water your cacti with a container containing a long nozzle, taking care not to wet the stem. Never hose down your cacti & succulents like your houseplants. Aim the nozzleat the side of the pot to allow the soil to absorb the moisture. Dry soil absorb water very fast.

Pots
Clay pots are proven to be better than plastics. Always pot the cactus no bigger than half an inch between the cactus body & the edge of the pot. Stagnant soil provides breeding grounds for root mealy bugs.

What happen if I dont have a small a small pot?
Grow the cactus in very well drained mix with a thick layer of aquarium gravel, perlite or sand at the bottom of the pot under a very bright location in any place.

Fertilisation
You may be surprised that desert soil is very fertile. You should feed them generously at half strength of the recommended dosage stated by the manufacturer wekkly for best results. Soluble fertilisers is prefer as organic ones may burn the roots when the cactus is resting. Use a low nitrogen fertiliser if possible.

Pests & Diseases 

Root Mealy Bugs
Other than overwatering, root mealy bugs is the number one killer of our cacti & succulents. root mealy bugs like to attack cacti & succulents & it is very difficult to eradicate them. Prevention is better than cure. Always water your cacti & succulents witj a solution of malathion weekly to prevent any possible attack from them.

Scales
It is unlikely that your cacti & succulents will be infeced with scales if they are growth in good air & sun. White summer oil is very effective in removing them as the flim of oil depletes the pest with oxygen intake therby killing them instantly. The traditional white summer oil is harmless to the delicate tissues of the plants. Make sure your cacti & succulents are well watered before you spray them with a solution of white summer oil & water. Spray them in the morning or late evening when the sun is not so hot.