Get to Know Garden Glow: Ikebana of Richmond

Ikebana of Richmond

An enchanting new experience will brighten nights at Maymont this fall as the Japanese Garden becomes a mesmerizing, illuminated landscape for “Garden Glow.” Get to know some of the events’ entertainers in this mini blog series!

The following post is by Judy Sheldon of Ikebana of Richmond.

Tell us about Ikebana of Richmond.

Ikebana of Richmond (IOR) was founded in Richmond in 1968 by a group of ladies interested in learning Japanese flower arranging. In the 1950s Ellen Gordon Allen, the wife of a U.S. General living in Tokyo, founded Ikebana International as a way to spread the art of Ikebana and international friendship in locations around the world. The motto was “Friendship through flowers.” Ikebana of Richmond has adopted this motto as well. Although Ikebana of Richmond (IOR) was originally a chapter of the international organization, today it is a separate entity that meets monthly offering demonstrations and workshops.

As stated in the bylaws of IOR, the mission is “to stimulate, cultivate, and perpetuate the study of ikebana and related arts and culture.” IOR gives an annual financial donation to Maymont and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to support the Japanese Garden and Asian plantings.

Describe ikebana – what exactly is it?

Ikebana literally means “living flower.” It is the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement characterized by asymmetry, empty space, and in most cases, simplicity. Attention is given to the natural growth of plants. There are hundreds of schools of Ikebana, from classical Ikenobo to modern Sogetsu, in which materials other than flowers and greenery may be incorporated into arrangements.

When and where did ikebana originate?

It is thought that Ikebana originated as flower offerings to Buddhist altars over 600 years ago. As Buddhism flourished in Japan, Ikebana became an integral part of tea ceremony. Small arrangements, called chabana, were carefully arranged to harmonize with the season, the chosen vase, and the painted scroll placed in the alcove of the tea room. Ikebana evolved into a secular art with arrangements in the home.

What is the cultural significance of ikebana?

With its spiritual and philosophical roots, Ikebana contrasts with Western arrangements that are often brimming with flowers and other plant material. Inherent in this art is the deep appreciation by the Japanese for the natural world.

What’s the biggest takeaway you’d like for people to know about ikebana?

Although each school of Ikebana has guidelines for arrangements, personal expression of the arranger is emphasized. Even when using the same materials and following the same guidelines, each arrangement will be unique. Students of Ikebana learn to “listen to” and observe flowers and branches chosen for an arrangement. In the midst of our consumer culture we often think more is better. Practicing the art of Ikebana we may experience “less as more.”

How has your organization been involved at Maymont before this event?

Prior to Garden Glow, IOR has contributed welcoming arrangements for special events at Maymont. In the past a member constructed a bamboo sculpture in the Japanese Garden. IOR contributes annually to maintenance of the Japanese Garden. We have a board position, liaison to Maymont, who reports monthly to our membership about happenings at Maymont.

Get your tickets to Garden Glow to see the Japanese Garden in lights and enjoy Japanese cultural activities and entertainment. The event runs nightly from 6-10pm, October 27 – November 11. PLEASE NOTE: The event will be closed on Friday, November 2 due to the high risk of thunderstorms, and we expect to sell out for Saturday, November 3.

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