Dec 29, 2016

Tips to arrange new year's flowers

I was so busy and sick for last few months and couldn't post articles... Now I recovered and will start introducing Ikebana again!

2016 is almost over, and we are preparing for the new year, 2017. Most of Japanese houses, shops, buildings decorate their gates or doors with new year ornaments. It's one of the Japanese traditional ways to celebrate new year and you can get detailed information through books or web, but if I explain very briefly, we decorate them "to welcome gods of the new year to our houses/facilities". Not only at doors, we arrange Ikebana arrangements inside. There is no specific rules, but we prefer to use certain materials to make our works more special. Each material has own meanings to be selected for arrangements. Let's see what they are.

This is my work for 2017.

I'm sure that most of the ikebana artists usually use pine tree (Matsu 松) as main materials.

Pine trees are symbol of longevity and youth, because their leaves are always green and not be fallen off throughout the year, even in dry and cold winter season. Also, the sound "Matsu" is the same as "Matsu 待つ to wait". So it means we are waiting for gods' arrival to our house.

I added colorful materials afterwards. Since we are going to celebrate, brilliant colors such as red, white,yellow, gold and silver are preferred for new year arrangements. As I mentioned before, there's no rule, so it's OK to use pink or other bright colors. But I personally think red, yellow or white will help our arrangements look more traditional.

Then I used round shaped yellow chrysanthemum (Kiku 菊).

Chrysanthemums are used in many ikebana arrangements regardless of seasons because they look very Japanese-like with their colors and shape. Not only that, they last long in water, so we like them as luck of health.

Then I put some branches with tiny red fruits, they are Senryo 千両.

Senryo is Japanese, means Sen (thousand)-Ryo(old Japanese currency), and is thought to bring lots of money or fortune.

Similar plant called Manryo 万両(Man means ten thousands) is also used in arrangements as fortune item. Search in Wikipedia page

At last, I chose red tulip, white baby's breath and gold-painted willow to add colors.

Below is another arrangement for new year, which I made in Hawaii. Compared to Japan, Hawaii has limited materials for ikebana arrangement due to different climate. But it's still possible.

My teacher prepared pine tree, bamboo, white chrysanthemum and plastic plum branches (if it's extremely hard to get it, you can use artificial ones). Bamboo (Take 竹) is popular item for new year with its straight shape, representing strong growth. And plum trees (Ume 梅) are known for symbol of good luck or success, because they start to bloom in winter, earlier than other flowers.

Now do you think you can try it? Or you concern that you don't have enough space in room to put works or can't get enough materials? Don't give up! You still can make it!

This is made of leftover after lesson; one short gold colored willow, one short yellow chrysanthemum and three short pieces of senryo. Simple work, isn't it?

Try to create your own new year arrangement with these tips. But please note that 29th and 31st Dec. is not preferable to set, because the date 29th 二十九 (Niju-ku) sounds as the same as 二重苦(Niju-ku; double troubles), and 31st is too late to prepare for gods. Sorry to update this article on 29th... we have only tomorrow, 30th left to prepare....Anyway, have a great new year!



I am an ikebana teacher living in Tokyo. Also I've lived in Osaka and Hyogo for several years.


  • SalarymanJim

    on Jan 5

    Well, I'm way too late for this, but good to know for later this year!! Is that some gold colored willow that you've used in your 'work' for 2017, too? The whole arrangement looks really nice, anyway.

  • yoona

    on Jan 6

    @SalarymanJim Yes, please prepare what to arrange for 2018! The gold willow I used for the 1st pic is also used in the work in the last pic. I bent it to make a unique curved line. It needs some technique not to damage the material!

  • SalarymanJim

    on Jan 10

    @yoona He! He! Maybe I will! Yes, when you bend the willow it looks like it could snap. I guess it's pretty flexible!

  • edthethe

    on Feb 24

    This was really interesting! Thanks for including ask the meaning behind the different materials! Are there also different meanings depending on placement? Like the curve of the willow, Or was that just because you liked it? It's lovely regardless

  • yoona

    on Feb 24

    @edthethe Really glad you're interested. As this is freestyle arrangement, there's no strict rule how to place the materials. I curved the willows because I wanted unique lines to make the arrangement little more casual for room, and they can be bent easily.