Japanese Aesthetics and the Garden
Ikebana (literally flowers kept alive) is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. As in most gardening styles, ikebana attempts to distill the essence of the plant(s) in the arrangement. Less is more and natural angles and forms are crucial. Ikebana also has ancient roots. There are many schools, of which the most popular are Ikenobo, Sogetsu and Ohara. Only Ikebono dates to within the SCA period, founded by the Buddhist priest Ikenobo Senkei in the 15th century. He is thought to have created the rikka (standing flowers) style. This style was developed as a Buddhist expression of the beauty of nature, with seven branches representing hills, waterfalls, valleys and so on arranged in a formalised way. The present 45th-generation head of the school is Ikenobo Senei. Among the priests and aristocrats, this style became more and more formalised until, in the late 17th century, the growing merchant class developed a simpler style, called seika or shoka. Shoka uses only three main branches, known as ten (heaven), chi (earth) and jin (man) and is designed to show the beauty of the plant itself.
A related apocryphal story:
The regent Hideyoshi heard that the morning glorys in Rikyus garden were in full bloom. Right away, he arranged to vist the master for a tea ceremony. Upon arriving, he walked through the garden only to discover that all the flowers were gone. Furious, the warlord stormed up to the tea hut determined to scold Rikyu for a prank. Upon entering the hut, he saw one perfect flower on display.