October 19, 2008

KIKU - The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum

Ogiku ("Single Stem") Chrysanthemums

This glorious autumn weekend we had the luxury of attending the opening of Kiku-The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum at the New York Botanical Gardens' Enid A Haupt Conservatory. As a solid Japanophile myself, having a local exhibition of such a collection is a rare and unique treat, since this is the second year that the NYBG has offered this exhibition. Most impressive is that this exhibit is the result of five years of a cultural exchange between the Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, where for the past 100 years gardeners have perfected the art of growing and displaying exquisite chrysanthemums for the Emperor's garden. Under the training of Kiku master Yasuhira Iwashita, is is noted in the catalog of this years' exhibit that last year was the first time that the techniques and styles developed and displayed at the Shinjuku Gyoen were presented outside of Japan. This show runs from October 18 until November 16, 2008 at the New York Botanical Garden.

Single trained stems of Japanese Chrysanthemums at the NYBG

There are four Imperial styles of Kiku which are being displayed at the ENid Haupt Conservatory. Ozukuri ("thousand bloom"), ogiku ("single stem"), kengai ("cascade'), and new this year, shino-tsukuri ("driving rain"). These plants are all housed and displayed in decorative Japanese garden pavilions known as uwaya. These intricate structures protect and frame the beauty of the kiku displays: they are constructed from bamboo and cedar and then edged with ceremonial drapery.

Shin-tsukuri ("driving rain") style Chrysanthemums

A MAgnificent bamboo sculpture by artist Tetsunori Kawana, a master teacher of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana,the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging. Kawana is known worldwide for his innovative installations using freshly split bamboo.

The amazing ozukuri style of training Chrysanthemums - perhaps the most difficult, this "thousand bloom" form takes 11 months of training from cutting, to this,. Yes...this is all from a single plant, and if you kneel down, you can see the single 1/4 inch thick stem of the entire plant!

The cascade style might be more popular to some people in the States, if you visit a fine botanic garden, but this form is still rather unusual, the plants are trained like waterfalls. This cascade style was the first fancy exhibition style that I tryed. Yes, you can try growing these amazing Japanese forms at home ( by ordering cuttings from Kings Mums for delivery in June).


  1. WOW - I love the Japanese. They seem to turn life into an artform. Those chrysanthemums are completely amazing.

  2. Simply stunning, I've never seen anything quite like it before. Thanks for bringing us the slightly unusual in the gardening world...

  3. Matt, I am glad that you got to NYBG to see the Kiku. I wast there last year and it was amazing. I now have 20 or so crysanthemum cultivars many good for cascade, and bonsai.... Just a note we have a very nice linearlobum Jap. maple called Red Pygmy among others in stock at the nursery. Take Care, Glen

  4. Nichola2:09 AM

    I would love to grow the Kiku but I can't find anywhere that sells seeds nor plants unless you are a business. Very frustrating since I always wanted to give them a try. If there is any way to get them here in Australia let me know please.

  5. I am a garden designer and grower of 35 years. Twenty years ago there was a source for Chinese and Japanese chrysanthemums. I grew a cold greenhouse full from bottle brush types to ones that opened full and double and then trailed down like dragon slobber. They grew up the full height of the 12 ft green house and down and up again and bloomed fall to January. Of course, I did not know what I was doing. How can I get some of these gorgeous forms again for my Japanese friends?


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