When it comes to a meticulously executed aesthetic, the Japanese can’t be beat. Their attention to detail shows up in everything from the sparest ikebana flower arrangements to the Gothic Lolita-clad teens hanging around Tokyo’s Harajuku railway station.
The names may seem familiar, but these are not your everyday florist flowers. Strikingly bicolor rannunculus with a loosened petal structure open up as big as peonies, and juicy cluster-flower spray roses conjure up images of pink and green popcorn puffs. These new exquisite blooms from Japan are the results of an inensive cut-flower breeding effort now poised to make a big impact here in the United States.
Left: A glass vessel holds casually arranged pink sweet pea, lisianthus, and carnation ‘Mini Tiara’ from Japan paired with garden cuttings Fritillaria acmopetala, leucojum, and a fern frond.
Mixing in your own garden offerings gives florist flowers a little kick, says Sarah Ryhanen, who created the arrangements for this story. Ryhanen, who co-owns Saipua, a floral workshop in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, added in snips from the garden outside the photographer’s studio, flourishes that include heuchera, fritillaria, Sambucus ‘Black Lace,’ and ghost ferns
Left: Shades of purple from Robledo’s garden, including dark foliage of Sambucus ‘Black Lace;’ lavender sweet pea, lisianthus, Oxypetalum ‘Pure Blue,’ and deep brown-purple Lisianthus ‘Umber Double Wine,’ all from Japan; and Fritillaria assyriaca and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ from the garden.
“These flowers could only be made in Japan,” says Gary Page, a flower wholesaler in New York who is also a client of Bloom Japan, an export-focused organization working with Japanese growers and international flower wholesalers. “The very nature of manipulating and altering for beauty, tweaking until the most perfect specimen is created, is so connected to the way they create gardens and live their lives."
Left: The new breeds from Japan defy expectations by redefining the blossoms’ silhouettes, elongating stems, and rebalancing the weight and frame of the overall plant. From left to right: the fleshy spray rose ‘Radish,’ pearly pink ‘Mini Tiara’ carnation, and a variegated ranunculus.
Using a cake stand from potter Joan Platt, florist Sarah Ryhanen secures a floral frog to the stand with floral putty. Gloriosa lilies, ranunculus, spray roses ‘Radish’ and ‘Giuliano,’ and long-lasting sweet pea take a star turn in this arrangement, playing nicely with dogwood branches, ghost fern, and heucherella from photographer Maria Robledo’s garden.
A high-contrast still life uses imported ‘Spark Velde’ carnation and lisianthus in double petals of purple and green set against the armature of a domestically grown ghost fern.
Ryhanen is known for her abundant English country garden-style arrangements, but here she channels the ikebana tradition by exercising a degree of restraint and showcasing leaves and stems as well as flowers. She uses a low earthenware bowl from Japan, outfitting it with a metal grid floral frog that anchors the upright stems, especially the tall orchid, a yellow Oncidium obryzatum that inspired the overall scale and shape of the design. A cascading passionflower vine serves as the orchid’s counterbalance, and the center of the arrangement features white ranunculus, roses, flannel flower, green carnations, silene, and Fritillaria assyriaca.
A branch of azalea cut from the garden, the small glossy leaves of the cascading Asparagus asparagoides, and a rich pink ranunculus secured by small floral frogs in a bowl made by potter Joan Platt.