Kiku pays homage to hanami, the traditional custom of enjoying the ephemeral beauty of flowers, with magnificent displays of chrysanthemums. The show's centerpiece is an unforgettable presentation of kiku trained to grow in a mesmerizing variety of shapes and styles.
Traditional Kiku Styles
Botanical Garden experts work up to 11 months each year to grow, train, and shape the kiku on display. Cultivated from tiny cuttings, the plants are pinched back, tied to frames, and carefully nurtured, developing as the autumn nights grow longer and bursting into bloom in October—a true celebration of the changing of the seasons. During Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden, three traditional kiku styles will be on display:
• Ozukuri (Thousand Bloom)
In this highly complex technique, a single stem is trained to produce hundreds of simultaneous blossoms in a massive, dome-shaped array. Ozukuri are planted in specially built wooden containers called sekidai.
• Ogiku (Double and Triple Stem)
These plants feature stems that can reach six feet tall, with one perfect bloom balanced on top. Each plant stem is bent, precisely arranged in diagonal lines that decrease in height from the back to the front of the bed.
• Kengai (Cascade)
This technique features small-flowered chrysanthemums that are more typical of the wild varieties. They are trained to conform to boat-shaped frameworks that cascade downward like waterfalls for up to six-and-a-half feet, resulting in a burst of hundreds of tightly clustered blooms.
Contemporary Kiku Styles Also on Display
The kiku training techniques that have been used by Japanese gardeners for centuries have been adapted to develop new, experimental styles. The horticulturists at The New York Botanical Garden have grown several exciting styles this year.
• Bonsai-like Tree
The ancient Japanese art of bonsai, the technique of training and nurturing miniature potted trees and plants to create living sculptures, is celebrated with an unusual kiku display in which wood from the Garden's grounds supports a construction of anemone-form chrysanthemums trained to mimic the shape of a meticulously manicured bonsai.
This curved form is the result of a new application of the training techniques used to form the traditional kengai (cascade). As the chrysanthemum plant grows, the branches are woven into the mesh that forms the armature of the bridge. The chrysanthemums on the upper tier of the bridge are known as spoon form because each floret becomes round and spoon-like at the end. The lower tier consists of single form chrysanthemums.
A chrysanthemum wall is the result of a new application of the kengai training technique. One side contains white blooms, while the other has yellow. The wall features the anemone form, recognizable for the prominent disc at the center of the flower head surrounded by small individual florets.
• Grafted Topiary
Similar in scope to the traditional ozukuri (thousand bloom), the Botanical Garden team has created a pyramid of different-colored chrysanthemums through a process known as grafting. The art of grafting chrysanthemums has a long history in China and Japan in which the stock stem of a young plant is sliced down the center, and the tip of a plant with a different color is inserted. The joined area is then tightly wrapped to keep the ends moist, and in a few weeks the newly-grafted plant begins to grow.
About the Designers
Kiku specialist and gardener Kodai Nakazawa oversees the training of chrysanthemums at The New York Botanical Garden in preparation for this spectacular fall display. He has been educated by experts from Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
Francisca P. Coelho, Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions, is best known for her plantsmanship and key role in the design and development of high-profile shows in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.