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Kiku at the New York Botanical Garden

December 6, 2009

Every fall, the New York Botanical Garden puts on a wonderful chrysanthemum viewing show for Chrysanthemum Day (菊の節句 Kiku no Sekku), one of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan. The chrysanthemum festival started in 910 A.D. when the Japanese imperial court held its first chrysanthemum show. The viewing of the flowers symbolized the arrival of the fall, just as the viewing of cherry blossoms signaled the arrival of spring. The chrysanthemum is both the symbol of the Imperial House of Japan and the national flower and arrived in Japan by way of Korea in the fourth century.

I went to the show last year and I loved going again this year just to remind myself how beautiful a chrysanthemum the size of your head can be. The Washington Post has an article describing last year’s show in detail and the immense amount of work put into it is here. The show is home to four different arrangement styles as well as bonsai. The chrysanthemums arrangements are grown using special techniques such as ogiku (single-stem), kengai (cascades), and ozukuri (thousand bloom – illustrated in the photo above). All three styles originate from tiny cuttings and each is more elaborate than the next…

Don’t worry, if you missed out on this show you can always go to the garden’s Holiday Train Show, where electric trains run busily through the greenhouse among replicas of New York City’s famous monuments and buildings. It is so much fun but also packed with kids on the weekends so choose the time you visit wisely!

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