Japanese Flower Vases
( Originally Published 1913 )
ALTHOUGH the Japanese have not as large a flora as other countries, they have above all others a greater beauty and variety of flower receptacles. These are not only beautiful in form, material, and design, but are made for the use to which they are put; so that a flower can always be placed in an appropriate receptacle, and probably in one especialIy designed for that particular sort of flower.
Their Iove of the beautiful, however, does not cause them to overlook the practical in these vases, and they most seek in their shapes what will best prolong the Iife of flowers. For this reason their vases are wide open at the mouth, for they do not depend upon the vase itself, as we do, to hold flowers in position, having found that the oxygen entering through the neck opening is as necessary to the plant as the oxygen it receives from the depths of the water; thus also the water remains sweet much Ionger than in our small-necked vases, where it so quickly becomes foul
Many are the odd and fanciful significances connected with these Japanese receptacles. For instance, the hanging vases so numerous and quaint in form came into use through the idea that flowers presented by an esteemed friend should not be placed where they could be looked down upon, so they were raised and hung. And in the hanging bamboo vases the large, round surface on top is supposed to represent the moon, and the hole for the nail a star. The cut, or opening, below the top is called fukumuki the "wind drawing through place."
The low, flat vases, more used in summer than winter, not only give variety in the form of receptacles, but, as with vines and hanging vases, make it possible to arrange plants of bulbous and water growth in natural positions. The standard vases are the most common, for in them all arrangements of flowers, except aquatics and creepers, are placed. They alone outnumber in beauty and variety aII forms of our flower vases combined.
Again, when we come to consider the color of the Japanese vases, we can only admire their never failing taste in the choice of the soft pastel shades. Could anything more clearly show their perfect taste than their preference for bronze? This to them seems most Iike mother earth in color, and therefore best, as it is, to enhance the beauty of flowers instead of detracting from their exquisite shades. What a contrast to the glitter and show of our silver vases, which represent generally IittIe else but their cost.
The bamboo, in its simplicity of line and neutral color, makes a vase always charming but, alas! not practical in this country, where our steam heat at once causes it to split. But while vases made from solid pieces of bamboo cannot be used in this country, the beautiful baskets made in such variety of shape from bamboo reeds, with their color assuming the soft brown shades of mother earth, so perfect an offset for aII the varied tints of the flowers, are entirely practical in any climate.
Not to be overlooked is the tiny hanging vase found in the simple peasant home-some curious root picked up at no cost and fashioned into a shape suitable to hold a single flower or vine. Such vases could be made with little effort by anyone and find place anywhere in our own land, had we only a keen enough desire to be always surrounded by the beautiful.
After experience with Japanese vases we find ourselves much more critical in the selection of American or European ones and, beholding aII the delightful forms of Japanese vases depicted in their prints, we grow most regretful of the scarcity of their importation into Europe or this country.