Orchid Technology

Quick Changeovers  // Floral Arrangement // Innovative Display Horticulture Methods // My Display Work // Orchids Really Are Amazing

I’ve been writing a lot about my travels but so far, I haven’t written anything about work at Kiseki no Hoshi, which is quite misleading because I spend most of my time there, and it’s why I came to Japan in the first place. Additionally, it’s really interesting!  So, it’s time to reveal what I’ve doing for the past 2 months…

As I mentioned in my post about the concept of the museum, the displays in the conservatory change 7 times a year. The first week I worked at Kiseki, the Christmas display was still up and everyone was just starting to prepare for the changeover into the Amazing Orchid Festival. In my second week, the garden was closed to the public and everything was ripped apart and re-made. Paths & turf were laid, 1,000s of plants were planted, structures were built and erected, lighting systems were changed and sculptures were installed. It was a very quick and dramatic change over. I shall say organised chaos! The changeover in the largest display hall illustrates this nicely. NB this was all done in 5 days, alongside the preparation of 7-8 other areas:

Most of my previous experience has been working outside in permanent gardens, the only times I’ve worked in a protected environment is in nurseries or in more standard botanic-style glasshouses. This isn’t like any of that: it’s entirely artificial and isn’t intended to look otherwise; the plants are only in place for a relatively short period of time and so can be displayed in ways that could be impractical in a permanent setting. However! A lot of the things that Tomoko-san does at Kiseki no Hoshi are easily applicable to more ordinary British horticulture, and I think that there is a lot to learn that could make our work more exciting and more beautiful.

If I think I about everything I’m learning, it mostly falls into two categories

  1. How to arrange plants & flowers well
  2. How to use modern materials to do the above in innovative ways

Floral Arrangement

I’ve done a small amount of design work before but I’ve never done much flower arranging or planting design, so this has been a steep but valuable learning curve for me. Japanese flower arrangement (ikebana 生け花) is very culturally significant, and the art of flower arrangement used to be (still is?) considered a vital skill for any refined person. Many older ladies I’ve met were taught flower arrangement in school. I will attend an ikebana class in March and I’m certain to learn a great deal. However, at the moment I only know that it’s very complicated and that Tomoko-san uses principles of ikebana in her displays- although they are not traditional! Vital principles are shape, form, angle, colour and empty space.  The main things she says to me are: ‘a straight thing, a flowing thing and a focal point’; ‘No! Too much-y!’; and ‘Hmm, looks strange-y.’ When I got my first: ‘yes, OK.’ I was ECSTATIC. When I got my first: ‘OK, looks nice’, I wanted champagne. If she ever says ‘sugoi,’ about one of my flower arrangements, I will be unbearably smug for the rest of my life.

Back in January, we helped Tomoko-san out for a day at a volunteering project she’s doing in a park in Kobe. [Actually we’ve been twice now and it’s super interesting. If I ever get a spare 12 hours then I’ll write about it!]  We ‘helped’ the volunteers to make floral arrangements for an event. The volunteers were much better at it than me! Here are some pictures from there and Kiseki to illustrate my floral arrangement learning:

Innovative Display Horticulture Methods

All you need is a bit of chicken wire and some imagination! Seriously, it turns out that the main vital ingredients to display horticulture are:

  • patience
  • a perfectionist nature
  • sphagnum moss
  • various green mosses
  • chicken wire
  • plastic sheeting
  • a lot of other kinds of wire
  • wire cutters
  • anything you can find lying around really

Tomoko-san tries to present plants in unusual and new ways, to help people connect with nature. Orchids are particularly good for this, because there are so many forms, sizes, shapes and from so many different growing conditions. She tries to use the way plants grow in their natural habitat to the advantage of the display. Here are some photos to illustrate…

There are a lot of really incredible displays. Unfortunately, plants aren’t as easy to deal with as stone or paint or whatever: after you’ve made your display, they tend to need care and watering and very often, replacing! It takes a lot of time to create & maintain these displays.

We had the opportunity to create a display for the ‘living with orchids’ section of the conservatory. Tomoko-san asked us to do a western style house- it was great fun! I made an afternoon tea set, a lampshade, a fire for the fireplace and a mantlepiece display. All out of orchids, moss and some non-orchid plants. What do you think?

Finally, I have to tell you that I am surrounded by so many orchids every day that I am becoming a little bit blazé about them! Orchids are much more popular and commonly grown in Japan than in the UK, and there are so many kinds available. Tomoko-san considers Catteleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium, Epidendrum and (obviously) Phalenopsis as cheap space fillers. Ha! Yesterday I helped her make the traditional display pictured above with the big stone and the white variegated Blettilla striata. I was rather surprised when she started ripping apart a huge pot of it to get the right shape but apparently it’s a standard ground cover here. She nearly fell over when I told her that one bulb costs over a 1000 yen in the UK. And I don’t even know if we can get this form! Anyway, to remedy this flippancy I’m developing, here are some pictures of amazing orchids…




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