NOWNESS & THE SENESCENT SEASON: PUNK IKEBANA, LOUESA ROEBUCK
Approaching All Hallow’s Eve/Halloween, Samhain, and Day of the Dead, we are entering into the season of gratitude - running from now through the Winter Solstice & the calendar’s new year.
It is a season of gathering, collection, and reflection, and Cultivating Place is in conversation this week with an artist and a green spirit in our garden care world, Louesa Roebuck, about her newest book Punk Ikebana: Reimagining the Art of Floral Design (gathering, gleaning & composing in situ), being published by Cameron + Company Books on November 8.
Louesa is a multimedia and multigenre creative, floral artist, printmaker, painter, textile designer, curator, and author. You may recall our conversation several years ago around her first book: Foraged Flora.
In Punk Ikebana, Louesa starts from a place of reverence for tradtion, in particular those of Japan, but also from a place of "peace-punk, Do-No-Harm." Ikebana, “the way of the flowers,” has been studied formally in Japan and beyond for centuries. In Punk Ikebana, Louesa explains and riffs on the art form’s classic rules—and then demonstrates how to seasonally, sensually, and meaningfully bend them. The book highlights stunning arrangements and installations that unite the cultural meanings and wise elegance of a traditional perspective with an inviting freedom from convention for anyone to feel welcome into.
With Renaissance-reminiscent, still-life rich photography by Ian Hughes and a poetic introduction by Obi Kaufmann, Punk Ikebana is a wild wonder of abundance perspective and grounded gratitude. And in our conversation, Louesa and I consider the idea of nowness, and the work of reflective, deep observation as we cultivate a practice from within the garden's (and Nature's) many gifts.
I invite you to listen in.
All photos by Ian Hughes, courtesy of Louesa Roebuck, all rights reserved.
Follow Louesa Roebuck & Punk Ikebana online: LouesaRoebuck.com and on Instagram: @louesaroebuck
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JOIN US again next week, when we kick off November in conversation with the horticultural team at Filoli historic House and 16 acre garden in woodside, California, where they are striving toward environmental and cultural practices to generously pay their long history of privilege forward – just in time for the generous season in front of us here in the Northern Hemisphere. Listen in!
Speaking of plants... and place:
Speaking of plants and place and the senescent season of Autumn… I want to continue with my theme of late summer grasses - because among the many plants who invite us to revel in the beauty of late season, senescence and abundance – our native and ornamental grasses are surely top role models.
And this week – perhaps because of recent wanderings across California, through the Great Basin and into the Southwest and Painted Desert – let’s talk about the dropseeds - the genus Sporobolus.
With 150 species in the genus, some annuals, some perennials, and native ranges across the US, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia, this is another group bound to have at least one family member appropriate to your garden, although pay attention to the non-native Sporobolus and any of their tendencies toward invasive behavior before planting in your region.
Some of the North American, drought-adapted species include prairie dropseed, pine dropseed, spike dropseed, sand dropseed, and mesa drop seed. As is often the case, the names of these grasses– both the latin and the common names - refer to first the way the seed disperses itself (the latin name Sporobulus apparently means “to throw seed”), and the common names give us a hint as to where or what conditions each species tends to grow and then drop seed: Sporobolus vaginiflorus, native across much of North America, is known as poverty grass so dubbed apparently during the dust bowl years when it was one of the few grasses to thrive on the impoverished, disturbed soils of the dust bowl.
The Sporobolus genus also includes the impressive, larger clumped and taller-flowered, deep-rooted sacaton grasses – Sporobolus airoides, alkali sacaton, and Sporobolus wrightii, giant sacaton.
While the sacaton grasses will carry weight and majestic focal power in a garden or landscape, my heart still skips a beat for the smaller, more open warm season prairie and pine dropseeds for their airy flower and seed heads – like quirky, dainty candelabras filling and softening the spaces between – the smaller spaces between the vastness across the basin and range, the spaces between the openness of the desert, between the scrub of mountain slopes, and in a vase (because you know I love that) - and certainly the spaces in between other life in your habitat garden.
As with most grasses adapted to dryland areas of extreme highs, lows, wind and other weather, the dropseeds like to be cut back in late spring (after the winter wildlife have foraged and nested among them), just as their first green shoots are beginning to peek out. Renewed, Determined & Hopeful.
Thinking out loud this week:
Hey - for those of you who were in attendance at the California Native Plant Society’s 2022 Conservation Conference this past week in San Jose – what a thrilling, forward looking, biodiversity of humans who came together there. I promise more of an update on this soon – including an upcoming series focused on the 30 x 30 conservation efforts being rolled out around us.
But for now, I wanted to sit with the idea of nowness – of smallness – of enoughness being so much more than plenty. Throughout Punk Ikebana, Louesa offers out emotive, imagistic haikus paired with and complementing as well as supplementing the floral compositions and creative imagery and the longer narrative of the book. These I think embody the idea of now, and enough, and plenty – like a seed embodies the wholeness of a plant and its lives past and future.
Here's one I loved on our native sacred angel’s trumpets – Datura wrightii:
"Datura, bright from home,
death does not diminish."
Hmmmm - happy all hallows eve, Samhain, Day of the Dead and crossing the threshold into November.
Be here now – the nowness. From my seat, there is no season like late fall to remind us that time is fleeting and the immense abundance of beauty and plenty offered to us by the world around us is best enjoyed and appreciated right now.
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