Colorful flowers sit in a bucket as members of the Sarasota Chapter No. 115 of Ikebana International participate in a mawari-ike ikebana arrangement. A mawari-ike flower arrangement requires all members to participate by placing a branch or flower in the arrangement. The finished arrangement is considered a celebratory effort of everyone’s contribution.
For members of the Sarasota chapter, whose motto is “friendship through flowers,” the group’s monthly meetings are about more than just flower arrangements.
“It’s more than a hobby; it’s a vocation,” says chapter President Pat Bonarek, who has been studying ikebana for 30 years. Bonarek has reached the sixth of eight levels in sogetsu, a school of Ikebana, making her a high-ranking teacher of the art.
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement that traces back to Buddhist monks in the sixth century. The monks would arrange the flowers in a triad to symbolize heaven, man and earth as an offering to Buddha. Throughout the centuries, the art evolved, and women of the imperial court learned ikebana from the monks. The samurais were the next to learn, and in the last few centuries, the art form has been passed down to the common person.
Ikebana’s presence began to grow in the United States in 1956, when Ikebana International founder Ellen G. Allen returned to the U.S. from Tokyo. Soon after, groups began popping up all over the United States, and even more abroad.
Sarasota Chapter No. 115 was founded in 1967 and Merle Sauve became the first president. The group met at various garden clubs until 1987, when it began to meet at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which is still where it meets today.
Sarasota Chapter No. 115 has approximately 40 members who meet at 10 a.m. the second Monday of each month at the Selby Gardens Activity Center. Members take different workshops and even go to conventions in different parts of the U.S. and the world to meet with other chapters. Outside of the learning, members say they create lasting friendships.
“It is a friendly group and it has been going on so long,” says Penny Hendry, who has been a member since 1980. “The friends you make here are lasting because you work on things together.”
Ikebana Names // Teachers at some ikebana schools give their students names that are passed down from generation to generation. Pat Bonarek, president of Sarasota Chapter No. 115, is called Mi Tei, or Spring Garden. Her teacher in Japan named her Tei, meaning garden. Tei was also a part of Bonarek’s teacher’s name. Flower names in Japan are a legal name that people can use to purchase property and even get divorced and married.