My friend took me to visit the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, and in one of the greenhouses we found the exhibit called “Kiku, a Spotlight on Tradition.” Kiku, or 菊, is Japanese for chrysanthemum. I’m obviously stereotyping, but if the Japanese are involved, but you know some really impressive displays of ingenuity, technique, and artistry are going to happen.

Perhaps the greatest display of growing prowess is this: the ozukuri, or “thousand bloom.” It takes 11 months of cutting and growing to make this from a single quarter-inch stem. ONE STEM. How?!

I think this involves splitting the stem into 100 different pieces iteratively, tying them individually to wire holders, letting them grow, then trimming it so each stem only has one flower.

ozukuri, “thousand bloom”

According to the internet, chrysanthemum tea is made out of the ordinary-looking white or yellow blooms. Of course, the Japanese cultivators take that to a whole new level by growing a solid and uniform layer from only one stem. It’s called the  cascade form, or kengai. Typical.

also grown from a single stem

The chrysanthemum, considered one of the most beautiful and regal of flowers, is the imperial seal of the Japanese emperor. I would tell you more about Japanese chrysanthemum breeding and technique (e.g. mini blooms in the style of bonsai trees). However, I didn’t document it very carefully because I was too distracted by taking hard-core macro flower shots.

dichromatic petals

These were some of the most magnificently photogenic flowers I’ve seen. I know the ones you find in a botanical garden exhibit are the cream of the crop (literally), but man, the chrysanthemums really popped. They give the Santa Barbara roses a run for their money.

Flower shots like these are the reason why I got my macro lens. I have a whole macro page and… two blog posts [1] [2] about macro shooting? The point is that I’ve been sorely missing macro shooting in New York City, and I was thrilled to be back.

the white circular wire isn’t flower, but the pink is a spider chrysanthemum

Oh, apparently, a nickname for chrysanthemums is “mums.” Thanks internet!

That’s all I got. Peace out.



PS. If you want to read more about kiku in Japanese culture, here’s a piece in the NYTimes about the NYBG exhibit two years ago.