Many of the prettiest flowers at the Cherry Blossom Festival are blooming in downtown parks, at schoolyards and on historic church grounds.
They can be found in flower beds and backyard gardens from Mumford Road to Daisy Park. They are a labor of love for master gardeners and devout green thumbs.
But you don’t have to dig your fingers in the dirt to be charmed by botanic beauty. You don’t have to venture outside, either, especially if it’s cold, windy or raining.
They can be admired in floral arrangements inside the Woodruff House at the top of Coleman Hill during the festival. And they are on display beneath the domed roof of the Round Building at Central City Park.
The theme of the Ikebana International Middle Georgia Chapter is “friendship through flowers.’’ It certainly has brought these 33 ladies together and allowed them to share their gifts with the community.
Just as the Japanese Yoshino cherry trees have a starring role in Macon’s springtime crescendo, the art of ikebana flower arranging has its roots in Japan. The practice dates back six centuries and is taught by more than 2,000 artistic schools in that country.
Translated, ikebana means “giving life to flowers.’’ It is the practice of creating natural arrangements using flowers, dried stems and leaves. But it is much more involved than sticking large bunches of freshly cut flowers in a vase. There is an emphasis on color, textures, style and simplicity. It truly is an art form.
There are 42 floral arrangements at the Woodruff House and another five inside the Round Building.
And, like art, each flower display takes on the personality of its creator.
Pat Godschalk has an ikebana arrangement on display in the front hallway at the Woodruff House. She and her husband, Dick, moved to Macon from Houston, Texas, in 1983, the first year of the Cherry Blossom Festival. They were both with Charter Medical, so they knew the Ficklings, and bought a home in Wesleyan Woods.
In the late 1980s, Pat joined the local ikebana chapter. Her interest began when she was a girl. Her father was an Army officer, and her family was stationed in Japan, where her mother learned ikebana flower techniques.
The Middle Georgia chapter will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. It should come as no surprise it started in the “international city” of Warner Robins in 1965, since Robins Air Force Base has always had a diverse military population.
There are 267 ikebana chapters in the U.S. and three in Georgia (Atlanta and Augusta are the other two.) Members Yuko Hancock and Jackie Noll have been in the local club the longest, both joining in the late 1960s.
Pat said the club has developed plenty of home-grown talent.
Because the festival covers 10 days, longer lasting flowers such as protea, irises, lilies, Fuji mums, gerbera daisies, orchids and chrysanthemums are often selected. They are accented with everything from bamboo to dried kiwi vine, driftwood and ti leaves.
There is no charge to see the display at the park. Admission to the Woodruff House is $5 during the festival, but well worth it to view the ikebana displays and the rest of the house, which has an interesting history and impressive architecture.
Be sure to take your cameras. Especially if you love flowers. And who doesn’t?