Bamboo Fences

By guest author Jacob Knapp, Horticulturist

Kinkakuji Fence Style at the Bonsai Garden

Bamboo fences, or Takegaki, are beautifully designed partitions that serve to encapsulate and enliven garden space. Since the origin of Takegaki, hundreds of construction styles have emerged. The diversification in Takegaki style is directly linked with Japan’s Momoyama period (1573-1603) in which the tea ceremony was developed and the tea gardens followed. Takegaki became popularized in its use in Buddhist Temple tea gardens, where visitors adored the bamboo partitions and brought the techniques home with them. Thus, many Takegaki styles are named after Buddhist temples such as Kenninji Fence, GinkaKuji fence, and Ryoanji fence. The overall availability of madake bamboo in Japan allowed these styles to spread rapidly all over Japan, and with that came many more styles and sub-styles of Takegaki building.

Teppo Style (Riffle Barrel) on left and right of the West Gate

The Japanese admire the aesthetic of fresh, new, green bamboo. Until recently, it was tradition to replace bamboo annual in accordance with the new year preparations. But as the tradition continues to evolve, the culture now appreciated the nature of the aged and dried, brown bamboo. This was a necessary adaptation to tradition, in my opinion, as it better reflects the element of time in the garden. However, when ringing in the new year, freshly cut, green bamboo used in Kadomatsu decorations better symbolizes the regeneration of a year.

Yotsumi-Gaki Style (Four Eyed Fence) around Tea Garden.

At the Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, we employ a few different styles of Takegaki. At the West Gate of our garden, we craft a Teppo style fence flanked by Yotsumi-Gaki. The Teppo style, or riffle barrel style, is marked by having alternate arrangements of bamboo both on the fronts and backs of the horizontal supports. They alternation from front to back are usually in groups rather than alternating one by one. This style fence is typically considered a screening fence rather than a see-through fence. At the West Gate, we use this non-transparent barrier on both sides of the formal gate. The other style of fence used at the West Gate is the Yotsumi-Gaki fence, or Four Eyed Fence. The four eyed fence is a transparent sub-style of the Teppo fence. Four Eyed Fence style uses large gaps between alternating bamboo pickets in front of and behind the horizontal braces, one by one. This style can also be seen surrounding our tea garden.

Yorai-Gaki Style ( Stockade Fence) at the Natural Garden

Other styles seen in our garden include the Yorai-Gaki (Stockade Fence) and the Kinkakuji Fence. The Yorai-Gaki can be found alongside our natural garden. This style is marked as having sharp pickets of bamboo that cross diagonally. The Kinkakuji Fence style can be seen partitioning our Bonsai garden from the main path. The Kinkakuji Fence is characterized by having a split bamboo beading across the top of the fencing. These fence styles are typically low-lying fences, referred to as foot level fences.

Yotsumi-Gaki Style (Four Eyed Fence) on peripherals of West Gate

Visit to help plan your visit to see this beautiful garden in person!

Source: Bamboo Fences, Isao Yoshikawa, and Osamu Suzuki, 2009.

Floral Arrangements with Roses

Floral arrangements using roses by Horticulturists Mandi Stade and Elizabeth Wesley-Martin 

large arrangement

Tips to keep in mind when working with Roses

  • Remove all foliage below water line to prevent rotten leaves from contaminating the water
  • Cut stems one at a time, at a 45 degree angle. This allows for greater surface area and increase of water uptake.
  • Keep cut roses in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight, heat, drafts, and away from fruit. The gases which fruit emits can cause flowers to become spent quicker
  • Cut roses do best with floral food. You can make your own with sugar and vinegar mixed with water
  • Replace vase water every 2-3 days to prevent bacterial buildup, recut stems every 2-3 days also to prevent the stem from closing off and to allow the water uptake to keep going





Rose Wreath/Crown


  • Cut roses / leaves
  • Wire
  • Floral tape


  • Create wreath form out of wire
  • Wrap wire form with floral tape
  • Cut individual flowers and leaves, keeping at least 1”-2”stem
  • Attach material: wrap floral tape around both the wire form, flowers and leaves
  • Continue around the entire wire form working in the same direction with flowers, leaves and tape


Rose bowl with cut roses and grasses

  • Line rose bowl with greens (grasses, hostas, palms)
  • Fill bowl with water
  • Cut roses / trim all leaves off of rose stems
  • Arrange in a compact form for a modern look

**Combine wreath and bowl arrangements for another centerpiece idea

Wall hanging

Hanging Roses


  • Cut roses
  • Piece of wood, material to hang wire from
  • Wire


  • Cut multiple pieces of wire (at least 18”)
  • Using an end of the wire, pierce the back side of each rose where the stem meets the rose bud
  • Continue this process with preferred amount of roses and cut wire
  • Make sure to keep at least 3” of left over wire to wrap around the wood / hanging material

narrow vase

White Birch Bark Flower Holder arrangement with Roses, Iris leaves, and Ninebark leaves

  • This arrangement is comprised of two birch bark slabs attached together, with 5 small water tubes inserted between the slabs.
  • Fill tubes with water approximately 2/3 full
  • Cut iris leaves to desired length. The tallest iris leaves should be 1 ½ times the height + the diameter of the container. Insert leaves into tubes.
  • Select roses to use, determine the best heights for each rose stem. You’ll want to stagger the lengths of the roses to add dimension to the arrangement. Remove all rose foliage that would fall below the water line. Remove thorns from stems so that they do not interfere with the insertion of other stems into the water tube.
  • Add in additional foliage around the mouth of each water tube to help hide the mouth of the tube. Ninebark foliage was used, but use whatever foliage you have at home.

large arrangement

Bouquet Arrangement in Vase

  • Select the style of vase that you wish to use. A cylindrical vase with a 7 ½” height and 5” opening was used for this arrangement
  • Select the Roses, filler materials, and greenery that you wish to use in the bouquet. Materials used in this arrangement include: pink & yellow Roses, purple Salvia, pink Spirea, Variegated Solomon’s Seal, purple Baptisia, green Hydrangea, and assorted Ferns
  • Fill vase ¾ full with water and floral food. Follow floral food directions on package for best results.
  • Shorten Fern branches to desired length, cut branches on a 45-degree angle, remove any foliage that would be below the water line. Place Fern stems around the entire mouth of the vase, forming a circle of foliage
  • Cut Rose stems on a 45-degree angle, place them in vase. Make sure to stagger the heights of the roses. Next, place in your selection of filler materials around Roses, to fill in bouquet. Lastly, gather your tall upright stalks to place in the center of the vase arrangement to add some height and dimension to the arrangement. Purple Salvia and Baptisia were used in this arrangement, but you can use whatever upright stalks you have on hand at home—tall grasses would also look great. The lengths of your upright branches should be measured to be at least 1 ½ times the height, plus the diameter of your vase.

Fern bowl

Float Arrangement in 8” Rose Bowl

  • Gather 3 rose flowers to use. Rose blooms in assorted sizes(based on how open each flower is)  provides a nice contrast.
  • Gather 3 branches of whatever greenery you wish to submerge and encircle around the inside of the vase. Three Fern fronds were used in this arrangement.
  • Fill rose bowl ¾ full of water
  • Cut stems off Ferns, arrange stems underwater around the inside perimeter of the lower portion of the vase.
  • Cut Rose stems short, leaving only about one inch of stem on the Rose. Place Roses on top of water surface to float

bud vase

Bud Vase Arrangement

  • Hot pink Roses, Switch Grass, and Variegated Japanese Forest Grass were used in this arrangement, but you can use any greens, filler, and flowers that you have on hand
  • Cut three Japanese Forest Grass stems at varying heights and place them all on one side in vase
  • Cut and place three stems of switch grass in vase next to Japanese Forest Grass stems, so that all grasses are arranged going out of the vase in the same direction.
  • Place 1 or 3 roses in the vase (at varying heights if you use 3)

big leaf

Rectangular Vase Arrangement

  • This floral arrangement is comprised of pink Roses, pink and white striped Roses, and spotted Caladium leaves
  • Cut most of the stems off of the Caladium leaves so that there is only a ½ inch or so of stem, place one leaf along one side of the inside of the vase, front side facing the outside of the vase. Then place the second leaf on the other side of the inside of the vase. Caladiums will form a ‘wall’ inside the vase. If you have trouble with the Caladiums staying in place, you can use a narrow rectangular pin frog in the bottom of the vase. Just simply attach the Caladium stems to the pin frog.  Helpful tip: To avoid dropping the pin frog inside the vase and risking the vase breaking, I push a bamboo stake or branch stem into the flower frog, lower the frog into the bottom of the vase, and either wiggle the stem free from the frog, or use another stem to push down on the frog and release the other stem.
  • Fill vase ¾ full with floral food water
  • Cut Rose stems at 45-degree angle, arrange Roses in vase

square vase2

Floating Arrangement in a Square Vase

  • Arrangement contains one Rose, white Daisies, Rabbits Foot Fern frond, and clear gems
  • Place gems in bottom of vase, forming a thin layer
  • Fill vase 2/3 full with water
  • Shorten Fern frond so that ¾ of the foliage is laying in the vase and water, and ¼ of the frond is hanging over the edge of the vase
  • Cut a good portion of the rose stem off, so that there is just about a half inch of stem remaining. Float the Rose flower on the water surface above the Fern frond.
  • Cut stems off of the small Daisies (or whichever small flowers you use) and float at least three blooms around the Rose flower


Submerged Rose in Cylinder Vase

  • Select a vase to use. Be sure to choose a vase which provides enough room for the flower to be fully submerged
  • Select a weighted pin frog that will fit inside the bottom of the vase, preferably a metal frog
  • Insert a bamboo stake or stick into the pin frog, lift and gently lower pin frog into the bottom of the vase. Use another stake or stick to press into the pin frog while you lift and free the other stake loose from the frog
  • Gather gems to submerge into the bottom of the vase to cover the pin frog, leaving one bare spot in the center for the Rose stem to be inserted
  • Shorten Rose stem so that the bloom sits at about ½-2/3 up inside the vase. Insert rose stem firmly into pin frog
  • Add more gems to hide pin frog
  • Slowly pour water into vase and fill water up through the entire vase, submerging the Rose

Irises in Ikebana

Mandi Stade, licensed Sogetsu Ikebana Teacher, 4th Grade (Yonkyu Shihan) and a MI Certified Florist

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, steeped in the philosophy of developing a closeness with nature. When you create an Ikebana arrangement, your goal is to highlight the natural beauty of the Irises in the manner in which you arrange the stems and leaves. You can even add in a small amount of branches from your yard around the outside of the iris branches and leaves to add interest to the arrangement.

ikebana 1

Traditional Ikebana Iris arrangement in shallow black round container (plastic suiban, container is used for a traditional moribana style arrangement).

  1. Find a round shallow container, at least 10-12 inches in diameter. In Sogetsu Ikebana, the shallow container is called a Suiban. The shallow container ideally should be ceramic or plastic, but you whatever you have on hand. It can be plastic, ceramic, glass, or metal. (If you don’t have a shallow container, a pie plate will work in a pinch.) The main goal is to show an expanse of water around the Ikebana arrangement
  2. Place the pin frog in the front right corner of the container
  3. Fill container with water, up to the level which completely submerges the pin frog under water
  4. Remove leaves from Iris stems, set them aside to use in the arrangement. This is a process called Hagumi. In this process, the leaves are taken apart before arranging. This is to be able to change the directions and heights of the leaves as you are placing them in the arrangement
  5. Arrange flower stems at varying heights, ensuring that the open and hanging petals of the flowers face forward towards you. Use at least 3 flowers. Arrange the tallest flowers first
  6. Then add at least two sets of leaves for each flower, encircling each flower around the front and back. One set of three leaves in front, and two leaves in back. Be sure to stagger the heights of the leaves and rotate the directions of the tips as you are arranging the leaves. Tips should be facing each other. Leave at least a finger space between the flower and the leaves
  7. Check to see that the front set of leaves are arranged shorter than the flower, and the rear set are shorter than the front set
  8. Ensure that the pin frog (kenzan in Sogetsu) is well covered by the leaves
  9. Clean any leaf debris out of the water, top off the arrangement if needed

Contents: Siberian iris flowers and leaves with rabbit’s foot fern fronds to help hide the pin frog and add fullness. Water and space are shown in this arrangement—this is an important rule to keep in mind

ikebana first arrangement

This arrangement is a Freestyle Ka-bu-wa-ke style in Sogetsu Ikebana. Ka-bu-wa-ke is an arrangement with two separate groups of flowers in two separate pin frogs. Pay attention to the space between the groups, or Kabu. The water and space which separates the two islands is very important-make sure to show negative space. Materials of one group need to be stronger than the other group. Pin frogs must be well covered.

Contents: Siberian Iris flowers and leaves (bracts), with dwarf korean lilac covering pin frog


Freestyle Ikebana arrangement in ceramic gray round container (container is called Suiban; it is a container that you would use for a traditional moribana style arrangement in Sogetsu Ikebana). When creating a freestyle arrangement, you don’t have as many of the basic ikebana rules to abide by. You will still want to keep a few principles in mind though: use 3 flowers or less, use one type of leaf, keep arrangement minimal and simple, hide pin frog.

Contents: Bearded Iris and Hosta leaves (bracts) in a pin frog (called kenzan in Sogetsu)


Other notes

Deadhead the spent flowers as they expire, encouraging the next flowers to bloom

Keep in mind that as the next flowers bloom, the orientation and position of the flowers will change. Correct the positions of the stems as needed to achieve the design you are envisioning

Irises in Japanese Culture

Japanese irises are often used in Ikebana to celebrate Tango-no-sekku, also known as Boys’ Day, Boys’ Festival in Japan. Boys’ Day is celebrated on May 5. The use of Japanese iris is a way to wish for the healthy growth of all boys, and it is also believed to also dispel evil spirits. In some regions of Japan, they are planted into the eaves of houses and strewn into bath water on Boys’ Day. The Japanese iris symbolizes the bravery/courage of boys. In Japan, the iris represents tall, upright young men, and the leaves are their swords.

To some, May 5 is considered Children’s Day, or Kodomo no hi, to celebrate both boys and girls. Until 1948, May 5 was known as Tango-no-sekku and only honored boys. A separate holiday called Hinamatsuri, or ‘Dolls Day’ celebrated girls on March 3rd. On that day, girls receive dolls that were passed on from their grandmothers and mothers.

Simple Floral Arrangements using Irises

By Elizabeth Wesley-Martin, Horticulturist

Iris close up

Tips to keep in mind when floral arranging:

  • Work with an odd number of flowers: Using an uneven number of flowers can help an arrangement to look more organic and natural.
  • It is best to pick your flowers in the cooler hours of the morning or later in the evening.
  • Cut your stems one at a time, at a 45 degree angle. This allows for greater surface area and increase of water uptake.
  • Change the water daily. If available, filtered water is best.
  • Keep arrangements out of direct sunlight.



Iris Bowl

1st arrangement (dark purple bearded irises in rose bowl)

  • Fill your rose bowl halfway with water
  • Line the bowl with foliage (ferns)
  • Cut the tops of Irises and place them into the water


three vases

2nd arrangement (3 white vases with yellow irises)

  • Using both the iris and iris leaves, place each into a matching vase with water


Iris and leaves

3rd arrangement (Tall arrangement with single bearded iris stem, allium and foliage)

  • Use a single stem with multiple bearded iris blooms to add height to your arrangement
  • Add cuttings of in-season flowers and foliage from your yard
  • Examples of spring / early summer blooms: allium, daffodil, tulip, lilac, tall twigs or branches for more height


Iris 5 vases

4th arrangement (3-5 bud vases with different colored irises)

  • Fill a few bud vases with water
  • Cut your irises at varying heights and place a stem or two into each vase
  • Different varieties and colors of irises can be grouped together, making for a fun statement piece

Conversation with a curator – Rebecca Louise Law

British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law uses dried and fresh plant material to create site-specific installations that dazzle the senses. In Rebecca Louise Law: The Womb, new work by the artist will be presented in an immersive installation in the Balk Gallery. Law’s use of natural materials, mainly floral, encourage the viewer to experience the relationship between humanity and nature. Our Curator of Sculpture and Sculpture Exhibitions Jochen Wierich spoke with Rebecca about her process:

RLL The Womb - Photo by Chuck Heiney (3)

Jochen Wierich: In art school, at the University of Newcastle, you studied painting, but then you switched from painting on canvas to using flowers as a sculptural material. I am curious about your impulse to make the transition from one medium to another. What motivated you?

Rebecca Louise Law: During my time at University, I had the opportunity explore new mediums. My tutors were painters, sculptors and installation artists. I was settled in painting and printmaking but felt challenged by the possibilities of pushing the boundaries of my own practice. Our weekly ‘crits’ asked the question ‘why?’ and I began to research my own motivation for creating art. Nature and colour played center stage and experiences of the natural world from my childhood began to reveal themselves, with art and gardens influencing much of my life from a young age. When I was painting a flower it was never large enough. I wanted my viewer to be drawn into the flower and completely enveloped. I studied colour field painters and loved the way they could draw the viewer in. I began to go large scale with my paintings. It was never large enough, I spent a couple of years trying to break free from the canvas. I wanted to paint in the air, I used food, fabric, plastic and natural materials. I entwined flowers into the work, with mad collective installations and started to see the incredible possibilities of using flowers alone. The preserved flower became my material, I swapped my paints for flowers in 2003.


Jochen: Working with natural material, you are constantly enlarging your collection of flowers and continue to gather from different locations. What have you learned from coming to Grand Rapids and working with the staff and volunteers at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park?

Rebecca: The horticulture and sculpture departments have come together to create an incredible supportive team. Together they have brought many volunteers and staff members to help wire flowers into my installation. The natural produce from the grounds is abundant and everyone is passionate about including it in my ongoing collection of flora.

Jochen: In this exhibition, you have begun to explore the subject of the womb in other media such as painting, glass, and clay. How did this work come about, and how does it grow out of the dried flower installations?

Rebecca: Every installation explores the relationship we have with nature. Behind the large scale works are smaller studies. This installation, The Womb, looks specifically at the sensation of being cocooned in nature. I looked at the womb as a vessel and studied its science and form through paintings and sculptures.

Jochen: You are encouraging visitors that enter the installation to refrain from using their mobile devices. Would you share with me your motivation for this request?

Rebecca: When considering this artwork, it was important to consider the best viewer experience. I have allowed a space for using the phone and taking photographs. But once you enter the artwork, the focus needs to be on a personal experience with nature without distraction. It is important that this artwork has tranquility and peacefulness. I want the viewer to feel cocooned.


Jochen: Your work aligns perfectly with our mission to promote the enjoyment of art and horticulture. What does it mean for you personally to be exhibiting your work in this environment?

Rebecca: It has been inspiring to be surrounded by art and horticulture. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has a beautiful collection entwined within abundant gardens. I’m extremely happy that this exhibition has been made possible here and I’m extremely thankful for the freedom to explore the wonder and beauty of The Womb.


For more information about Rebecca Louise Law: The Wombvisit our website