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Appreciation of Camellias

Close observation of the natural world is critical to understanding chabana. One is encouraged to drop all self-reference in order to see clearly each stem as it is, its habitat, its growth pattern, its particular and unique coloration, form, and character, to become familiar with it as it grows. Most of the advice among the Seven Guidelines for Chabana iterated by Rikyu koji is based on such empirical knowledge. For example, place the flowers as they grow in the fields, or in winter use woody-stemmed flowers and in summer, flowering grasses.

Thus from November through April camellias are the primary focus of chabana, often being accompanied by a branch with buds or nascent leaves. Incredibly over 500 varieties of camellia exist. From the Edo Period in Japan, cultivars of this plant group began to be identified and named, often with poetic flair. This was accomplished through close attention to fine details: the shape of buds and early blooming; the colorful scenery of petals; the form of the stamen; the shape and curve of leaves. The poetic names refer to the visual qualities of the camellia flowers or the time of year that they bloom.

The following diagrams of blooming forms and color scenery of camellia varieties highlight the distinct variations that exist within this plant group.

一重咲き Hitoe Single Petal Bloom

Blooms with fewer than 8 petals, and the flower center is standard. There are 7 possible shapes within the Hitoe bloom, noted below.

猪口咲き Choku Cylinder Bloom

Literally "boar snout." Very small blooms, not more than 4 cm diameter. In Wabisuke varieties such as Kochō 胡蝶, Ōwari Wabisuke 尾張侘助, and Kansaki Aka Wabisuke 寒咲き赤侘助.


筒咲き Tsutsu Funnel Bloom

The bloom basically doesn't widen beyond a V-shape. Tendency towards long petals funneling to a widening mouth in varieties such as Sasameyuki 細雪, Ikkyū 一休, or Daisenhaku 大山白.


ラッパ咲き Rappa

In early stages, this bloom is somewhere between a Funnel and a Cup shape. At fuller blooming the petals edges curve back on themselves. Varieties such as Amagashita 天ケ下, Kakure Iso 隠れ磯, and Sakasa Fuji さかさ富士.


抱え咲き Kakae Enfolded Bloom

Also known as Jewel 玉 Bloom. In contrast to the cylinder shapes, the petals hug inward. Although quite popular, camellia of this form are few. Seen in varieties such as Tamagasumi 玉霞, Dainichi no Akebono 大日の曙, Mitsuhime 蜜姫, and so forth.


椀咲き Wan Cup Bloom

The base of the flower is wide and rounded, with an overall shape like a teabowl. Examples include Akebono 曙, Beni Myōrenji 紅妙蓮寺, and Kamo Hon'ami 加茂本阿弥. Flowers shallower at the base, less rounded, and smaller in diameter are known as Sake Cup Bloom 盃咲き, though the differentiation is frequently not noted.


平開咲き Heikai Flattened Bloom

The petals open wide and flat, especially seen in Higo 肥後 Camellias and Yuki ユキ Camellias. The stamens exhibit the hearty appearance of a plum stamen. Examples include Hi no Maru 日の丸, Yukimiguruma 雪見車, Kazebana 風花, and Kumagai 熊谷.


椀咲き Kenben Sword Tip Bloom

Also known as Kikyō キキョウ Bloom. The edges of the flower petals fold inward on themselves sharply, nestling closely together. The shape is most clear when the flower first opens. This shape is seen in Kikutsuki 菊月, Momosuzume 桃雀, and Sukiya 数奇屋.


唐子咲き Karako Chinese Doll Bloom

A single-petaled bloom, whose central stamens and anthers are formed like small flower petals, making a beautiful and tidy flower center. Exemplified in the Bokuhan Camellia 朴伴, Shiro Bokuhan 白朴伴, and Beni Karako 紅唐子. Other names for the Bokuhan Camellia are Jitsugetsu 日月, or Gekkō 月光.


八重咲き Yae Eightfold Bloom

The term refers not only to flowers with a literal eight layers of petals, but applies in general to multi-petaled blossoms with some having as many as 100 petals. The stamens are of the standard upright cylinder shape. Eightfold Bloom camellias mutate readily. Varieties include Ezo Nishiki 蝦夷錦, Shusu Kasane 繻子重, Akashigata 明石潟, and Miura Otome 三浦乙女.


Other blooming forms within the Yae type are shown below.


蓮華咲き Renge Lotus Bloom

A kind of trough is created in the center of each petal by the edges gently curving upward. Each petal is slightly separated from the others. Both features are known as the lotus blooming habit. With a strong sense of 3-dimensionality, this type is much loved in Japan. Examples include the Hagoromo 羽衣, Haru no utena 春の台, and Miyakodori 都鳥.


千重咲き Sen'e Thousandfold Bloom

The abundant petals are arranged in three, four, or more layers. The stamens may be lacking, or merely obscured throughout the entire blooming cycle. The Otome Tsubaki 乙女椿, Kishū Tsukasa 紀州司, and Shiragiku 白菊 are among this type.


宝珠咲き Hōju Mani Jewel Bloom

The inner petals remain tightly clustered around the stamens with the appearance of a Cintamani Jewel, the wish-fulfilling jewel of Kannon. This type occurs within both the Yae Bloom and the Sen'e Bloom. Camellias of this type include Tama Tebako 玉手箱, Yatsuo Nishiki 八尾錦, Koshi no Reijin 越の麗人, and Hōju Sunago 宝珠砂子.


列弁咲き Retsuben Radial Bloom

The flower petals are aligned in a systematic and orderly fashion that radiates outward in multiples of six. It is a variation on the Sen'e type bloom. The type is not so stable and easily reverts to Sen'e. Varieties include Ayako Mai 綾子舞, Miura Kazekuruma 三浦風車, and Hasumijiro 蓮見白.


二段咲き Nidan Two-stage Bloom

Also referred to as the Watchtower Bloom, Yagura 櫓. The stamens rise up conically within the petals, and look like petals themselves. The appearance is as if one flower were set atop another. Few in numbers, the Hanaguruma 花車, Genji Kuruma 源氏車, and Aiaigasa 相合傘 are amongst this type.


牡丹咲き Botan Peony Bloom

A multi-petaled bloom in which the pistils and stamens are broken up and interspersed among the small central petals. The central petals resemble rabbit ears. This type includes Hikaru Genji 光源氏, Shirabyōshi 白拍子, and Shuchūka 酒中花.


獅子咲き Shishi Lion Bloom

Small and large petals mound up to comprise the central flower. Large and small, irregular stamens are both hidden and visible among the petals. Examples are Arajishi 荒獅子, Daikagura 太神楽, Watatsumi わたつみ, and Yuki Tōrō 雪灯籠.


Camellia Color Scenery

縦絞り Tate Shibori
Linear shibori-dyed

小絞り Ko Shibori
Delicate Shibori-dyed

吹き掛け絞り Fukikake Shibori
Blown-on Shibori-dyed

白筋入り Shiro Suji Iri
White Streaked

白覆輪 Shiro Fukurin
White Edged

星斑 Hoshi Madara
Starry Blush

雲状斑 Unjō Madara
Cloud Form Blush

横杢斑 Yokomoku Madara
Wood Grain Blush

底白 Soko Shiro
White Depth

紅覆輪 Beni Fukurin
Red Edged



Painted camellia pictures by Nagai Sokei Sensei 永井宗圭 from No ni saku chabana zufu 野に咲く茶花図譜.


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