He Grows Over 500 Chrysanthemum Flowers From Just One Stem

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SINGAPORE - Would you spend 18 months growing a flower that blooms for only one month before it wilts?

Not many people would but 68-year-old Japanese horticulturist Mr Shinichi Suzuki is one such person who undertakes this painstaking process called senrinzaki.

He cultivates over 500 chrysanthemum flowers from a single plant stem and arranges the branches in a dome-shape frame.

When done successfully, all the yellow chrysanthemum flowers bloom in unison.

Senrinzaki, which means a thousand blooms, is a Japanese flower cultivation technique where hundreds of chrysanthemum flowers bloom from a single plant and last for just a month. Chrysanthemum is the most commonly used flower for this arrangement, although other plants with soft stems such as poinsettia and cosmos can also be grown using this technique.

"I want to make a masterpiece. If everyone can do it, then it won't be a challenge," says Mr Suzuki,who hails from Nihonmatsu city in Fukushima prefecture in Japan. He spoke to the Straits Times through a translator.

Mr Suzuki was in Singapore earlier this month to oversee the setting up of three of his senrinzaki arrangements in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay as part of the Dahlia Dreams floral exhibition.

Each of the arrangement has at least 500 flowers with the largest at 2m wide.

He is one of seven horticulturists in Japan, and possibly the world, who is skilled in senrinzaki.

Ozukuri, the original art form of the dome-shape floral formation, dates back to the 19th century in Japan and usually consists of 200 to 300 blooms. Master growers from Nihonmatsu have since refined this technique to produce senrinzaki, which allows for the intricate arrangement of at least 500 flowers and can go up to over 1,000.

Typically, chrysanthemum flowers in autumn, in September and October, when daylight is shorter. Chrysanthemum is a symbol of royalty in the Japanese culture.

To have the flowers bloom out of season in January to coincide with the Dahlia Dreams exhibition is a challenge that Mr Suzuki gamely took up.

Not only are the flowers currently in full bloom, but he has also cultivated the flowers in a way that a new flower will bloom in place of one that might wilt prematurely.

"If you care for it 100 times, the final results will be 100 times better," he says.

Mr Suzuki has been growing chrysanthemum flowers as a hobby since his retirement in 1999 and it took him four to five years to master the senrinzaki technique. Even then, he has had his fair share of failure over the years, as there is no guarantee that the arrangement will flourish each time.

The three senrinzaki displays in the Flower Dome marks the first time his blooms have been displayed outside of Japan.

He says he is happy to see the public appreciating and taking photos with his floral arrangements.

The Dahlia Dreams exhibition, which runs during the Chinese New Year period, showcases a wide variety of dahlias, with some blooms as large as 25cm, set in a scenic landscape with Chinese pavilions, rotating water wheels and a 40m-long archway of red lanterns.

BOOK IT / DAHLIA DREAMS

WHERE: Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive

WHEN: Till Feb 24, 9am to 9pm

ADMISSION: Singapore residents ($10.80 for one conservatory and $18 for two conservatories); Foreigners ($28 for two conservatories)

INFO: www.gardensbythebay.com.sg