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Chrysanthemum, Queen of Autumn.

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 1253805. New York Public LibraryA Rich Display of Chrysanthemums (Image from NYPL Digital Gallery)

The chrysanthemum, which "occupies the sovereign position in autumn," has particular pride of place in Japanese culture. The blossoms can be spotted on the Japanese royal crest, in elaborate floral arrangements, at mealtimes as an edible accompaniment, and as an element in Japanese design. And for the next few weeks, chrysanthemums take center stage at the New York Botanical Garden. Until November 16th, visitors to the New York Botanical Garden can take in Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum.

In addition to the impressive flowers themselves--be sure to see the four Imperial styles of chrysanthemum arrangements, including the type pictured above in which each plant produces just a single, brillant blossom--don't neglect to take in an accompanying small exhibition of chrysanthemums in art. Of all of the lovely objects included in this display, I was especially drawn to a number of delicately executed stencils in paper and silk used to decorate textiles. After admiring these stencils, I returned to the Library and found books of Japanese stencil patterns from the late 19th century (in Stencils of Old Japan and The Book of Delightful and Strange Designs). These patterns remain inspiring and inviting to the eye today, and I'm pondering what I might use these patterns for in the future. To learn more about Japanese stencil work, I'd also recommend Japanese Design through Textile Patterns (which devotes an entire chapter to the chrysanthemum) and Carved Paper: The Art of the Japanese Stencil.

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