Patricia Hill says she is unused to looking backward. “But I
see threads running through my life,” she said. “I see my love of
different sports and of flowers and gardens.
“My mother had a beautiful garden, which passersby stopped to
admire. Ever since I discovered the description of a dilettante in a
Thomas Mann novel, I could see myself there, dipping into anything and
everything as it happened.”
Hill was a child during World War II when she lived in
southeast England. The daughter of a schoolteacher, she was a lively
young person “dipping into things.”
She was still only in her mid-teens in the early ’50s when
she first met her husband. She impressed him. He was a naval lieutenant
on board a ship at a naval base that she visited.
Two years later when he sailed to Japan, he was thinking of
her and sent her, still a schoolgirl, a book on ikebana. He had
remembered, he said, the lavish flowers in her home.
“Richard was a navigator in and out of ports on different
ships,” Hill said. “I was at University College London when we married.”
She spent some time as his wife, then as mother of his children, waiting
at port for his ship to put in.
At one stage she had with her three children under the age of
2, including twins. Hill called upon all her latent dilettantism to help
her dip into things. She breezed her way along.
While she was still on her own, Hill studied and worked for a
pharmaceutical company. Later, as her children reached school age, she
qualified as a math teacher.
“I didn’t go far with teaching, as I found I really didn’t
like children en masse well enough.” She went for a third option, and
became a research assistant at Southampton University.
She played her part as a naval wife. In 1975, when Richard
was named defense attache in Holland, new ways opened for her. “I had
more leisure time in Holland than I had in England,” she said. “I
studied the Dutch language, and I took ikebana lessons.” In finding the
Ichiyo School of Ikebana, she also found a clear, different direction
In 1983, after 40 years’ service, Richard retired from the
Royal Navy. In London he joined the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns
of Court, where he worked as undertreasurer and chief executive. He
edited the quarterly magazine Naval Review, and researched for and wrote
10 books on naval strategy and naval history.
At this time in London, Hill joined the Ikebana Center. With
one assistant she began her own business East West flowers and continued
to study at the Ichiyo School. She became a master of the Ichiyo School
For East West Flowers, each week Hill arranged floral
displays for big-name Japanese restaurants in London. She was on call to
provide the flower arrangements for large parties and
Hill left the Ikebana Center, and closed East West Flowers in
2001, when she became president of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, U.K.
chapter. The Ichiyo School appealed to Hill as it was only her own age
and mirrored her own outlook. Its aim was to create original ikebana
suitable for contemporary environments. Hill’s own unbound style felt at
home with the Ichiyo philosophy.
The Ichiyo School U.K. Chapter always puts on its own stand
at the Chelsea Flower Show, London. Although Hill does not look
backward, she can announce at once that in 20 years of participation,
the Ichiyo School U.K. Chapter has won 13 gold medals. She said, “There
was always a group of several people making arrangements for the stand
at Chelsea. I was one of the group winning a gold medal six times.”
When the London Science Museum opened its robotic exhibition
attended by Prince Charles and the Crown Prince of Japan, Hill arranged
the massive celebratory floral arrangements ordered by the
The present headmaster of the Ichiyo School, Akihiro Kasuya,
is the third in descent from the original founder of the school. He is
keen to set up instruction centers in other countries. His most recent
visit to Chelsea two years ago coincided with the U.K. Chapter’s
receiving the silver medal for its entry, Hanamichi. It was, Hill said,
“inspired by the idea of a Kabuki actor going on stage.”
Last year, Hill paid her fourth visit to Japan. Each time she
has come in connection with Ikebana International conferences. She
participated with her own unique arrangement in the 9th Ikebana
International World Convention in Tokyo last October.