Western style arrangements typically consist of a free form assemblage of flowers in a container. In contrast, Ikebana is more of a disciplined form of art, governed by well_defined rules, principles and techniques. For example, certain precepts regulate elements like the light and the shadows. There is also what is known as the three points of balance _ shin_fuku_tai in Japanese _ which symbolize man, heaven and earth, respectively, and that have to be in harmonious equilibrium in order to give true life to an Ikebana flower arrangement. This and the fact that stems and branches are used in addition to flowers, are perhaps the most obvious differences with western_style flower arrangement.
Putting it all together _ Once you have selected your flowers and vase, its time to start putting things together. If possible, first cut each flower stem diagonally about one inch from the bottom while holding the end of the stem under warm water. Use your kitchen sink or a large basin. This helps ensure each stem will absorb moisture and nutrients easily. As you cut each flower, transfer it to a temporary "work" vase, which should be halfway full of water.