At my class in Torquay this week, my student Leonie created an ikebana arrangement on the theme: 'Memories of Summer Holidays'. I must say I really enjoy this theme as the variety of interpretations is so great and also very personal.

This is Leonie's work, a simple arrangement reflecting the south-coast environment using driftwood and some green Amaranthus. She has slanted the amaranthus capturing the feeling of the prevailing westerly winds experienced on the coast. By extending the driftwood beyond the vessel the arrangement conforms to the exercise: 'Incorporating the area around the vessel'.

Last Tuesday, the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International held its first meeting for 2018. The theme for the meeting was also the same one: 'Memories of Summer Holidays'. Below are four arrangements that particularly caught my attention because of the surprising idea that was the inspiration for each work. 

This is by Lara Telford, who had returned from 3 months in Tokyo at the Sogetsu Head Quarters to find that her garden had become a 'jungle' through which she had to carve a path to the front door. 

Beverley Webster was very pre-occupied over the summer with the 're-stumping' of her house. She incorporated one of the jacks used to lift the house and an intense blue hydrangea that kept her spirits up during the process.

Lucy Papas remembered her holiday to the Maldives and in particular the beautiful scenes of colourful corals under the water.

Chieko Yazaki remembered summer camp holidays of her childhood. Her cheerful arrangement represents the joy of children playing around a pool in the warm days of summer.

There were more arrangements which can be seen at this link, Ikebana International Melbourne.

Greetings from Christopher
17th February 2018


The beginning of 2018 is turning out to be an exceptionally busy time. Among other things, on the ikebana front I have been involved in preparations for a forthcoming exhibition by members of the Ikebana International Chapter which will take place in March.

Continuing on from last week's theme of first classes for 2018, my student Val made her first arrangement using a 'vertical fixture' in a nageire style vase. That is a tall, straight-sided vessel. This is a challenging style and to reduce the stress we started with the 'slanting' version which is a little easier. 

In a 'slanting' arrangement the longest line (Shin) is leaning at a 45 degree angle. In this case coming forward of the vase toward the left side. The vertical fixture within the vase is not visible and has the function of holding the stem firmly in place so that it does not rotate.

My own ikebana this week returns to an earlier theme, that of the material Moonah melaleuca lanceolata, which I dealt with two weeks ago. 

Some of the flowers I had gathered back then held together without dropping for several days. I teamed them with some white spider chrysanthemums in a blue vase. The vase is by Mark Bell, a ceramicist working in Maine USA. 

Greetings from Christopher
11th February 2018


In this part of the world a new year of ikebana has begun, and life will soon become very busy. I have enjoyed the summer break which has allowed me to spend some additional time in the garden. Firstly, keeping it alive through the hot dry weather and, secondly, re-potting and planting things in the conservatory that had become overgrown.

I held my first classes for the year last Thursday and it was good to see familiar faces and some new ones as well. The new students were made welcome by the advanced students who shared advice about where to find branch and other materials for classes. I had set some students the exercise of making an arrangement expressing their 'summer holidays'. 

Leonie made this light open arrangement with one of the agonis shrubs from Western Australia. She said it grows beside the driveway and was in need of pruning as it had grown so well in the past few months. Leonie has added a small group of Lisianthus, Eustoma, at the base as a focal point.

Val has used some dried grass flower heads, geranium and yet-to-open white 'wind flowers', all representing the red, green and white colours of her Christmas celebration. To these she has added the additional elements of summer fruit and a champagne flute.

Kim's work reflected his summer walks with his dog on the beach. On the bottom of a clear glass vase he has placed a water-worn stone, that seemed to float above the base; the inner bones of two cuttlefish suspended between the sides of the vase; and a branch that had washed up on the beach.

My own ikebana is a Basic Upright moribana. This is the first exercise in the Sogetsu curriculum, which I demonstrated to the new students. I have used an unknown woody weed and yellow roses in a blue ceramic suiban. For all its simplicity, this foundational arrangement has an elegant and fresh appearance.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd February 2018


Summer time is the main flowering season of the Moonah, melaleuca lanceolata, which grows extensively on the cliff tops at Torquay. 

As the 'bottle-brush' flowers are at the end of the branches, the effect during the flowering is of a mass of white covering most of the bushes. 

Here on the cliffs they are low growing, hugging the ground, looking very neat and compact having been 'trimmed' by the wind.

In such exposed situations the branches become beautifully contorted into quite extraordinary shapes. When these larger branches fall into the sea and become bleached driftwood, the branch surface can have a quite satiny appearance.

Away from the strong winds, Moonah can grow into small trees with a lovely dense canopy. They are to be seen in some of the older gardens in Torquay, like this one growing in Pearl St.

I decided to make a 'mass and line' ikebana arrangement using some Moonah in a ceramic vessel with warm earthy characteristics. The vessel was made by Margaret Hall, Director of the Australian Sogetsu Teachers Association Inc, New South Wales Branch. 

Greetings from Christopher
27th January 2018


We were in Melbourne on Friday and Saturday this week so we had an early morning walk around the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens, before the heat of the day hit. (The temperature got up to 44 C on Friday afternoon).

This pavilion in the gardens is called the Temple of the Winds and sits on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the Yarra River to the north. Around it are plants tolerant of poor quality dry soils because of the rocky soil and the exposure to the north.

At this time of year the 'herbaceous border', in front of the former residence of the garden's Director, is absolutely in its prime. This lovely building is no longer a residence but is used as a reception venue. 

We have been watching the level of the ornamental lake slowly getting lower, with some concern. The heavy rain in November helped considerably to maintain an acceptable level. If there is sufficient intermittent rain we may be spared from seeing the mud at the bottom.

However, enjoying the mud, the garden staff have planted 'Sacred Lotus', nelumbo nucifera, at  the edge of the lake. This is the first time I have seen this plant in the gardens and it looks a treat. The botanic gardens in Adelaide South Australia also have a wonderful pond that is full of them in the summer.


I think this alone is a good enough reason to call the flower 'sacred'. I have never before seen such a luminous lotus flower.


Neither have I seen the seed capsule forming within the flower before...


...and this...
                   ...sublime nature.

On Monday morning last week Laurie and I were given this huge bouquet of flowers, to celebrate our marriage that was to take place later that day.

Laurie is in the background reflected in the mirror. Here is a link to some wedding photos.

By the end of the week I had to deconstruct the bouquet. I salvaged the lotus pods and teamed them with two agapanthus flowers in this simple vertical arrangement for a party at Torquay.

Greetings from Christopher
21st January 2018


I was amused to note that, in her blog last week, my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos also reported about strategies for preserving hydrangeas through the blistering 41 Celsius heat. As I mentioned in last weeks posting, we were fortunate that we only had one isolated hot day. 

Since then the last two days have brought an unexpectedly good steady rainfall. This has occurred because the weather pattern in the south east of Australia has dragged warm moist air from a tropical cyclone in the north west of the continent. A blessing for us. The same storm system is now bringing good rainfall further south in Western Australia.

Enough of the weather report. This week I noticed that the casuarinas which had to be lopped 18 months ago are really growing strongly again.

I posted this photograph last January when I first noticed the trees re-sprouting. They had been in poor health having been infected by boring beetles. I am hoping that they do not get re-infected.

Elsewhere in the garden the scabiosa atropurpurea is becoming very leggy so I have cut off a lot of the old seed heads.

This is how it looked a few seasons ago when it went wild and began to look like a meadow.

Scabiosa works beautifully as a full, but quite open, arrangement expressing the abundance of the late Spring early Summer season. The chun glazed ceramic bowl is by Graeme Wilkie.

These are the hydrangea flowers, still on the bush, that I managed to salvage from last week's heat. It will be interesting to see if I can nurse them through to the autumn.

Here is an arrangement I created with some I had picked before the heat struck. The double line is in fact a single New Zealand flax leaf that I partially split. The large wood fired vessel is also by Graeme Wilkie.

Greetings from Christopher
14th January 2018


Wishing you a happy New Year in this my first post for 2018.

Two days ago the maximum temperature in Torquay was about 28 Celsius. Yesterday it was about 41C with hot dry winds from the north. This morning it is cool and still below 20C. A single very hot day is unusual, but much better than several in succession. It points out the folly of growing plants that are not really suited to the climate. 

I can only grow hydrangeas in pots, where they can be placed in semi-shade. The lack of shelter from hot north winds and the dry soil in our garden makes this an unsuitable environment even for a more skilled gardener than I am. The photo above was taken on 22nd December 2016.

I watered the pots three times yesterday but was not able to prevent the sun/heat damage.

Fortunately we knew the hot day was coming, so on the previous evening I picked a number of the better blooms in advance of the heat. Later today I will remove the damaged flowers and hope that there may be some more flowers produced by Autumn.

This morning when we walked down to the beach we passed this Corymbia Ficifolia which, being a native of Western Australia, was unscathed by yesterday's heat.

In fact I think a few more flowers blossomed yesterday, but there is no sign of heat stress.


My attention was caught by the noisy twittering of a number of Rainbow Lorikeets that were feeding on the nectar of the flowers.


I made today's ikebana using two hydrangea flower-heads and the stems of Strelitzia Juncea. I used the stems to create a design with strong lines to harmonise with the lines in the vase. The ceramic vase was made by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery in Lorne.

Greetings from Christopher
7th January 2018


The radio news reported extra cold weather in Canada and the internet says that in Ottawa it is minus 23C, but feels like minus 28C! Our friends from the UK have had snow but are not quite so cold. They wrote to us remembering a warm Christmas in Australia 3 years ago. A couple of days ago here on the 'surf coast' the temperature got up to 33 Celsius.

The day before that, Boxing Day, the temperature was in the high 20's and we went for a long walk in Iron Bark Basin, which sits above Point Addis beach.  

Many people were enjoying the summer weather on the beach and in the water. Other people were enjoying a birds-eye view.


The trees in the foreground are causurinas, which are mostly found on the cliff edge. 

This photo is taken further away from the cliffs  and shows the characteristic nature of the bushland of the nature reserve, where the understory has become dominated by the local Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoeas) since the terrible bush fires of 1983. I really like the way there is no visible horizon, just mass of grey tree trunks that recede into the distance.

I was pleased to see this pink ground orchid, Dipodium roseum...

and this delightful...

...very small Fringed Lily Thysanotua tuberosus.

On an earlier walk I had photographed this cluster of dainty Centaurium erythraea. For many years I had thought this to be a native plant. However, some years ago now, my friend Fermi informed me that it was an introduced species that had naturalised.

My big surprise about two weeks ago was to see this gecko one night outside on a glass door. I took the photo without a flash so it is somewhat blurred. I had thought geckos were tropical lizards. A friend of Rosemary and David's identified it as Christinus Marmoratus, which is widely distributed across southern Australia. We live and learn.

This year we had Christmas lunch with my brother and his family in their new house and I offered to create a 'welcoming ikebana' for the entrance.

This provided some interesting challenges. Firstly I set the arrangement against a mirror on a long narrow, hall table. This meant I had to ensure that the back of the arrangement looked attractive as it showed in the mirror. Because the table was about two metres long I was able to extend the width of the arrangement by using a pair of matching vases and and connecting them with Gymea leaves. The flowers were hydrangeas from our garden. The mirror made it difficult to photograph because of the busy reflected room beyond.

This year I made a 'Christmas Tree' from the stripped branches of a poplar tree. 

The tree was effectively floating, being suspended from the ceiling and decorated with star-like spinifex sericeus seed-heads, and with gold and silver baubles. I then filled a large ceramic bowl with an abundance of baubles. The inspiration for the last idea I owe to my student Helen, see last week's blog.

Wishing you happiness and peace in the New Year. Greetings from,
31st December 2017