Earlier this year I planted some annuals in the garden that have started to flower. Only one of my half dozen poppy seedlings have survived the ravages of the snails. However, it is flowering well. Delicate white blooms...


 ...with the smallest flush of pink on the underside of the petals.

The nasturtiums I planted have gone quite rampant, much to my delight. They have stated to climb the fence. I am intrigued to discover that the stems of the leaves have the capacity to loop around a branch and hold it quite firmly, thus supporting the climbing stem.

In the late afternoon light the flowers seem to glow with their own inner light.

This bush is a local, called Coastal Beard Heath (Leucopogon parviflorus) * . It can make a good wind break as it is tolerant of the salty winds we experience by the sea.  

At this time of year it is covered with minute slightly fragrant flowers. They look quite amazing in this enlarged close-up photo.

This ground cover, with delightful small bluish-mauve daisy flowers, is known as a Cut-leaf Daisy (Brachyscome multifida) * . It spreads slowly and and makes a lovely dense mat. 


This week's ikebana has a variety of Spring flowers gathered from a garden in Melbourne. It includes a stem of bamboo, two kinds of begonia, an unknown red-orange annual and some very tiny succulent flowers. The vessel is a celadon dish by the ceramic artist Alistair Whyte * .

Greetings from Christopher
24th September 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information.


On Friday evening the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter annual exhibition closed after 10 days and three changes of the smaller works. The following photos are to try to give a feel of the overall appearance and layout of the space we used.

As visitors entered the doors from the street the first thing they saw was the three shoji screens directly in front of them framing three domestic scaled ikebana works. To the right is the wide opening into the second, larger room.

The two rooms of the gallery are are on the ground floor of the Melbourne Town Hall. This photo shows the first room with the door on the left that opens onto the footpath of the main north/south road through the city centre of Melbourne.

This general view of the second room was taken on the opening day of the exhibition. On the left hand side Mrs Chieko Yazaki, President of I.I. Melbourne, is guiding Ms Keiko Hanada, the Consul-General of Japan for Victoria and Tasmania, around the exhibition.

The two photos above try to capture the feel of the second room. The windows look onto the main street. (The white cards on the floor are 'do not touch' signs.)

For the third session of the exhibition I created my own ikebana. The challenge for a curator, me in this case, was to do something that did not require a great deal of work setting it up because I needed to assist others first. Prior preparation and simplicity in execution were of the essence.

My ikebana turned out very difficult to photograph satisfactorily because of the height of the sedge leaves, over 2 metres above the floor, so were above my head. Because the plinth was only 30cms high, at close quarters the large bowl was viewed from above.

Also, I arranged the low plinth so that it projected from the wall. This meant that the arrangement was seen from three distinctly different angles.

In this photo you can see that the leaves were arranged in two groups on either side of the large piece of 'driftwood'.

I have used Australian native materials: banksia, coastal sword sedge and moonah driftwood; in a large vessel by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery * .

Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter Exhibition Photos Sessions B and C * .

Greetings from Christopher
18th September 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information.


The annual exhibition of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter has opened and will continue until Friday 16th September. 

We have the great fortune to have the exhibition located in two rooms on the ground floor of the Melbourne Town Hall. The exhibition space opens directly onto the footpath of the main street on the north south axis of the city centre. 

This year the exhibition has been divided into three sessions with individual arrangements being changed each session. Some large group arrangements, one from each of the five schools represented in Melbourne, have been set up and will remain for the entire exhibition.

One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is that it provides the unfamiliar viewer, who may just wander in from the footpath, with a snapshot of the historical development of ikebana from the time of the formalisation of the Rikka style at the end of the 16th century to the present day. 

This Rikka was created by Yukako Braun, Melbourne Head of the Ikenobo School *  .

The founder of the Shogetsudo Koryu School * drew on the teachings of the 13th Century Buddhist philosopher Eison Shogetsudo when he formalised his ideas about this ikebana form, shoka, in the latter part of the 18th century. The example above was created by Chieko Yazaki, Head of the Shogetsudo Koryu School in Melbourne.

Toward the end of the 19th century Unshin Ohara * developed the moribana (shallow tray) style. Lyn Wong created this Spring arrangement.

In 1927 Sofu Teshigahara founded the Sogetsu School * , which encourages the free expression of the advanced ikebanist. The work above was created by Emily Karanikolopoulos.

In 1937 the brother and sister Meikof and Ichiyo Kasuya founded the Ichiyo School * and emphasised that ikebana must fit its environment and express the emotions and character of the ikebanist. Kaye Wong created this multi-vessel Spring ikebana.

Photos of the first session of the exhibition are on the Ikebana International Melbourne * blog.

Greetings from Christopher
10th September 2016

Historical references are from 'The History of Ikebana' by Kudo Masanobu, Shufunomoto Co. Ltd. 1986

* Click on the blue text for further information


Three days ago was the first day of Spring and the evidence is in the garden. The apricot that I pruned about 3 months ago had its first flowers open this week.

This one at the tip of a branch was so high I had no choice but to photograph it against the slightly cloudy sky.

I was able to get up close to these two blossoms on a lower branch.

When I went for a walk yesterday evening I was delighted to see this Running Postman * kennedia prostrata flowering quite prolifically beside a beach carpark. 

We have planted it in our garden but it is not doing as well as in the photo above.

Some of my students are having their first lessons in the slanting nageire (tall, straight- sided vase) style. This is an elegant form of ikebana, but takes quite a bit of practise to get the branches fixed securely at the correct angles.

The arrangement above, using flowering prunus branches and a native 
leptospermum *,  was made by Val.

In another class, Maureen created this interesting freestyle nageire. The exercise was to use pine and any other material. Because she found the fine curving lines of the pine interesting, to emphasise them she removed all the large needles. She has contrasted the pine with Pinwheel flower of a leucospermum * .

My ikebana this week is a massed arrangement of chrysanthemum flowers in a visually strong ceramic vessel by Pippin Drysdale * . The vase is decorated with fine alternating lines of blue and red glaze; so I have kept the mass very low and left a space on the righthand side to reveal the intense red interior of the vase.

Remember the Ikebana International Exhibition starts in Melbourne on Tuesday next, 6th to 16th September.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd September 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


The native clematis * (clematis microphylla) is flowering in profusion again at this time of year.

Although this vigorous climber is seen throughout Australia, excepting the Northern Territory, I am intrigued that it was not seen at all in this area during my childhood. However, I have often commented that much of the area where we now live was a quite degraded environment back then, being largely grassy sheep paddocks bare of other vegetation. With the subdivision of those paddocks for housing in the 1960's and 70's, many people planted Australian native plants. Some of which, like this clematis, have flourished and seeded abundantly.

These photos were taken on the sand dunes and clifftops where the clematis forms its masses of flowers as it climbs over the top of other low growing plants.

The mass of the flowers is quite spectacular for its density.

Here it is growing over a 'tea tree' * (leptospermum laevigatum).

My 'recycled' ikebana uses the apricot branches that I used in the 'Arts Trail' exhibition last week which have now produced some dainty white flowers in the warmth of our living room.

I have contrasted them with the Japanese Flowering Quince that were also in that previous arrangement. They are now somewhat more pale. The salt glazed vase is by Gail Nicholls * (the link also includes other ceramic artists).

If you are in Melbourne between 6th and 16th of September be sure to catch the Ikebana International Annual Exhibition in the Community Gallery of the Melbourne Town Hall.

Greetings from Christopher
27th August 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


Last weekend in Torquay and nearby towns many artists and art groups opened the doors of their studios to the general public in a two day event organised by our Shire Council called the Arts Trail * . In Torquay I teach an ikebana class through an organisation called the University of the Third Age * . This organisation operates on a learning exchange model. It is targeted at people in the 'third age' of their lives, having finished with full-time employment and childrearing.

As part of the Arts Trail my students and I held a collaborative exhibition with members of the Probus Art Group over the weekend. Paintings and drawings in a variety of media were hung on the walls of a large community space and our ikebana was placed on tables around the room.

These next photos are of the individual arrangement. I was quite interested to see how the first two changed as the flower buds opened.


 Above, by Leonie.




... and Ros.

For my arrangement I used a vase given to me by Doreen Schofield, a longstanding member of the Sogetsu School and Ikebana International in Melbourne.   

I used apricot branches and Japanese Flowering Quince from our garden, and camellia leaves. The vase was made by the New Zealand potter, Keith Blight, and is a slab construction of marbled clay.

Greetings from Christopher
20th August 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


This week the first of the climbing Lorraine Lee * roses has opened. This is a prolifically flowering Alister Clark * rose that has a lovely, light sweet perfume. 

The rose is growing on a pergola and is usually ravaged by marauding possums which like to eat the soft new growth of the plant, and the ornamental grape that also grows on the pergola. So far this season they have not done any damage. I live in hope.

Here is a cluster of blossoms on a branch that overhangs the garden path.

In keeping with these late winter images, my teacher recently set our class the exercise of arranging camellia with a second different material, of any kind. 

I decided to make a modern arrangement of bare apricot branches (plenty of these to spare after the winter pruning) and a rich pink camellia. I have spaced the branches irregularly and braced  them across a suiban. The branches then provide support for the flower stems allowing me to show the space below them without using a kenzan. 

Follow the link here to Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter * blog. The AGM was held last Tuesday, at which meeting there were demonstrations from the Sogetsu, Shogetsudokoryu, Ohara and Ikenobo schools. 

Greetings from Christopher
14th August 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


The winter flowering plants are really brightening up the garden.

This year the white Japonica, given to me by my ikebana friend Joan, has flowered well and in advance of the red Japonica.  

The prostrate Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia Baileyana) in this photo is situated in front of a strelitzia and in the background is the upright form of the wattle. 

As you can see the prostrate form has continued its spread underneath a bush of Pomederris paniculosa, and now extends to the right emerging into the sunshine on the other side of the bush.

At the beginning of the week I was asked to assist Chieko Yazaki, Melbourne Head of the Shogetsudokoryu school * and the president of Ikebana International Melbourne, to set up some ikebana for a reception at the home of the Consul-General of Japan.

This arrangement of late winter flowering plants, including: cherry branches, chrysanthemum,  iris and asiatic lilies, was made by Chieko...

... as was this table centre arrangement, with nandina, pine, narcissus and Japanese flowering quince.

I made this arrangement, also for the dining table, using banksia (b. intregrifolia) and Coast Sword Sedge (lepidosperma gladiator) leaves. Because of the length of the table we deliberately extended the arrangements sideways and kept them low.

Above is a small arrangement I made for the mantle shelf in the dining room, using apricot and cherry branches, iris and camellia leaves.

As a westerner and teacher of ikebana to, mostly, other westerners I was interested to learn from my Melbourne based colleague Lara Telford * that she had been invited to contribute an article to the International Journal of Ikebana Studies *  Vol 3. 2015. I really enjoyed reading Lara's article and feel she has addressed many of the questions that have been issues for me. I have re-printed her article in full below.

Greetings from Christopher
7th August 2016

Ikebana - A Global Phenomenon.
Is it a paradox to teach ikebana in the West and not being Japanese? I ask myself sometimes if I measure up to my Japanese fellow teachers. Although I teach using Sogetsu textbooks, am I able to pass on the very essence of Ikebana to my students? Have I touched on its unique and elusive spirit myself? Is everyone destined to find it in their own way? Although Ikebana has evolved in Japan from flower offerings in Buddhist temples and flourished to contemporary installations of Sogetsu school, is it still Japanese or has  it transcended its borders? Many questions but a few answers.
It's very challenging to teach Ikebana in the West. The major barrier is the Japanese language, or lack of it in my case. I discovered Ikebana, like many of us later in life, and it's definitely too late to study Japanese, become fluent and read The Chronicles of Japan. There is no professional Ikebana literature in English- just picture books, and some with 1-2-3 steps. School publications and magazines are mainly in Japanese with a small percentage of articles translated into English.
Masters' visits are rare and their command of English is not strong enough to talk about concepts, philosophy, or current direction of the school. I remember my first trip to Japan. I was astonished by Japanese aesthetics, the attention to detail, fascination with nature and the urge for beauty. I'll never forget my first Ikebana lesson in Sogetsu Headquarters. By the time I decided on flowers and picked the vase from huge variety on the shelves, half of the lesson had gone. Then I struggled with an instructor's help to secure too heavy branches in a totally unsuitable vase, quick embarrassment of critique, and the lesson was over.
My second challenge has been the mysterious Japanese culture. We tour through Buddhist temples, stroll picture- like Japanese gardens, even clap at Shinto shrines, but we get just a glimpse. We try to grasp intellectually, while Japanese people just live it. By the end of two weeks I had caught myself bowing, buying precious Ikebana vase, saying "Arigato" and leaving with a yearning to come back. Over the years I came back again and again to absorb drop by drop Japanese duality, aesthetics and spiritual practises - the origin of Ikebana.
It's easy for Japanese Ikebana artists. They have Buddha and Shinto, Kadensho, Chado and grandma's  old nageiri vase. I do not have these.
But what do I have? I have my busy western mind, my language of flowers, centuries old wealth of art, literature, theatre and architecture. Botticelli and Kandinsky, Shakespeare and Kafka, Bernhard and Chaplin, Brunelleschi and Ingels, Versailles and The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. May be we have too much? May be that's the reason we're not so good at "Less is More" concept, but rather "The More the Merrier"?
I have taken Ikebana philosophy and concepts to my best abilities, developed dexterity and enriched it with my own cultural background. Ikebana has become Spanish and American, Portuguese and Australian. We've made a spiritual connection from Japan through Ikebana to more than one hundred and sixty countries. We opened Japanese borders. We made Ikebana a global phenomenon. I feel we do measure up. Well done!

Lara Telford.