ATTENDING TO COLOUR

This last week my student Ros brought some beautifully coloured eucalyptus leaves to class. The colours, in broad stripes, were so striking that the leaves looked painted. They had in fact been attacked by some sap sucking insect. It seems amazing that nature can produce colours which to the human eye are so wonderful and yet are the result of insect damage.


This photograph is not the best quality because I failed to take a close-up and it is a small section of a larger photo.


The exercise I had set for the students was to make a freestyle arrangement in a glass vessel. In this case Ros used a glass jug. Care was taken to remove leaves from inside the curve of the left hand stem to emphasise the line of the branch.

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Recently I have noticed yet another garden escapee in the nearby creek, growing among the tall bullrushes. 


It is verbena bonariensis * from tropical and temperate South America. It has been declared a weed species in some tropical climates, but not here. Co-incidently, only this year I have planted it in our garden as its long stems will make it a good subject for ikebana. 


In this photo you can see it along side dock (rumex acetosella) which, in the moist environment of the creek, has grown to 2 metres. 

I gathered a couple of the verbena flowers because the plants in our garden have not begun to bloom yet. I thought its mauve colour would compliment the highlights in the globe artichoke that I had grown this year for the first time.


A couple of weeks ago the margins of the outer petals were beginning to turn a purplish colour. I decided to use the flowerhead with the almost leafless stems of strelitzia juncea, which is also growing in our garden.


This clump, with its spear-like leaf stems, is growing in the Melbourne Botanic Garden.


I have made a massed arrangement using the, now more deeply coloured, artichoke balanced by a mass of lines made from the strelitzia. The verbena provides a complementary highlight colour. The black ceramic vessel is one I bought a number of years ago in Seto City, one of the 'six ancient kilns' * in Japan.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd December 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information

FORMALITY and A LITTLE HISTORY

Two weeks ago I attended a lecture at Monash University given by Dr Osamu Inoue, an academic from the Kyoto University of Art and Design. The event was organised by Dr Shoso Shimbo whose student Angeline Lo made the welcoming flower arrangement below.


Dr Inoue spoke about the historical development of Ikebana, tracing the evolution of rikka from both Shinto and Buddhist aesthetics and practises. He explained that rikka developed as a highly structured formal style used in ritual and religious contexts and that nageire developed as 'free' or 'casual' style. 

I was interested that he described seika as an intermediate style, that grew out of both the rikka and nageire styles, and that it was more suited to domestic environments. Examples of rikka and seika have been included in the  Ikebana International Melbourne annual exhibitions of the last two years that I have curated. 













This rikka was made by Yukako Braun of the Ikenobo school...


...and this seika by Pascale Tremblay of the Shogetsudokoryu school both in the 2015 exibition.

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A few weeks ago we had a visit at home from Jason Smith, the Director of the Geelong Art Gallery. In honour of the occasion I made this contemporary ikebana arrangement which has some qualities of formality, being upright and with the leaves facing forward rather than naturalistically arranged. 

This arrangement fits the Sogetsu curriculum exercise of 'Showing lines at the base'. I have always thought this particular exercise in the curriculum owes something to the requirement in rikka and seika to have all the materials arising in one column from the vessel.  


The strelitzia leaves were given to me by my student Val, and the flowers are the first of this season from our garden.

Greetings from Christopher
27th November 2016

CALISTEMONS

In early October I posted a photo of a calistemon flowering in the garden. Since then many of these, often vibrant, 'bottle brush' * flowering shrubs have become very conspicuous along the roads where they are commonly planted as street trees. They are one of many Australian plants that have long fillaments or stamens and very small, often modified, petals. In this case the flower spikes surround the branches, creating a 'bottle brush' effect. 


In this photo there are two plants, one with red and the other with pink flowers.


The buds just beginning to open and the filaments to unfurl.



A fully opened flower with seed capsules from the previous season to the left of the flower.



This stem is several years old and some seed capsules still remain waiting for the right moment to release their seeds.



The flowers in this photo of a related melaluca are tiny, only 2cms long. After the flowers have formed the branch continues to grow from the tip, quite often dividing into several new branchlets.



These seed capsules, on the plant shown in the previous photo, look as though they are being absorbed into the stem.



In this week's ikebana I have massed the flower heads and stripped almost all of the leaves to reveal the lines of the branches and seed capsules from previous seasons. There are flowers from two different bushes used in this arrangement.



I took this final photo when I realised that the different colours were difficult to discern in the previous photo. In the middle and to the lower right side of the mass some of the flowers are a soft pink while the others are a clear red. It was much more apparent to the eye than in the photo.

Two weeks ago I attended the final meeting for this year of Ikebana International Melbourne *, for which the theme was a somewhat early Christmas. Click on the link to see photos from the meeting.

Greetings from Christopher
20th November 2016





FLOWERS (AND ANIMALS) WITH THORNS

The Spring weather in this part of the world continues to be highly variable, as usual for the time of year. 

On Wednesday it was warm and sunny and to my delight I noticed this quiet and very shy visitor while I was sitting on the couch in the living room. 


One of our neighbours refers to this charming creature as 'your echidna'. Which, of course, is not true; but it is a fairly frequent visitor to our garden. This is principally because we have no grass, only leaf mulch, which makes it easier for the echidna to forage for ants and other insects. 


Which is precisely what it was doing between the gaps of the brick paving. We do not often see the echidna as it usually comes into the garden at night and it is only later that we find the holes where it has been digging.


Here the echidna * is drinking from the tray underneath the pot of irises I was recently given by my ikebana colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos.

On Monday this week I attended a Sogetsu Victoria workshop * lead by Elizabeth Angell, photos of which are on the website. Then on Tuesday, at my regular class with Elizabeth, our subject was 'roses' with 'any other material', giving us a free choice. It was interesting to me that the three senior students at the class, without prior discussion, chose to contrast the delicacy of rose petals with dried materials.


Swan used vine with her rich pink roses in a contemporary vase.


Dianne used tortuous willow and an orange rose in a turquoise and blue streaked vase.


I used red roses with dried agave flower stems in a wood fired vase by Ian Jones of Old Saint Luke's Studio * . My ikebana also met the criteria for the exercise of 'incorporating the area in which the arrangement is placed'. I was also interested to see the pattern of shadows on the table top.

Greetings from Christopher
12th November 2016



* Click on the blue text for further information and to see photos.

GARDEN ESCAPES

On a walk today I noticed that the native Clematis (C. microphylla * ) had entered its seed-head-forming phase. At the end of August I posted some photos of flowering masses over bushes on the Torquay cliff-tops. 


This is how the small flowers looked at that time.


Now, two months later, the seed-heads have started to form masses of silvery balls. These will eventually dry out and be born away by the wind, spreading the seeds far and wide.


On another walk this week I noticed a wonderful collection of Echium candicans * that are planted along the roadside by one property owner. In our garden, a large Echium has finally come to the end of its life. However, its small seedlings appearing around the garden are being encouraged, if they are not crowding other plants.
   


Because these are mediterranean plants they flourish in our climate and consequently are at risk of becoming a pest weed.

On the same walk I was astonished to find another exotic, a garden-escaped iris. Irises are a plant I have failed to have any success growing because of the dryness of our soil. 



However, here it is flourishing in the bed of the intermittent creek that runs behind our house. I hope it survives because in Australia it is impossible to buy iris leaves from florists in the kind of quantity that ikebana requires.

Coincidently, in the same week my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos has generously shared bulbs of her irises with other ikebanists, with instructions to grow them successfully in pots(!). This is a great relief as irises are the subject of one of the lessons in the soon-to-be-released Sogetsu Text Book 5.


Having found the irises in the creek I made the freestyle ikebana above, following some of the principles I had been taught at the Sogetsu Headquarters in 2011. The unique suiban is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery *.

Greetings from Christopher
5th November 2016

SPRING GROWTH

During Autumn this year I established a small garden bed using a very rich soil mix that I bought from a local garden-soil maker. This company mixes horse and fowl manure with mushroom mulch to make a compost that is like potting mix. 

The natural soil of our garden is fine sand, which is hydrophobic (water repellent) and so does not hold moisture, this is a big problem during our hot dry summer. The sand layer sits above very dense clay, tolerable for indigenous plants but a major challenge for most exotic plants.
  

What has surprised me is the ease of growing these bedding plants in the photo above when the soil is improved.


This small artichoke is growing just to the left of the plants shown above.


Also flourishing this year are some roses, these ones climbing along a wire fence...


...and the Cecile Brunner which has responded to a hard pruning with vigorous growth.


Today I removed two full buckets of spent flowers. The fragrance of the flowers fills the air around our terrace.

At a recent class my teacher, Elizabeth, set a combined exercise: 'using two vessels' and 'incorporating the area around the vessel'


I have used three coastal sword-sedge * leaves (lepidosperma gladiatum), some very small succulent flowers and begonia flowers and leaves. The sedge was left over from the Ikebana International exhibition in September. I was delighted with the warm colour that had developed on the longest of the leaves. In researching this indigenous plant I was intrigued to find a photo of a beautiful basket made from the leaves by a aboriginal fibre artist, Audrey Frost * .  



This photo from above shows how the leaves stretch to the sides of the vessels, which are two shino-glazed soup bowls from the Qdos Gallery Studio * .


Greetings from Christopher
30th October 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information.



GEELONG ART GALLERY


Laurie and I recently attended a luncheon at the Geelong Art Gallery * , at which the table was decorated by a staff member, Mary-Ellen, who is a friend of ours. In a true Roadside Ikebana style she had gathered small Plane Tree branchlets that had been blown down in a windstorm and used them to decorate the long table along with a number of very long Gymea leaves. Her husband had collected a large bunch of wild-growing Arum lilies; but these were not used, and the flowers heads of Asiatic lilies graced the table instead.

After the lunch Mary-Ellen offered me the no- longer-needed materials. Being school holiday time, I did not have a class and so declined the offer. However the upshot of our conversation was a request that I create an ikebana work for the front desk. I happily agreed and the following day brought a large black porcelain vase by Alister Whyte to the gallery for the arrangement.


The leaves were exceptionally long, which worked well in the high-ceilinged space, by placing two of them vertically, back to back. I then created some rectangular forms with four other leaves to give some mass at the base of the work. The dry branches were placed on one side with a couple of the arum lilies. I was very relieved that all the materials held up well for a week in the temperature controlled environment.


Greetings from Christopher 
22nd October 2016

A WALK IN THE PARK

On a bright sunny day this week there was such a feeling of Spring in the air that Laurie and I decided to take a walk in the nearby Ironbark Basin Nature Reserve, part of the Great Otway National Park * .


There was plenty of delightful birdsong and wild flowers coming into bloom. One of the more dramatic of which is the Grass Tree, Xanthorea Australis *  which is endemic to the south-east of Australia and Tasmania. This specimen was a little over 2 metres tall including the flower stem.

                     



You can see that the flowers have only just started to open and are doing so first on the sunny side of the stem. 

The nature reserve sits in a shallow valley above high cliffs on a long sweeping beach.


I was fascinated by this almost bonsai-looking Casuarina * growing right on the edge of the cliff, seeming to be so lightly connected to the earth. Proof of the hardiness of these plants.


Here is the view the casuarina is looking at far below.

Earlier in the week I attended the meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne * . We had a guest speaker who is a French-born florist and potter from a small town east of Melbourne. In acknowledgement of his cultural heritage I made a simple ikebana using the French national colours: blue, white and red


The blue lines are painted cane, with white chrysanthemums in a copper-red vase by the, no longer active, ceramic artist Jamie Beeston * .

Greetings from Christopher
15th October 2016

* click on the blue text for further information