* Note to Ursula B. at the bottom

A month ago, in mid August, we had some early warm weather.

The Torquay surf beach looked like this. 

This 'zoomed' photo shows the far end of the surf beach with the cliffs of Jan Juc towering beyond them.

A month earlier, in mid-July, Laurie and I had a walk in Iron Bark Basin on a sunny day after some rain. The understory vegetation has been cleared on either side of the walking track as a bushfire management strategy. As it was the beginning of the change of season, winter to spring, I was on the lookout for a Grass Tree, Xanthorrhoea australis with a developing inflorescence. I have often thought about recording its growth.

This photo was taken on the 8th July and the inflorescence was  already about 45 cms from its base.

Last week, on 16th September, the inflorescence had reached about 2 metres and was just starting to flower.

This close up shows the masses of flowers on the more advanced inflorescence of a nearby plant.  Of course it is not legal to collect wild flowers in nature reserves and this is much too large for anything other than an exhibition installation.

*          *          *          *          *

This week I have been watching the development of some Arum lilies, which I find quite beautiful for a couple of reasons. The first is the graceful lines of the stems and the form of the flowers that enchanted the artists of the Art Nouveau movement. The second is the glossy surface beauty of the leaves which contrasts with the matte surface of the complex, three- dimensional whiplash curves of the flower spathe.

In this first ikebana I have focused on the lines of the stems, gently exaggerating the curves with my hands to create a parallel space between them. The asymmetrically placed leaf provides a contrasting mass. The black ceramic vessel is from Seto City in Japan.

In this second ikebana I wanted to focus on the surfaces of the Arum lily.

I have set three large leaves one above the other in a forward movement. Two fully opened flowers are placed below and behind the mass of the parallel leaves. The leaves and the sinuous lines of their edges are the principal subject. The ceramic bowl is by the Melbourne based ceramic artist Isabel Wang.

Greetings from Christopher
19th September 2020

After publishing my post last week I realised that I had not acknowledged the source of information about the use of vinegar in the conditioning of cut plant materials. It came from an out-of-print booklet, "Post-harvest care of cut flowers" prepared by Dr R Jones, Institute of Plant Sciences, Knoxfield Campus, Victoria, prepared for the horticultural industry. 

* For Ursula in Cairns: The Blogger system protects your privacy and I am unable to contact you. I would suggest you contact the Sogetsu Queensland Branch at the following address:


In response to my posting last week one of my students wrote to me saying, in part: "...I realised that I spend a lot of my time worrying about doing garden ‘chores’ instead of just enjoying the garden - especially when it is starting to enter its Spring Best!  That said -inspired by your blog - I wandered around taking photos of as many blue-tending flowers as I could..."

This comment and my own experiences of the last week led me to this post's title.

Three days after I photographed the blue iris bud included in last week's posting it suddenly opened fully. As the day was going to be warm and windy I cut it and brought it inside before it was ruined by the sudden heat. What to do with a single flower?

I arranged it within the gentle curve of two Acanthus leaves *. The leaf at the back is deliberately turned to show the veins on its underside. The blue crystalline-glazed vessel is by the Castlemaine ceramic artist Dean Smith.
 I was disappointed when the iris started to wilt after three days, but a little consoled to discover a smaller and paler bud opening behind the first flower

Recently, I set my Torquay students the exercise of making a single ikebana arrangement using two vessels.   

Val used two black, contemporary vessels in which she set two Strelitzia reginae leaves and one flower, with a double head. This is another example of showing the back of a leaf for the textural contrast it provides.

What a difference a week makes! Suddenly there is an extra zing in her ikebana when the flower started opening.

In spite of these delightful surprises we must not get caught up in the desire for our ikebana to last indefinitely. It is essentially an ephemeral art form and therein lies an aspect of its richness. Each ikebana arrangement is a unique encounter with those particular materials, that can never happen again in exactly the same way.

In the garden the Pandorea pandorana vine is putting on a strong spurt of spring growth and has started to flower. It seems to be especially vigorous this year, perhaps because of recent rain.

Here some of the new growth is silhouetted against the early morning sky. I cut some of the thicker old stems as well as fresh growth and flowers.

I have arranged them in a tall modern ceramic vase with two side openings. The lines of the vine created interesting spaces which I kept principally on one side and emphasised by removing most of the leaves on the newer stem. The contrasting mass of flowers has been placed on the opposite side with a single line of the fresh vine connecting the two sides.

The flowers did not last as well as I had hoped. However, as I walked past the ikebana multiple times each day I realised that I had not taken my photograph from the best angle.

A couple of days later I had to remove the wilting flowers and I added a small bunch of Dwarf Nandina Domestica for the mass that balances the lines. From this slightly different angle each group of green leaves sit in their own space without any further adjusting.

Greetings from Christopher
12th September 2020

* Acanthus leaves are a favourite of mine for the beauty of their shape, shine and deep green colour. Owing to their sticky sap they are prone to wilting very quickly. The remedy is to re-cut the stems under water and then stand in warm, deep water with 10ml of white vinegar per litre for a couple of hours.

Note to Ursula B. The Blogger system protects your privacy and I am unable to contact you. 
I would suggest that you contact the Sogetsu Queensland Branch at the following address:


A week ago I noticed that the first two flowers had opened on the apricot tree. When the leaves unfurl the tree will give some welcome shelter in the summer, if it is not too ravaged by the possums.

In the meantime, the blossoms are a delight to the eye...

today, a week later, the blossoming continues. 

Spring has also brought some strikingly blue flowers into bloom. For  most of the year blue is present in our garden in the Lavender and Rosemary by the path. We planted upright, semi-prostrate and prostrate varieties of Rosemary years ago, and all have seeded freely around the garden. Many of these second generations plants have been allowed to grow if they are not in the way of anything else.

This little patch of Grape HyacinthsMuscari neglectum, came from my parents' garden and are a flower that my mother particularly loved. I am intrigued by the inclusion of "neglectum" in the Latin name. They get plenty of that in our garden.

Next is a small patch of Echium candicans, that I recently transplanted to a position where it will provide a screening function in the garden. It is also self-seeded from an original plant that has since died. 

This wonderfully intense blue is the first bud of a 'Dutch Iris', Iris latifolia, that was given to me by a neighbour. I have planted this one in a pot with a water well, and some others in the garden. It will be interesting to see how those in the soil will manage. In checking the botanical name I was amused to see that it is known as: Dutch Iris, Spanish Iris and English Iris. Take your pick! 

My final blue flower in the garden is this Hardenbergia violacea, a fairly vigorous Australian native vine, growing on a mesh fence and known locally as the Happy Wanderer. In this instance it is wandering into the Nandina domestica, also growing against the fence. The blue is fairly strong and I decided to use it as an ikebana subject. 

I have cut the long tendrils of the vine into shorter lengths so that I can make a dense mass of the flowers. As a contrast I have added the strong green lines of Costal Sword sedge, Lepidosperma gladiatum, which gives a feeling of vigorous movement to the explosion of the flower mass.

The ikebana vessel is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Arts, Lorne.

Greetings from Christopher,
5th August 2020



Yesterday we walked in the bush near the Iron Bark Basin nature reserve in the morning. It was a glorious spring day after two days of cold, destructive winds and rain.

The peaceful view over the ocean from the high cliffs was beautiful and calm, such a change from the day before. 

The low angle of the morning sun illuminated this small patch of  moss with two Nodding Greenhood orchidsPterostylis nutans, and some Drosera.

Close up of Drosera aberrans.

To ikebana.

Last week I set my Torquay students the exercise of arranging endemic Australian materials with exotic materials. The idea of combining unlikely materials is one example of Sofu Teshigahara's thinking. Up to the late 19th century there were many rules constraining what was acceptable in ikebana. For example, the first book in English about ikebana, “The flowers of Japan and the art of ikebana” by Josiah Condor was published in 1891. It includes listings under the two headings:  "Appropriate Combinations" and "Objectionable Combinations” of flowers.

It was against just such strictures that Sofu sought to free ikebana. There certainly are combinations of materials that do not sit naturally well together. However, Sofu considered that any combination is possible. But it is up to the skills of the ikebanist to make the materials work together to create successful ikebana. 

Below are two examples by my students of the exercise I set. 

Val arranged two Western Australian flowers, a maroon Kangaroo paw and, I think, an Erica with two cymbidium orchids, in the Kabu Wake (two groups) style. She has used tonal variations of one colour to harmonise the ikebana.

Helen combined a Grevillea with two leaves and two daffodils. In her strong design the grevillea, which is arranged naturally links the principal elements.

I was interested in the various strategies that students used to achieve harmony. These have included: harmonising (or contrasting) with colour, texture or form. Also choosing one material to be the principal subject and the other subordinate. In Japan I remember seeing the colour-matching strategy to create harmony. However, there are obviously many other ways to solve this problem.

Having set this exercise I have come to realise that I quite often combine plants from different geographical locations and climates. The example above is a re-working from a few weeks ago. Native Clematis microphylla with a variegated aspidistra leaf. An example of using colour to harmonise the elements.

Last week my attention was caught by a wild growing prunus that was just starting to flower. It was in a very exposed position and was stunted with the branches leaning away from the prevailing winds. I decided to contrast this with a mass made with two stems and one flower of Banksia integrifolia, from the garden. In my own example I have made the native materials subordinate to the ‘main subject’, which was the flowering branches of prunus that were so expressive of early spring. 

The white porcelain vase is by the Castlemaine ceramic artist, Phil Elson

Greetings from Christopher
30th August 2020


In these days when face-to-face classes are not permitted, my students continue to practise their ikebana at home. I have the pleasure of receiving photos of their ikebana via email and commenting on their work. This however is not without its challenges. The first and most obvious thing is that I am commenting on a two-dimensional photo, not a three-dimensional ikebana seen in 'real life'.

When I photograph my own work I often close one eye to get a better idea of what the camera is seeing before I press the button. It is surprising how often this alerts me to the need to alter the ikebana slightly or make a small change in the angle of the camera. The other major difference from conducting a face-to-face class is that I do not get to see the work as it progresses and observe the student's problem-solving and manual skills. However, for all of us, this new mode of communication is certainly better than not having classes.

Recently Eugenia sent me this photo of her Kamon Hon'ami camellia arranged with a bare branch. She has arranged the materials in a traditionally-shaped bronze vase with very elegant lines that suit her pared-back ikebana.

Margaret told me that she had the good fortune of finding these Golden Ash, Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea', branches while out for her daily walk. She has arranged them in a suiban without using a kenzan, adding two Aspidistra leaves and a mass of one of the Thryptomenes.

In the garden...

...I recently noticed that an Arum lilyZantedeschia aethiopica, planted a couple of years ago, was developing its first flower. I carefully monitored its development as I wanted to use it as an ikebana subject. My thought was to make an arrangement using one flower and one leaf.

I decided to use this vase by Pippin Drysdale because of its form and its strong colour. At a glance this vase looks purple. However, the surface is made of alternating fine lines of intense blue and red glaze. The interior of the vase is red only.

This photo of the interior shows that the stems have been gently and patiently curved. The curving of the stems allowed me to brace them against the wall of the vase to achieve the desired positions and particular angle of both the flower and the leaf.

The flower is placed in a relatively horizontal position with a left to right movement. The leaf sits mostly hidden behind the spathe with its tip projecting above the open space on the righthand side of the vase. Minimal materials with a strong presence.

Greetings from Christopher
22nd August 2020


If you receive this blog by email you will have missed a correction I made to last week's blog after it was posted. The correct name of the maker of Michael's ikebana vessel (below) is 
William Baker, whose work can be seen by clicking on the link.

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We have had a patch of welcome wet weather over the last week, some brief storms without being severely cold on the coast.

At times it looked rather like this, except that I took the photo of this dramatic-looking sky in the early morning at least a couple of months ago.

I have been delighted that a camellia that I acquired from a neighbour late last year has, A) survived repotting and B) rewarded me with these beautiful flowers.

Camellias are such a delight in winter and generous in their flowering. I now have this unnamed variety and a Kamo Hon'ami. Both are in pots as I don't think they will survive through summer in the dry soil of our garden.

In the late winter, early signs of spring are appearing. This is the transitional season that Dr Tim Entwisle, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, calls 'Sprinter". The link above is to his excellent blog.

In our garden I was pleased to see that this small shrub of Japanese Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles japonica, has survived the ravages of possums and is beginning to flower well.

It is such an intense colour that it looks extra bright on a cold winters day.

Beside the red Japonica is the variety called Apple Blossom, which has delicate pink and white flowers and was given to me by my friend and former colleague Shirley.

I was keen to make one more ikebana arrangement with the Flowering Quince before the season changes. 

The angular lines of the branches really seem to capture the feeling of winter. They are most dramatic in their leafless winter state which also shows off the flowers in their stark intensity. This ikebana is made with two Flowering Quince branches and one stem of camellia leaves. They are supported by a small forked branch braced across the mouth of the vase. I have carefully aligned all the stems so that they arise from the mouth of the vase in a single line that creates a cleanly defined point of connection with the vase. Because the main branch has such interesting angular lines, a space has been created on the left that emphasises the contrast between the freshness of the camellia leaves and the principal branch.

The vase is by the Victorian ceramic artist Owen Rye.

Greetings from Christopher
15th August 2020


One of the delights of sharing ikebana with friends via the internet is the relationships that are forged across the world. A month ago I showed photos of ikebana by Leonora who lives in Ottawa and Michael who lives in Florida. Here are two further ikebana arrangements, one by each of them. 

Leonora's small elegant arrangement is of her Magnolia in its second flowering, after the leaves have formed. The colours tone beautifully with the ceramic vase. Coincidentally in the same tonal range is...

...Michael's arrangement of Allium and Monstera deliciosa. This is a classic example of the Sogetsu exercise of 'Showing (or emphasising) the Lines at the Base'. The ceramic vessel is by William Baker. (Also at: )  
[This is a revised post as I had misattributed the name of the potter.]

These photos shared by friends make me more conscious of the northern hemisphere seasons being opposite to the southern hemisphere. This in turn heightens my consciousness of the seasonal nature of ikebana itself.

The Cootamundra Wattle in our garden, which I showed a couple of weeks ago, is now well passed the peak of its flowering. 

The latest spectacular flowering locally, is the Australian native Clematis, Clematis microphylla. The flowers are rather small but certainly abundant.

I took these photographs in the scrub on the leeward side of the sand dunes. This one has whiter flowers than the species which grows in our garden, which are a creamy-green. 

Also growing in our garden, and only just beginning to flower, is this Lady Banks Rose, Rosa banksiae. As both of these plants have a weeping habit I decided to use them in a cascading arrangement.

The tall yellow-tinted glass vase has sufficient height for the clematis to hang gracefully. I have partially stripped the lower part to emphasise its line. At the top I added the rose to create textural variety and a counter balancing mass. Although it is not apparent from the photograph the two rose stems project well forward. In the next photo this will be obvious.

This is the second version of the ikebana. I have added a leaf of variegated aspidistra, which provides additional textural variation. The leaf was too wide and one side was almost totally green so I split off the green side. Then I curled the leaf, creating the illusion that the branch materials cascade from within. 

Greetings from Christopher
9th August 2020