This week Roadside Ikebana comes to you from Japan where, three days ago, there were early cherry blossoms in Zojo-ji, Shiba Koen in Tokyo.


For those of you who are heading toward Japan for the Ikebana International Conference: don't panic, we are back to winter, so the blossoms won't be finished. 5C in Tokyo today, 0C in Hakone and snowing! 

At Onjuku, where we are visiting friends for the weekend, it is 8 C and raining. 

We came here six years ago when the foundations of this very modern weekend house were first laid.

Here is the finished house.


The house has one very large living space and a multi-use mezzanine loft over the bedroom.


Our friends enjoy coming to the beach on weekends where Joe gets to do some surfing.

Yesterday it was about 10C and still a large number of die-hards were out there. We were rugged up in hat, gloves and scarves.

Even the white heron looked hunched up against the cold to me.    

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Last weekend at the Sogetsu Victoria Branch workshop the presenter was Sandy Marker, a Sogetsu Teacher from Sydney, who has been the most recent recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship.

Sandy gave a 'slide-show' and spoke about the three months she spent at the Sogetsu Headquarters in the first half of 2016. Following her presentation she conducted a workshop on the theme of Discovering New Opportunities. The members brought materials and vessels to the meeting which were exchanged; so that each member had material from one member and a vessel brought by yet another member. 

My exchanged vessel was modern, very narrow and bone coloured. The botanical materials, from a different member, were  a bunch of beautiful variegated miscanthus and some red dracaena leaves, as well as purple statice and some geranium flowers.

I decided that if I arranged the miscanthus in a naturalistic way it would look beautiful but I would not challenge myself. I therefore have tied the tips of the miscanthus randomly making a tighter more vertical form. I have massed the new flower-heads among the leaves to the right of the middle to increase the density of the volume. The dracaena leaves accentuated the verticality of the arrangement and provided a sufficient colour accent that I did not need to use any floral materials.

Greetings from Christopher
26th March 2017`


In recent weeks, when we have been in Melbourne, we have taken an early morning walk around the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens before breakfast. This is in an effort to maintain our fitness levels for when we walk along the Nakasendo in a couple of weeks. On one particularly bright morning I took the photos below.

Laurie at the 'Temple of the Winds' which is on a bluff that overlooks the Yarra River.


I thought the pattern of sunlight and shadows across the 'Oak Lawn' looked especially tranquil.

At the meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter last Tuesday Ms Keiko Haneda, the Consul-General of Japan, was our guest speaker. She has been our patron for the last three years and is due to return to Japan this coming week. 

In this photograph Cheiko Yazaki, the president, is on the left, then Ms Haneda and on the right is Rosemary Farrelly - a long standing member who was the subject of a 'mini-talk'. Another member of the Chapter had interviewed Rosemary and then presented a brief summary of Rosemary's life, giving members an insight into the richness of her 91 years beyond what we know about her passion for the Ohara School.

Members were asked to make an arrangement on an international theme, to represent a particular country. 

I misunderstood the theme and made a moribana arrangement with materials from Europe, Northern America, Southern Africa, East Asia and Australia; all in a suiban made by the New Zealand ceramic artist Elena Renker. I described my work as an intercontinental arrangement.

Greetings from Christopher
19th March 2017


During last week the school childrens' early morning class on the beach was surf riding. What a change from my childhood when the sport options were cricket and tennis in Summer and Australian Rules Football in Winter.


One great positive outcome of this class is that these children are learning all about safety in the water under the close supervision of their teachers.

This last week my ikebana friend, Lennart Persson from Norway, has been visiting. He joined my class in Geelong where the exercise was:  'An arrangement of line and mass' combined with 'Using dried, bleached or coloured materials". 

Lennart made a mass from banksia flowers and leaves and contrasted it with a line of faded green coloured Edgeworthia. The vessel is by the Canadian ikebanist and potter, Janet Keefe.

Ellie made a mass with Everlasting daisies and a dried leaf of Strelitzia Nicolai

Helen made a mass from deep pink Sedum and combined it with a line of dried vine.

In the garden the Belladonna Lilies Amaryllis Belladonnathat I mentioned last week, have reached their peak. I wrote about these flowers in this blog five years ago.

The story in my family about this flower is as follows: When my mother was in hospital waiting for me to be born, my grandmother was taking care of my two older brothers. Apparently the older of the two went out to play and came home with a bunch of these lilies that he had found growing by the roadside. Grandma was worried that he had stolen them from somebody's garden; so she made him take her to where he had found them. Sure enough, they were growing wild by the roadside near an old abandoned farm. Since then we have always had them in the garden and they often flower on my birthday.

This week I have used the Belladonna lilies and arranged them in a trough, emphasising the lines of their stems. They are contrasted with the volume of a canna lily leaf. 

The 11th World Convention of Ikebana International begins in almost one month, on 11th April. If you are going to be there I look forward to the possibility of meeting you in Okinawa.

Greetings from Christopher
12th March 2017


Last week I posted the photo below of the first bud to the Haemanthus coccineus that I had planted out last autumn. 


I am pleased to be able to show you the now opened flower. It is interesting that this plant and Amaryllis Belladonna both flower before the leaves appear and are both native to southern Africa. 

This week I set my students an exercise that combined two themes from the Sogetsu curriculum. The first theme was to 'pay attention to the colour of the vase' and the second theme was to 'incorporate fruit' or vegetables in the arrangement.

Helen used a glass vase with mottled green and orange patterning. Her materials were all edible and included gourds and Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus).

Alana used a green glazed, shallow square dish, in which she arranged a branch of fig, green apples and two beautifully ripe purple figs. She treated her fruit as the hikae (usually flowers), extending the line forward onto the table. I think this helps avoid the appearance of simply presenting a bowl of fruit.

Christine has contrasted her materials with her modern white vase. The materials are spring onion, shredded and made to curl, tomato, green capsicum and kale leaves.

Ellie created a playful arrangement with a strong sense of movement, in an unusual pale yellow vessel. The materials are 'Italian' zucchini, lemons and a single yellow chrysanthemum that is just peeping at the back of the arrangement.

Greetings from Christopher
4th March 2017


Just this morning, as I was watering in the garden, I noticed a bud of Haemanthus coccineus had appeared. Last autumn I had divided an overgrown pot of this plant, given to me by a neighbour. I planted three bulbs in the ground and two in pots. I am looking forward to seeing how or if the rest of them will have survived the move. The snails love the leaves. I am hoping the rough eucalyptus mulch will deter them.

At the beginning of the week the Sogetsu branch held its AGM and first meeting/workshop for the year. The workshop was lead by Toula and Betty Karanikolopoulos. The subject was to make a sculptural form using wire and panty hose. I have not done this exercise before, though I was assured by more senior ikebanists that they had done the exercise some years ago. 

Many of us used coat-hangers as the most readily available wire in most households. After a preliminary failed trial, I wound my coat-hanger wire around a ceramic cylinder and then stretched it out to make a  helical spiral. I had bought some 'knee-high' black stockings and threaded them over two spirals.

As this sculptural form was created from obviously man-made material, I decided to use agapanthus flower heads with the seeds removed. They seemed to be more in keeping with the sculptural form I had made. However I was not happy with the result and thought it looked quite awkward.

I re-worked the arrangement at home in a different vase with an improved result. The result is really a 'basic upright' arrangement from the Sogetsu curriculum.

Below is one of the demonstration examples from the workshop. It was done by Toula and she has cleverly inverted the obvious way of managing this exercise. She created a wire spiral and then, after putting her nylon stocking tube within it, has attached it to the wire with fine threads. The result was very beautiful and created a delicate interplay of colour and layers of translucence.


Above is a close-up view looking through the pink stocking tube.

In this image you can see a side-on view of a tube of stocking that Toula said she '...painted with faux alcohol inks...(she made)...scribbles with permanent markers (Sharpies) and then...brushed methylated spirits on the scribbles to get the water colour effect.'.

Now you know what to do with those old stockings!!

See further images from the Sogetsu meeting workshop.

Greetings from Christopher
25th February 2017


I resumed my Melbourne classes recently and my student Marisha created her first Nageire arrangement (basic upright style). We were both pleased with the result.

She has used the Australian native, pomaderisand two white dahlias in a pale blue ceramic vase.

At home last week I spent a long time struggling to arrange some hydrangeas. The hydrangeas have been splendid this year and I wanted to use them in a mass before they start to deteriorate at the end of summer. 

Because the flower-heads are large, I used a big open bowl by the Daylesford potter Petrus Spronk. However, although I was using a large vessel I found that more than 3 flowers was just too big a mass and I couldn't make it work. I came to the conclusion that I needed a contrasting material, with a good line. So, I started again, beginning with a large philodendron leaf that had a beautiful yellow colouring as it aged.

Beginning with the leaf as a shin * (principal line) I found it much easier to use the hydrangeas to form a mass that contrasted and balanced the shin.

Subsequently I made another arrangement by making a mass with the remaining hydrangeas. The one at the back on the left was the most intense of the blue hydrangeas and I liked the way these colours worked with the large vase by Graeme Wilkie.

Some years ago the late Brenda Thorpe, a well regarded ikebanist who was a fellow student with me in Elizabeth Angell's class, made a massed arrangement in a long narrow ceramic trough. She commented that in such an arrangement the vessel became the shin line. I think that idea applies in the case of the arrangement above.

This week Ikebana International, Melbourne Chapter, held its first meeting for 2017. Follow the link to photos taken at the meeting.

Greetings from Christopher
19th February 2017

* The character for shin can be translated as 'true' or 'pure'.


Friday was lovely day to take a walk in the Iron Bark Basin nature reserve, a little west of Torquay. 

In the mid-ground of this photo is the nature reserve, with Pt Addis in the distance. The round-about path takes about 35 minutes to reach the clifftops from this view.

When we got there a paraglider was floating overhead on the updraft above the cliffs. It looks so serene, but not if you have a fear of falling.

Along the track we passed a couple of pink Hyacinth Orchids dipodium roseum. These ground orchids were just a little past their prime.

They are among the most spectacular ground orchids in this area.

Back at home, a flock of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos were making a lot of raucous noise as they chewed seeds of the New Zealand Mirror Bush coprosma repens in the garden next door. 

In the photo above this cockatoo is in a eucalyptus.

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At Elizabeth's first class for this year, the exercise was an arrangement in a glass vessel.

My colleague Pearl, used a gymea leaf and three lemons. She has used a small section of the leaf to hold the main leaf against the side of the vase. 

I used three stems of fennel and a bunch of pink berries from a Peppercorn tree schinus molle. The fennel stems are braced across the vase. I have deliberately spaced them unevenly and left a space at the bottom. Also, the berries are placed asymmetrically. I particularly like to make this style of below water arrangement in Summer for its cooling appearance.

Greetings from Christopher
11th February 2017


This weekend we visited Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, in the Victorian Goldfields area. As we walked around Lake Wendouree we met these black swans, which were not 'a-swimming', but looking for food from humans. 

The last few days have been rather warm, in the mid 30s Celsius. We've come to the mid-summer month and because we have not yet had excessive hot weather, the summer flowering plants are at their peak.

This photo shows the 'herbaceous border' in front of the original Directors House in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

I am very impressed by this particular garden display, and well aware of the large number of hours it takes to create and maintain. 


One plant that caught my eye was this large mass of 'goldenrod', solidago, a native of North America that I first saw in the New England region in 2014. I have a couple of plants in my garden for the first time this year. However, they have not flowered.

Certain eye-catching Australian native plants are also flowering at the moment. The Black Bean tree, castanospermum australe, above, is actually a little past its peak. 

However, close up the flowers look spectacular. Another particular favourite of mine is brachychiton discolor.

In the photo above, the dense canopy of flowers has been photographed at a distance, because it is surrounded by other trees.

Here you can see a beautiful cascading branch with a lot of ikebana possibility, were it not in the Botanic Gardens!

I was able to photograph one flower close up. The flowers are a delightful soft pink and very fleshy.

This week's ikebana is otherwise unrelated, except to say that this hydrangea is just past its peak in our garden and soon likely to be burnt if there are a few consecutive days of hot weather. The vase is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery.

Greetings from Christopher 
5th February 2017