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The blue lines are painted cane, with white chrysanthemums in a copper-red vase by the, no longer active, ceramic artist Jamie Beeston * .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


Yesterday we drove down to Lorne to visit the Qdos Art Gallery * . Unusually wet weather in the past two weeks had resulted in the closure of the Great Ocean Road beyond Lorne, because of land-slips and rock-falls. For a couple of days it was even closed between Torquay and Lorne. However, the beautiful sunny day belied the drama of the previous fortnight.


Seen on the approach along the Great Ocean Road, the township of Lorne on its forested hillside is always beautiful. Laurie was driving when I took these photos from the car.

We had come to see the results of the first firing of the large anagama kiln since 2013. However, the weather and a landslip beside the kiln had disrupted the process. The firing is now scheduled to begin in about a week's time and will take up to three weeks before it is completed, including the cooling down time.

Instead we were able to see the unfired 'greenware' and Graeme Wilkie making final preparations including stacking the kiln.

The photo above is of Graeme beside the kiln during its last firing in 2013. Over the recent past the huge kiln has been 're-furbished', with extra layers of 'mud' increasing its insulation and heat retention properties, as well as other refinements to improve its efficiency. 

This photo shows Graeme with some of the larger vessels and sculptures he has made for this firing. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes out of the kiln in about three weeks and the exhibition that will follow over the Summer holidays.

Last week I showed a photo of the first flower on the pink calistemon in the garden. 

A week later and there are many flowers on the bush, much to my delight. I thought I should use them in my ikebana as they are likely to be damaged in the rain we are expecting later today.

Here I have made a 'mass and line' arrangement in a shino-glazed vessel made by Graeme Wilkie. 

Links to the collaborative Ikebana and Ceramics exhibitions at Qdos Gallery between 2004 an 2013 are on the righthand side of this blog page.

Greetings from Christopher
9th October 2016

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Last week I showed some photos of flowers I had planted in the autumn. This week I thought I would focus on Australian native flowers in the garden. These all started to bloom in late Winter and early Spring.

The first of these is Pandorea pandorana * , a climber on the side fence. This is how it looks from the bathroom window catching the early morning sunlight.

The dense panicles are slightly fragrant and always make me think of the abundance of mother nature in Springtime.

I planted this helichrysum * (possibly h. apiculatum), which has very small flowers, last autumn in a rather dry part of the garden. I am pleased that it has survived quite well and am hoping it will spread over a sloping bed beside a walkway.

The small flowers are still partially closed as a result of the rain we have had over the last few days.

There are a few spreading bushes of Goodenia ovata * in the garden which provide some screening against fences and help breakup the garden into discrete spaces.

The small yellow flowers are very bright against the dark green of the foliage.

It was only this afternoon that I noticed this pink Callistemon * had started to open its flowers.

The bush has a somewhat weeping habit, unlike its neighbour, another callistemon, which has an upright growth...


...and pale yellow flowers.

Nearby on the side of the road is a wattle, Acacia seligna * . I have been watching the wattle for the last few weeks as it has started to blossom. As you can see it has a weeping habit and quite large, very richly yellow, ball-like flowers. As this wattle has a weeping habit I thought it would work well in a unique vase, with side openings, made by the Canadian ceramic artist, and Sogetsu Ikebana practitioner, Janet Keefe. 

I have stripped all the leaves from the wattle and arranged the blossom almost entirely within the vase, keeping it below the top of the curving lip. A single leaf of Coast sword-sedge, Lepidosperma gladiatum * rises vertically with a gently twisting curve to give height and movement.

Janet emailed me recently to say that she has launched her own web-site called Snailpace Pottery * . On her home page you can see an arrangement I made in this same vessel in July.

Greetings from Christopher
1st October 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information.


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

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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

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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