Summer seems to have come at last, Melbourne is expecting five days in a row of temperatures in the 30's. Torquay is full of summer visitors and the beaches are busy. This was the scene on the Front Beach at 4.30pm on Friday. Because of the southerly breeze it was cooler on the coast. Probably in the mid 20's when I took the picture.

From Pt Danger it looked like this. You may notice two people in the mid-ground walking down the lawn with their surfboards.

These unusual tiny pink berries gleam with the late afternoon sun coming through them. The berries vary from pale pink through to dark maroon. They grow on the sand dunes and I'm fairly sure are  'Fragrant Saltbush' (Rhagodla parabolica). 

This bright orange Eucalyptus Ficifolia (from Western Australia) is growing in the front garden of our next-door neighbour. The tree, which is visible from our terrace, is about twenty feet high and blazes in the late afternoon sun. 

And so to New Year.

I made a New Year welcoming arrangement in the entrance of our house in a large Shigaraki vessel. I have used pine, Christmas Lilies and added some red and white 'mizuhiki' (Japanese coloured strings) to create a celebratory atmosphere.  

In the living room I used some more Lilies in this cylindrical vase made at Qdos. The branch is from an apple tree and was given to me by a local friend and skilled gardener, Ann-Marie Sullivan. It has some beautiful mustard coloured lichen that contrasts with the freshness of the green and white of the lily flowers.

Best wishes for the New Year 2012.

CHRISTMAS IKEBANA and Boxing Day on the beach

Today is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day. Yesterday we had most of Laurie's family to lunch at our house, 36 people. Fortunately one of his nieces and her husband are chefs so they prepared all the food. In the quiet of the day after I took a walk along the beaches toward Bell's Beach. This is Jan Juc Beach in the late afternoon, with the township of Torquay in the distance, looking east. 

This view is further along the coast where the cliffs are not quite so high. The light yellowish colour is the seaweed that covers the rocks that are exposed when the tide is low.

At the bottom of these cliffs the trees come down quite low.

 As you can see they are twisted into fascinating shapes by the prevailing winds.

Sometimes after heavy rain there is a landslide and the trees are washed down onto the beach. The wood then becomes bleached by the sun and the sea. This creates wonderful ikebana sculptures made by nature.

Today there were a couple of white faced herons fishing among the rocks.

They may have been looking for these small starfish. I've always been fascinated by their pentagon shape. They do not have obvious 'arms' like most starfish.

This is a brown sea-anemone that I noticed,

and here is a red one, as well as some sea-snails and a small green starfish.

Inspired by my teacher Elizabeth Angell I made this ikebana for Christmas using pine, 'Chrismas Lilies' and red painted bamboo.

This second ikebana is at the end of a corridor. The pine was given to me by a neighbour from his garden. The wood fired vase with a Shino glaze is by Sergio Sill from New South Wales.

Wishing you peace at Christmas.
26th December 2011


A few weeks ago I came across this spectacular giant Queensland Lily flower Doryanthes Palmeri in the Botanic gardens in Melbourne. An other form of this plant Doryanthes excelsa had straight stems that grow vertically up to six meters and are available from florists in Spring. They are great in large ikebana works and last well. 

Here is a close up of the flowers.

My attention was also caught by this amazing head of green flowers on a tall spike in the gardens. It is Puya Chilensis. The leaves are very stiff and spiky. 

'Mr' Wikipedia has the following information:
'Puya Chilensis, is a terrestrial bromeliad originating from the arid hillsides of Chile. It may take twenty years or more to flower...'. Which explains the cactus like spikes on the leaves and perhaps why I have not noticed it before. The flowers looked sensational.

Since last week I have added some glitter to the heads of the agapanthus on the 'Christmas tree', a gold bow at the top and covered the fire box with gold foil as I felt the black was too dominant. 

We have had some early summer rain that has spoilt most of the streletzia. I rescued these because I was fascinated by the double heads on two of them. The vase is from the Sogetsu school with a wax resist design by the Iemoto, Akane Teshigehara.

Greetings from Christopher 
18th December 2011


The first of December is the official beginning of summer in Australia. For a short period my small hydrangeas look alright. By the end of January, or certainly February, they will be looking rather sad with their leaves and petals drying at the edges. Having seen them grow in the wet weather of summer in Japan I think it is wishful thinking to grow them in my garden.

On the other hand these scabiosa have gone wild in the garden to my delight. They are a Mediterranean plant so it is not a surprise that they do well here. When I was growing up and going to primary school in Torquay they were growing wild on the 'nature strips' in the streets and I thought they were a native flower.

I love the way they look like a meadow plant. One of Australia's famous landscape gardeners of the early 20th century, Edna Walling, said that a garden should be just a little too large so that some parts of it are always slightly out of control. I hope she would approve.

We are having most of Laurie's family to Christmass, so today I began creating our Christmas tree.  Because there will be a lot of people to lunch I need to keep as much space available in the living room as possible for people and tables. It occurred to me that I could use the fire-place flue as the structural base for an ikebana inspired tree. This is phase one. I used red cane inserted into the holes in the mesh surrounding the flue. 

Then I added bunches of gold-sprayed dried agapanthus to make the form of the tree. Initially I added holographic paper to the flue, but then decided it was rather too distracting. 

This looks simpler. I will include some pictures of the whole room on Christmass day.

Greetlngs from Christopher
11th December 2011


This week I held the last class for my students for 2011. The students arranged work for a 'celebration' in anticipation of the Christmas Day holiday at the end of this month. Our class was held in the home of Maureen Duffy, one of my 'advanced' students. Consequently the students had to create work the would suit the situation of this particular house.

This first picture is of a slanting free-style work by Sayuri Gilmore in the entrance hall of the house. She has used cotoneaster branches, red roses, white oriental lilies and some pine, in a glass suiban. Arranging the work slanting to one side emphasised the space to the right and the surface of the water creating a feeling of freshness. 

This is a slanting variation number two from the first text book of the Sogetsu curriculum. The student, Wendy Marshall, has used a form of horse-tail, some white carnations and heliconia flowers and leaves.

Susan Lehmann made this basic slanting nageire arrangement with branch material for the three principal lines with soft pink roses as the subsidiary, 'jushi', lines. The roses had a green tinge in the outer petals and their pink was picked up in the vase and the table top.

In this slanting free-style arrangement Dawn Sizgoric has used white gladiolus and small green orchids. The vase was placed in the centre of a circular table with windows behind. A sheet of white card was held behind when I took the photo' that I have needed to 'smudge' at the edges.  

Helen Quarrell made this double glass vase arrangement using pink orchids, thyme flowers in test tubes and agapanthus flower heads. Her thought was to make a work that could be set on a long table and would impart a feeling of coolness on a hot day.

Also arranged in a glass vase is this arrangement of a red painted branch, contrasted with white hydrangea and a small green spruce. It was made by Ellie Welkamp who created a feeling of the materials to be floating above the  vase.

Maureen Duffy created this elegant work with an interesting white painted root and white oriental lily in a moon vase. The curve of the root makes attractive spaces in the arrangement and is a playful use of the space of the vase itself.

On the weekend we went to Sydney for the wedding of one of Laurie's nephews. As we walked from our hotel we came across this interesting sculpture made with 'eucalyptus sticks' by a Sydney artist, Peter Collins, who is also a keen surfer. On a plaque he is quoted as describing the sculpture as a '...wave that escaped the ocean, dressed up in sticks and went to shore...'. I thought it would look good in an ikebana exhibition and was very impressed with the technique. There was no visible fixing other than the iron at the base of the work.

Greetings from Sydney 4th December 2011

More of the SOGETSU EXHIBITION at the Kew courthouse.

Last week I said I would show some other works from the Sogetsu School Victorian Branch Exhibition in the Kew Courthouse. I am only able to give a small sample of the work because not all of my photographs came out well enough. This eye-catching sculpture of teak branches and air-conditioning aluminium foil stood on the footpath as a marker of the exhibition. I was fascinated at the way the foil has a texture like fabric and it seemed I could feel a hand smoothing its' surface. It was created by Joan Norbury.

This large vessel, by Denis May, was flowing over with red and yellow Leucospermum, pinwheel  flowers. It was created by Joy Manie.

Jennie Stuart has chosen warm orangy tones in this lily and section of a palm leaf to complement the colours in this unusual hand made basket. She has contrasted these natural textures with some rusty springs. The basket was made by Maree Brown from palm inflorescence.

Sandra Gawthorpe made this nageire work using some very unusual eucalyptus seed pods she brought back from South Australia recently.

Kath Dacy and Joan Norbury created this collaborative work with painted branches in a shallow black vessel with agapanthus. It seem to me to make reference to the variation number five in the Sogetsu curriculum.

The same work from  the opposite viewing angle.

This large work was made by Toula and Betty Karanikolopoulos using Strelitizia and two match-stick bamboo blinds.

On last Wednesday I travelled to Brisbane to give a presentation about my three months in Japan earlier in the year. While walking into the city  I noticed this Brachychiton Acerifolia in flower. It is an Australian native of the east coast rain-forests of New South Wales and Queensland. At this time of year it may be covered in small cup shaped rich red flowers. 

The trees some-times have no leaves and the visual impact is great because the new branchlets that hold the flowers are also red.

Here is a close-up of some fallen flowers.

This week I teamed some Echium flowers with a couple of large glossy leaves of acanthus from the garden. The vase is by Nakamura Yutaka.

27th November 2011