On Tuesday this week I demonstrated a basic slanting arrangement for my new students. I have used a variagated pitosporum and a deep pink alstromeria. I'm afraid the length of the Hikea is lost due to foreshortening in this photo'.

I have back at work for four weeks. So as July comes to an end I have been able to remind myself of my time in Japan. How? On Sunday we had our first party since returning from Japan to welcome friends and family into our house. 

I made the arrangement below by interlacing some monstera leaves in a large ceramic bowl by Graeme Wilkie. I wanted to create a feeling of height in this corner of the living room by the windows. As I didn't have any really long stemmed flowers to use as an accent I placed three dried aspidistra leaves to lighten the tangle of the leaves. (Yes you have seen them before.)

In the evening the aspidistra leaves were brightened by a small spotlight.

This arrangement below was challenging because of the busy background of the sideboard. I decided a mass would work better than lines in this situation. I have used seed pods of a euclyptus, the yellow blossom is acacia longifolia, and the purple flowering vine is a kennedia, all plants from our garden. I have added some alstromeria that I had bought as their colour complimented the kennedia. The unusually shaped ceramic vessel is by Nakamura Yutaka. I created a cross bar fixture running from the corners of the vessel to support the materials.

Because the wattle didn't last particularly well I removed it and  reworked the arrangement in the evening. I had not been happy with the mass of the eucalyptus seed pods and made it lighter.

I'm sorry these pictures are rather grainy. It may be because I took them under poor lighting conditions. I'll try again if I get a chance later in the week.

I have just received an email from a friend, Ohki Yoshiya, whom I got to know when I was at the Sogetsu school. You might like to look at his new blog, the address is:

This is a picture of his work that I included in my Journal in mid April that you might remember.

Greetings from Christopher
31st July 2011


Well, I have shown images of winter sunshine in my last two entries and think this week I have to reveal winter in it's other mood. It was 10 degrees with a strong wind bringing rain on Thursday. Below is how the 'front beach' at Torquay looked. It was not enough to stop a couple of young men from battling the elements for a few moments of wind surfing.
I was rugged up and poked the camera out of the car window when I took these pictures.
This is how the Surf Beach looked with a rain cloud approaching.
Previously I mentioned how trees grow with a slant because of the prevailing winds. Just to the right of the above the picture is this group of wind blown cypresses. These are not native to Australia and lean they have looks the same on a sunny day.
Returning to last weeks exercise of an arrangement using dried leaves, this is what I had in mind.
I really love the amber colour of these dried aspidistra leaves and the elegant lines they maintain even when dried. The three 'mug' shaped vases are by Ray Pearce of Blind Cow Pottery in Bendigo.

Below is an arrangement using the 'red sticks framework' and some maroon orchids in a spherical vase by Don Jones.
One of the Joys of mid winter is the blooming of Japonica. I remember their flowers from my childhood.  I used to spend the school holidays with my best friend whose parents had an orchard and a large garden in which a pale Japonica grew. I planted this Japonica about twenty years ago in our garden and it is only now beginning to spread and be large enough for me to pick without ruining the shape of the bush. I have been looking forward to making a 'no kenzan' arrangement in this flat square platter that Laurie bought when we were in Japan.

The design on the platter is of blue circles each with a different pattern. The arrangement allows the design to be seen and the open space at the bottom of the arrangement  accentuates the feeling of the bareness of the branches.
I took my first class with my students this week and it was great to get back into the classroom with them. At the end or our eight week term we will be preparing for our annual exhibition at the Qdos gallery in Lorne, a resort town 45 kilometers west along the coast from Torquay. We have already visited the gallery, which is owned by a ceramic artist, and have started to think about how we will compliment his creations this year with our ikebana works.



11th to 17th July
On Thursday14th I was walking through the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens and these very late autumn leaves caught my eye. The day was very bright and sunny. However, the air was quite cool. These gardens are one of the great treasures of our capital city and were landscaped in the English style in the late 1800's. They are sufficiently large that I seem to notice something different every time I go into them. 
 The same tree close up and looking further to the left.
I was also struck how much more wintery Melbourne looks than home. I realised it is because of the large number of northern hemisphere trees planted there. Most of which are completely bare of leaves. This is not the case with the indigenous trees which predominate in the coastal landscape.

Although I have reduced my work to three days a week I still find I am quite busy. People who retire often say they don't know how they previously had time to go to work. This is a little bit worrying. I find it hard to imagine being busier.

I attended a class with  my teacher Mrs Elizabeth Angell on Wednesday. The subject for the class, as indicated in this weeks title, was an arrangement using dried leaves. After thinking about the exercise I remembered I had some dried aspidistra leaves. I thought I could thread them through two frame-works I had made by wiring some short sticks together to create an irregular geometric form. These frames I had painted red. I thought it would also be interesting to use three small mug shaped vases. 

This was my first interpretation of the exercise. 

As you can see I left the red frame-works at home! Thank goodness Sogetsu encourages us to improvise. Remember the Iemoto says ikebana can be done by anyone, anywhere, at anytime, with anything.

After the class I re-worked the leaves in this larger rectangular vase, adding one fresh leaf for contrast. 

I was not particularly satisfied with this so I tried again. 
This interpretation pleased me more. If I have an opportunity next week I will try to create my original intention.

Greetings from Christopher


4th-10th July
When I started my first internet journal my intention was to share my experiences at the Headquarters of the Sogetsu School with my students and other ikebanists in Australia. Over the past three months the journal has been read by people in Japan, the United States, Europe and beyond.  Now that I have returned home I am aware that I need to be conscious of sharing my view-point as an Australian ikebanist with friends in Japan and other overseas countries. 

I have set this 'blog' up so that readers may make comments. I don't know how this will work. Once again it will be a journey of discovery.
For those readers who have never been to Victoria or Australia, a little explanation. Torquay, my home town, is on the southern coast of Australia 100 kms southwest of Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria. I have lived here since childhood when the town had a population of about 1,000 people. Now the population is about 10,000. The town has become famous in recent years because of the growth of the Surfing Industry. The Rip Curl and Quiksilver, clothing companies began here have their head offices in Torquay. Our climate is Mediterranean with wet winters and hot dry summers. The average annual rainfall is 650mm. Our native plants tend to have stiff leaves and stems; the flowers often have tiny petals and bright colourful stamens. (In Tokyo average annual rainfall is 1600mm, the wettest month is June, in summer, while it is the winter that is relatively dry).
Three days after returning home the weather turned more wintery, we have had rain, a little hail and strong winds from the west. On Thursday and Friday last the temperature range was 4 degrees overnight to a maximum of 12-14 Celsius in the day time. Today, Sunday, it was 8.5 C at 2.30 in the afternoon. Because of the wind chill factor it felt much colder. The winds have been coming up from the Southern Ocean so today there was a huge swell on the ocean with widely spaced waves about 5 metres high. Very dangerous for surfing even for the very fittest and most experienced. 

This was the view over Torquay township. You can seen enormous waves breaking in the distance.
This is our beach on Saturday 9th. Cold, but bright sunshine.

Compared to last week.
This was the scene at the most famous surfing beach, Bell's Beach which is a half hour walk along the cliftops from our house.
There were unusually large crowds to see these huge waves because of a newspaper article in yesterday's paper.

Looking back east toward Jan Juc Beach where we live.
I took this picture, below to show the windswept trees on the edge of the clif-top, that are common along the coast. They are often twisted into wonderful shapes. I find the driftwood from them inspires my ikebana imagination.  
Last week I included some pictures of our house and garden. When the sun came out again on Saturday and I took these pictures. Below is a view of the conservatory from the outside. 

This Japonica is just starting to blossom and I am looking forward to picking some in the next few weeks. The purple flower is a Kennedia vine growing into a Hakea bush in our neighbour's garden.

This is a close-up of a flower bud on the yate, that I used in last weeks ikebana. The branches develop an attractive mottled white bark. The flowers grow on quite large branches and look like green dishmops when the operculum, covering the stamens, drop off. Because the seed pods that form are about the size of my clenched fist and are firmly attached to the branch, this tree will have flower buds, open flowers and old seed pods all at the same time.

Here is a close-up of a cluster of flowers on a branch. You can see some of the coverings are coming loose while others have fallen off.

This was my first version of my home-coming ikebana. I feel the leaves are 'weak' relative to the rest of the material. Also there is too much happening in the design.
 Below is my correction of the work.
The massed design looks much stronger. I have deliberately put the 'buds' and flowers on one side and the seed pods on the other.

The 'Cootamundra' wattle (acacia baileyana) is the first wattle to come out in our garden, always soon after the shortest day of the winter. 
So I made this winter arrangement in a hand-made vase created by Kurihara Kyoko that she kindly gave to me at the end of the last class I attended in Tokyo. A beautiful reminder of the friendship and generosity I experienced at the Sogetsu Headquaters. Thank you. 

Here is another work using some Banksia Serrata in Kurihara-san's vase.

Greetings from Christopher,
in Torquay.
Sunday 10th July 2011