This week I had my advanced students do the exercise of creating a mass out of leaves at the end of a branch by intertwining the finer terminal branches. They used a variety of different materials and the results are interestingly varied. Each of the images below are of corrected work. My correction to the students as they were working on each of these works was to strip more leaves off so that only those at the very ends of the branch were left.

Ellie Welkamp used an unknown material that had some berries on it. Once she started stripping the leaves she decided to make a feature of the berries as well. So, she managed to separate the leaves and berries in the design.

Nola Bird used a branch of Callistemon, an Australian native. Although seemingly stiff the branches were able to be interwoven to make the mass.

Christine Denmead used a 'Pincushion' Hakea, another Australian native. Her branch had flowers at the end that created an additional point of interest.

After the class she sent me the 'photo below of the material stripped of all the leaves creating a further expression of the material. 

It is now autumn here and we have had some quite wintery weather in the last week. I set my students the exercise, below, of an arrangement with berries or fruit with an autumnal feeling. The colour in this image is distorted as the lighting was not very good. (The vase is actually a very deep blue.)

Greetings from Christopher
28th April 2012

VARIATION No6 (Nagiere)

At my most recent class my teacher set us the revision exercise of the title. I love the simplicity of the 'variations' and the elegance of nagiere in particular. Variation 6 is a 'horizontal' arrangement with the shin line at 85 degrees from the vertical. I realised that the banksia (Banksia Integrifolia) growing in our garden would lend itself admirably to the exercise. Here is a branch on the tree with the sun coming from behind.

In these pictures you can see the lovely silvery underside of the leaves. Also, as is the characteristic of this plant, there are all stages of flowering visible at the same time, from the beginnings of the flower spike through to the cone with its open seed capsules having ejected the seeds. Unfortunately the full length photo I took of the tree did not come out. It is about six metres high. This particular species of banksia was one of four that were collected in 1770 by Joseph Banks. It grows all along the east coast of Australia to the south coast of Victoria and flowers from Autumn through to the Spring. 

In this arrangement the shin line extends to the left at 85 degrees, the soe is the highest line at 65 degrees and the hikae to the right front is at 75 degrees (Correction 24th May. When I initially posted this page on 22nd I incorrectly said the Soe branch should be at 45 degrees. The highest branch in the image below is actually a little too high.). The three lines radiate from the centre of the vase like the spokes of a wheel making it suitable to be seen from all angles and therefore able to be placed on a low table in the middle of a room. The ceramic cylinder is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery.

Greetings from Christopher
21st April 2012.


I was inspired to try this technique after seeing a beautiful arrangement by Ping Block at the workshops I recently attended in New Zealand. Ping had used one of the vases for visitors that I had coveted. When I saw her work I realised what she had done was much more beautiful than my arrangement would have looked in that particular vase. (I think there is a lesson in here for me.) The technique is creating a mass from leaves at the end of a smaller branches on a longer branch. It requires some judicious stripping of leaves and much manipulation of the branchlets. I spent an hour creating the mass illustrated below and was fascinated to discover that the branchlets became more pliable the longer I worked them. Below is the first version.

I subsequently tightened up the mass and added a single red anthurium for contrast placed in among the leaves. The anthurium is in a plastic water phial.

This is how it looked on the side board. I felt it worked rather well with the red and green being highlighted by an overhead halogen spotlight. The busyness of the back of the sideboard makes this a difficult location for most ikebana, so I rarely place them there.

The ceramic vase is by Graeme Wilkie.
Greetings from Christopher 
14th April 2012


On the weekends Laurie and I usually walk to a coffee shop in the main street of Torquay. Last weekend we passed a large flock of Galah's, a species of Australian cockatoo. They were eating grass seeds. I have always loved their pale grey feathers contrasting with the strong pink of their breast feathers.

Here is a close up of the picture above.

They started to walk away as we approached, you can see a Plover in the background, on the right. They are unusual birds as they lay their eggs on the ground and not in a nest.

I recently set my students the exercise of making an arrangement using roses and some other branch material. I tend to find roses difficult in ikebana because the flowers are so often very strong. Also, I do not have much experience with them as they are hard to grow in my garden. I had originally intended to use pine. However, when I saw these new eucalyptus branches I realised they would go well with the roses I had bought from the florist. I decided to place the flowers in among the branches rather than separately as I thought they would dominate the work. The soft bluish-grey of the leaves complements the pale cream of the roses. It also works well with the bowl (by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery) because it has a pale celadon interior and warm light terracotta outside.

Greetings from Christopher
7th April 2012


Last Wednesday saw the opening of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show. It is the seventeenth year of this annual event that takes place in the historic Royal Melbourne Exhibition Buildings and surrounding gardens. The buildings  were erected in 1880 for the first international exhibition 1880-1881 (see: For this event the gardens are used for trade exhibitions, including designs of model domestic scale gardens created for the five days of the event. Within the Great Hall building the focus is on all aspects of flower arts and cultivation. This year the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu school participated, as usual, in association with Ikebana International and some ikebanists created individual exhibits.

In the gardens there are musicians as well as street theatre performances taking place throughout the day. These two giant women with baskets of flowers and watering cans ready to do business in their garden, created amusement among the crowd.

This is the view down the length of the Great Hall. In the foreground on the lower floor are mannequins dressed in 'garments' made of flowers and other botanical materials designed by students studying fashion design.

This image shows the transept of the great hall. You can see some of the paintings high up that decorate the arches.

Below is a section of the Ikebana International exhibit. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph it front-on because of the crowd. On the left side is the Sogetsu School work. In the foreground is the Ohara School and straight behind the Ikenobo School with the Ichiyo School to the right. Out of view is the Shogetsudo-koryu arrangement.    

This is an individual stand by the Ohara School. (My sincere apologies for mis-labeling it initially as Shogetsudo-koryu school [corrected 4th April]).

This dramatic 'shop window' exhibit is by Emily Karanikolopoulos a Sogetsu School teacher (see: She has used two very large branches of white painted corky elm supporting glass bowls containing red anthurium lilies. Her work was awarded third prize.

This work is by Emily's sisters-in-law Toula and Betty Karanikolopoulos and features a strong framework of horizontal bamboo with variagated New Zealand flax and masses created with smaller bamboo, red anthurium lilies and dancing lady orchids. Their work received a 'highly commended' award.

This work caught my eye because (I'm fairly sure) it was by a student of floristry in Geelong. 

Here is another piece by students of western floristry where the influence of ikebana is very apparent. Think 'line mass and space'.

Now to my own domestic scale work this week. I have been noticing the bullrushes in the creek over the past month and wanting to make use of them. In particular I wanted to try to repeat a work I made at a workshop with Mr Katayama four years ago, see the picture below. The photo' I took at the workshop was not good because the work went outside the photo' frame.

Unfortunately, when I tried to repeat the work I had left it too late and the heads of the rushes were beginning to 'seed'. Also the stems were much weaker than those I perviously used. I was unable to use the same technique as above and instead tried to create a mass from the lines of the flower heads coming from two groups within the vase. At the last minute I had to add more stems to the righthand side so it is rather messy where the stems come out of the vase.  

The vase is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery, Lorne.

Greetings from Christopher 
1st April 2012