I was in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens last week and came across this small Gymea lily (Doryanthes excelsa, native of Queensland and New South Wales ) and thought it worth a photo as I was able to get up close to the flower. As it was a relatively young plant, it was only about 1.7 metres high. Gymea flower stems can reach five-six metres and have much larger composite flower heads than this one. When you look closely perhaps the most striking thing is the bright green pollen pads on the ends of the stamens.( For more information you may click on: Doryanthes excelsa)

To give some sense of scale I held my hand beside the flower head.

The two plants in the background here were over two metres.

Last week my teacher set the exercise of making an arrangement 'outside' the vessel. She referred to notes by her first teacher, the late  Norman Sparnon. These would have predated the new Sogetsu Curriculum exercise of '...Paying attention to the container and to the place where the arrangement will be put.'. I couldn't get the vine I had originally intended for the exercise so, in this work I re-used material (black willow) from a fortnight ago and two roses bought from my local florist. 

Greetings from Christopher 
27th October 2012

MORE AGAVE ( and Xanthorrhoea)

Last week Leonora from Ottawa admired the photos of the Australian native flowers I posted, which she commented are so different from the spring flowers in Canada. Here are some more from our garden. The first is an off-white creamy-green callistemon with an upright growth.

Here is a close-up of the same bush.

This is one of many red callistemons and has a weeping growth. As you can see the upper flower is just beginning to open.

Below is a spectacular xanthorrhoea I noticed recently growing in a garden near to our house. The flower spikes must be three meters high. I have never seen one flowering like this in a private garden before as they are notoriously slow growing plants. However they are common in the bush land in our district. 

I took this close-up of some flower spikes I took in the bush to show the tiny white flowers that make up each spike.

As I promised last week I made another ikebana from the agave I took to the workshop last week. I have created a simple form using the natural lines of the material.

This turned out to be a work that can be 'seen from all around'. I really like the surface texture and the beautiful subtle colours that are revealed.

Greetings from Christopher
21st October 2012


Spring weather has brought out a number of native flowers in our garden, here are two. A richly orange coloured banksia... 

..and a pink calistemon. 

The new growth on this eucalypt is also a beautiful rich pink.

I bought some red Waratahs this week and have taken a close-up picture so that you can see each head is composed of many small flowers, surrounded by a row of bracts of the same colour. The Waratah is the state floral emblem of New South Wales. It is a really beautiful flower and lasts well when cut. (see:

The exercise my teacher set was: using two or more containers make a work that incorporates repeated shapes. I have used 'black willow' to create some narrow triangles. There are two flowers in the front suiban, a smaller one behind and to the right, but only leaves in the suiban at the back. The surface of the water is a strong feature of the arrangement.

Yesterday I attended a workshop of the Sogetsu Branch Victoria. The theme was ‘Ways with Agave’ taken by Mrs Toula Karanikolopoulos. She focussed on techniques of working with Agave and other succulent materials. I was impressed with the variety of techniques and in particular Toula’s insight regarding the working of nature on the material over time. Next week I will include an example of an ikebana I created after the workshop. You can see images of the workshop on the Sogetsu website under the ‘News’ page, or clicking on: .

Greetings from Christopher
14th October 2012


This weeks pictures are of the 'domestic' scale works at this years exhibition at Qdos Gallery. The first work is by Helen Quarrell. She has arranged short lengths of copper tubing, some of which have touches of verdigris on them, and glass test tubes wrapped with fine red wire in the cone shapes that make up the vessel. Her original intention was to place some small flowers in the test tubes. However, they were too small and looked weak against the visual strength of the ceramic vessel, which is about 60 cms long. The vessel is made of a number of small irregularly sized ceramic cones fuzed together looking like oversized coral.

In this next work Christine Denmead has used a single dark magnolia leaf and a branch of weeping elm in a tall vessel. She has carefully pruned the branch to emphasise the curving lines and accentuate the vessel.

I made this work using a branch from our apricot tree with its spring leaves opening, two arum lilies and have contrasted them with a lichen covered branch on the opposite side of this free-form vessel. So one side of the work has fresh and the other side dried materials. The upper part of the branch on the right extends well toward rear of the work and the apricot branch extends forward. 

The vessel below is a smaller version of the one in which Helen Quarrell arranged the test tubes. Here she has arranged gypsophila to create a cloud of white floating above the work.

I have arranged some lichen encrusted box-thorn around this unique vessel. Because the box-thorn is dry material it does not need to be placed in the hole at the top of the vessel. The material complements the vase well; both have two distinctly different sides. In this image the yellowish lichen contrasts with the mostly blue surface on this side of the vessel.

On the reverse side the lichen is mostly a coppery green and the predominant colour of the vessel is terracotta. This surface of the vessel is more varied with beautiful subtle colourings. 

The vessel stood on a pedestal in the middle of the lower gallery and so was able to be viewed from all angles.

Greetings from Christopher
6th September 2012