Here in the southern hemisphere the weather is becoming summery so things are flourishing in the garden. There are more insects including butterflies like the one on this pincushion flower(scabiosa atropurpurea).

The insects have brought the return of our old friend the echidna who we haven't seen for a while. Our neighbour took this photo while the echidna was eating ants by the side of the garden path.

I was surprised yesterday to notice this straw-necked ibis scratching for insects among the leaf litter. It is only the second time I have seen one in the garden. In this photo you can make out the iridescence in the dark feathers of its wings.

Summer is further evident in these photos of a New Zealand Christmas Bush on the foreshore at Torquay. The flowers looked like they were glowing in the afternoon sun.

I decided they were just what I needed for my small Christmas arrangement, so I picked some from a neighbours garden to add to the fragrant white lilies I had bought from the florist. Some golden mizuhiki provided the Christmas sparkle. The crescent-shaped ceramic vase is from Japan.

Belated Christmas Greetings from Christopher
28th December 2013


The big event this week was the participation by the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International in a community arts program at the National Gallery of Victoria, as part of a major contemporary art exhibition called Melbourne NowFive ikebana schools presented works in the 'community hall' that has been created in the foyer of the art gallery. There are some photos that I took during the event on the Ikebana International blog, unfortunately the environment was exceptionally difficult for taking satisfactory photos.  As you can see in the photo below, that I took a week earlier, the foyer is dominated by a very large 'waterwall window'. So, presenters and their ikebana were silhouetted when standing at the bench in the centre of this image. 

However, in spite of this there was a great response from the viewing audience and the works were beautiful. In the afternoon session my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos and I each exhibited a freestyle arrangement and then demonstrated a 'basic upright' and a 'basic slanting' arrangement. We then invited members of the public to make an arrangement with materials that we had prepared in advance. This was enthustically taken up by about 14 people.

Below are photos taken later at home of our freestyle arrangements. The first is a quirky Christmas arrangement by Emily using two agave leaves in a silver bowl.

My arrangement features dried flower stems from agave and massed Yate (eucalyptus lehmannii) open flowers, buds and seed pods. The ceramic box shaped vessel is by Yutaka Nakamura.

Seasons Greetings from Christopher
22nd December 2013


This week my students and I celebrated the end of the year with a party at the home of one of the students. I asked them to create an ikebana arrangement for Christmas or another celebration and that it needed to suit a specific place. The photo below shows six of the eight students in Janine's house where we began our evening with some food and a glass of champagne. 

I am afraid the photos are not very good because I had to use the flash in most of them. The students did not know in advance where in the house they would be creating their ikebana and they had to find a way to make the ikebana suit the particular location. In this first image the colour of Alana's materials complemented the surroundings. However, she had to make a low horizontal work because of the busyness of the pictures on the wall.

Christine's challenge was to make an arrangement to be viewed from two positions at right angles to each other. This corner was just inside the front door and this view, below, is at 90 degrees to the view from the front door.

Nola made this small arrangement, of pine and red berries, on a window sill that related to the plants in the garden outside the window.

Janine's own work was using two beautifully naturally-curved agapanthus stems in a two kenzan arrangement with some pink asiatic lilies. She was constrained by the small space next to the television and the low setting of the table.

Ellie made a white and red Christmas arrangement in a tall vase. Its original position was on a dressing table against a mirror. 

I have placed it on the floor for a better photo.

Helen, who made her arrangement in the same room, also used white painted branches that she teamed with peonies and dry and fresh leaves. Her position was on an elevated book shelf with a television to the left so she used the bare wall to the righthand side.

Maureen made the work below with leeks grown in her own garden. She said that the work was to be for her son's 10th wedding anniversary. The two taller stems represent her son and his wife's lives being intertwined and the lower two lines representing their two children.

Greetings from Christopher
14th December 2013


The reason this blog has its name is that when I first started taking ikebana lessons here in Australia I used to gather materials from the roadside. At the time I did a lot of driving in the countryside for my work. I have always enjoyed the beauty of wild-growing things that so often have the character of the environment and the elements, wind, rain and sun, etched into their form.

For the last few weeks I have been admiring the rich reds and pinks that have developed in a patch of wild dockweed (rumex patientia). Below is a view along the intermittent waterway near our house where it is growing. In the foreground is the dock and some other weeds.

I think the intensity of this pink is extraordinary and beautiful.

When I started to arrange the dock I felt its simple character called for naturalistic treatment. So I have created a 'basic upright' arrangement in a ceramic suiban (flat bottomed bowl). This is the first lesson that we teach in the Sogetsu School curriculum. I have used a large beautifully coloured leaf on the lower right where we would usually have a flower.

When I finished the arrangement I realised that it was looking too wispy so I gathered some more leaves to give the centre of the work more body.

It is such a delight that Ikebana gives us the opportunity to show the beauty of nature even in a humble weed.

Greetings from Christopher
7th December 2013


Over the last couple of weeks I have been monitoring the growth of some sunflowers that I planted as seeds in the winter. This is the first time I have grown flowers from seed and the results have been quite delightful.

The photo below is of the same flower about a week later.

You can see by the next photo that the plants have grown as high as the top of the doors onto the terrace. I am hoping that I will be able to dry the flower heads for future use.

We also have a couple of highly fragrant broom shrubs in the garden that are just at the end of their blossoming. I used some for the first time in an ikebana class recently when my teacher asked us to make a spring arrangement. 

Initially I placed two groups of the broom standing upright. I decided that the result looked rather unimaginative so I then arranged them in a curve in the contrasting blue ceramic trough I was using. To give the the arrangement a little zing I added a small red geranium placed low within the mass of the broom flowers.

Greetings from Christopher
30th November 2013


Last week my teacher set us the exercise of making ikebana using succulents with 'unconventional material'. The latter is usually taken to mean man-made synthetic material. Below are works made by my class mates. The first is by Mrs Gillian Zaks who used a tube of gauze material in the arrangement.

In the next example, Mrs Joan Norbury created an 'S' shaped tube out of wire mesh. 

Mrs Jan Webb used plastic tubing and black plastic off-cuts in her first work.

In this second work she used a ball of extruded red plastic.

Mrs Euginia Chudacek used black plastic off-cuts in her two arrangements below.

Mrs Sandra Gawthorpe also used black plastic off-cuts.

This next example, made in class, is by me. I have interpreted the exercise a little by using red painted sticks assembled into a free-form structure as my non-conventional material and agave as the succulent. This lead me to explore the difference between a cactus and a succulent using google

The ikebana I created in class also turned out to be a good demonstration of the fact that if you try to re-create ikebana a second time, even from the same material, it will not be the same. The photo below is of my preliminary practise of the exercise at home before I went to the class.

Greetings from Christopher
23rd November 2013

Five Elements Workshop

Last Monday Mrs Lara Telford, one of the teaching members of the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana conducted a workshop on the theme 'The Oriental Concept of Five Elements'. 

I chose to make an ikebana with 'wood' as the subject. I created an assemblage of short lengths of silver birch, that I joined together using doweling, and was particularly interested to show the cross-section of the timber, not just the beautiful bark. 

I first cut the birch into short lengths and graded them from short to long. I then made three assemblages arranging the pieces irregularly but graduated from short to longer pieces. I think this has given them a better form and made them look more stable when arranged with the longest pieces at the bottom. 

Once the largest assemblage had been secured to the vase I then balanced the smaller two on top. For contrast only, I have added a spray of three small red single-roses given to me by my ikebana friend Emily.

More images from the workshop can be viewed by clicking on the highlighted text: Victorian Branch Workshop. This includes four demonstrated works by Mrs Telford and a slideshow of some of the participants' ikebana.

The Japanese version of the five elements concept include: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Void or Spirit. Wikipedia has an interesting article about the different versions of the five elements concept according to different traditions.

Greetings from Christopher
17th November 2013


A couple of weeks ago Mr Yoshiro Umemura conducted workshops for the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana. The first workshop was for practising teachers on the theme of 'one kind of material'. We were all required to use Gymea leaves only. After first creating a work we then were encouraged to re-use the same material to make a second ikebana.

Below are my first and second works from the same two gymea leaves.

Mr Umemura's critique of the second work was that the suiban was too shallow and small for the work.

All of the teachers really enjoyed this exercise and found they took the exploration of the material to a new depth with their second creation. Below are Mr Umemura's two demonstration pieces, the initial work first is followed by his re-working of the same material. 

The theme in the afternoon was to make an arrangement using gymea and monstera leaves only. I used two gymea leaves that I split to make geometric shapes and added half of a philodendron leaf (in the absence of a monstera leaf).

On the following morning we had to exchange materials with other participants and I was given two philodendron leaves, two philodendron fruit and a black vase. The exercise was to deconstruct the material and re-assemble it to make a new ikebana work. Below is one of the leaves in its natural state.

When I looked at the back of the leaf I thought its veins would look good against the black of the vase. I trimmed the leaf leaving some of the veins long so that I could take them around to the back of the vase where I could secure them. I have inverted the fruit into the small off-centre opening of then vase.

Mr Umemura commented that if I had secured the stems at the back of the vase more neatly this would work as an interesting 'arrangement to be viewed from all angles'. Below is the back view of the work, edited from a larger photo of the whole room.

In the afternoon the exercise was 'an arrangement with curved and straight lines'. We were required to exchanged both materials and vases increasing the challenge of the exercise. Below is my work using the straight stems of alstromeria and a single curving flax leaf.

Other examples from the these workshops are on the Victorian Branch website. If you scroll down the page you will find it includes a couple of slide shows of many of the participants' work.

Greetings from Christopher
9th November 2013