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


The exhibition at the Wintergarden has been extended to the 5th November, so my students and I changed the works again last Thursday. Because there are 80 botanical paintings on the walls and a few extra unframed ones we have been able to choose new subject matter each of the last five weeks without repeating ourselves. This constant changing of the ikebana has aroused a good deal of interest among the visitors to the gallery.

Ellie Welkamp chose 'mandarins' as her subject and created this ikebana with them submerged in a glass vase to which she added two colour matched lilies.

Nola Bird arranged rose hips in a mass with some leaves and buds from the same bush.

Christine Denmead used banksia with new flowers and old seed cones still on the branch in a vessel by Graeme Wilkie.

Helen Quarrell made a moribana arrangement using artichokes with some purple flowering sage.

I have created an ikebana with a seasonally early flower of agapanthus, a bud and some of last years dried flower heads.

I used the old flower heads braced across the mouth of the bowl, made by Graeme Wilkie, to support the fresh flowers and allow a clear view of the water. In retrospect I think the bowl colour is too close to the dried flower heads and a black bowl would have had more impact.

Greetings from Christopher
2nd November 2013