Thanks to my friend Shirley, the un-identified pea-shaped flowers in the first arrangement (by Alana) of last week's posting, have been correctly identified as Erythrina crista-galli, (Cock spur-coral-tree); from South America, not Africa as I had said. While following up Shirley's lead, I was interested to discover this plant has been named as a potential weed * in the northern coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland.

I do hope you have had a good Christmas. Here on the south coast of Victoria the summer weather has begun and many families have come to the seaside for the long school holidays. Among the sights I have noticed in recent days have been some beautifully colourful birds .

This Rainbow Lorikeet * was feasting on the nectar from a eucalypt in our garden.

Here are two Galahs * feeding on seeds in the grass in front of a neighbours house.

I was especially delighted to capture this photo of a male Blue wren * (malurus cyaneus)   in the heathland above Bells Beach. It is a very small bird, shy and very quick in its movements and so hard to photograph.

At the last class with my teacher, our exercise was to make a Christmas arrangement. I wanted to make something a little understated and was pleased when I found two Goddess Lilies * (Zantedeschia aethiopica). I inserted two small red Christmas baubles in the throat of each. I have arranged them with some deites leaves in matching black suibans (shallow ikebana vessels) so that they could be placed on a buffet or as a table decoration.

With best wishes and seasons greetings from

27th December 2014

* Click on the blue text for further information


We have almost come to the end of another year that has been wonderfully full with ikebana and other activities. The major highlight for me on the ikebana front, which took up a lot of energy at the time, was the exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School, 'Autumn in Melbourne*

On Thursday this week my students and I gathered for an end of year celebration. We met at my house and each person brought a gift of food to share. 

Then our ikebana activities began. The advanced students drew a number from a 'hat' which corresponded with a specific location in the house. Their task was to make an ikebana arrangement with materials they had brought and make it complement the space they were allocated. Additionally they had to work in an unfamiliar vessel that they chose from my collection of vases.

This first work is by Alana who used unusual flowers (from an unknown South African tree, see photo below) with two types of fern the massed one on the right being a form of asparagus fern. 


I photographed the tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne this morning but couldn't find a marker with its name.

Maureen used some fine white flowers, red berries and strappy leaves in a circular vase placed on its side. 

I have re-photographed the arrangement as it was difficult to see well against the vertical blinds. 

The challenge for Christine was the confined space of this corner at the end of a long corridor. She has used a palm spathe, white painted branches and white agapanthus.

The challenge for Ellie's arrangement was the very busy background of the carved sideboard. This situation diminishes the impact of lines in an arrangement.

She massed small yellow flowers, red heliconia and horse tail in a crescent shaped ceramic vase.

I am afraid I did not even try to photograph Helens work in situ. Her location was a low glass topped table standing on a dark red patterned rug.

She used succulent fruits and two dried leaves from a 'fiddleleaf fig' * (ficus lyrata). This photo shows the work as an arrangement 'To be viewed from above', one of the set exercises from the Sogetsu curriculum.

The last arrangement is by Vivien. She has used a form of 'Sea Holly' * (Eryngium Maritimum), and for contrast a large pink hydrangea and two leaves of acanthus from our garden.

As usual we enjoyed the fellowship of our class and the joy of making ikebana with the added challenge of working in an unfamiliar location and unfamiliar vase.

Wherever you are reading this, I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas.

Greetings from Christopher
21st December 2014

* Click on the blue text for further information.


I mentioned last week that we were hosting some friends visiting from the United Kingdom. Their visit coincided with an unusual weather event. Warm, moist air coming down the east coast of Australia was swept in a southwest flow across Victoria. This weather pattern results in easterly winds and persistent rain that will last, on and off on this occasion, for several days. From the point of view of gardening the rain was most welcome and has topped up our 13,500 litre garden water-tank.

For our visitors it was not the version of Australia they usually see on their TV screens. However, one of the interesting sights was a huge number of small bluebottle jellyfish * being washed up on our beach because of the unusually choppy seas and easterly swell.

To me the two most surprising features of these organisms are their intense blue colour and their extraordinarily long tentacles, as you can see above.


The photos above show a small number, among the hundreds, of jellyfish we saw on the beach scattered among little brown pea-sized air-bladders that have detached from seaweed in the stormy weather.

Speaking of the sea reminds me that I recently gave a class about 'focusing on water' in an arrangement. My student, Leonie, made this work in a glass cylinder using shredded New Zealand Flax leaves and a single yellow iris-like flower of dietes bicolour.

At the same class I made the work below, to show how two arrangements may be combined to create a single arrangement. In this instance I used suibans, shallow tray-like vessels, but any two vessels may be used. This work also 'focused on water', in this case the surface of the water.

Greetings from Christopher
13th December 2014

* click on the blue text for further information


Because Melbourne is nearly 900kms south west of Sydney the subtropical trees, that I showed in last weeks posting, are just coming into full bloom here. The Jacaranda, below, is in the Royal Melbourne Botanic Garden adjacent to the Herbaceous Border

Laurie and I were showing some friends from the United Kingdom around the gardens and came across this Brachychiton Acerfolia. 

Pictured above are Stephen, Stella and Laurie, all of whom met in Papua New Guinea where they worked in the early 1970's.

Another of my favourite flowers in the garden is this 'Golden Chalice Vine' (Solandra Grandiflora), which has enormous flowers the size of small bowls.

Stephen kindly consented to be the human figure to give a sense of scale to these huge flowers.

This week's ikebana is the work of my students. In their class last week I set them the exercise of creating ikebana using 'Fresh and Unconventional (man-made) Material'. The results were very varied and showed an imaginative interpretation of the exercise.

Ellie used perforated rubber matting which she scrolled, exploiting its sheerness to partially conceal some of the yellow lilies that she had combined with variegated New Zealand Flax leaves.

Helen combined a rusty bicycle chain with seed pods from a succulent. She carefully placed the chain to emphasise the two different surfaces of the vase.

Maureen combined an old boot that was splattered with white paint, white chrysanthemums and stems from a Xanthorrhoea (grass tree).

Christine used a junction-section of air-conditioning ducting, white plastic strapping and an ornamental variety of 'Tea tree' (leptospermum).

Greetings from Christopher
7th December 2014

* Click on the blue text for further information.


A couple of weeks ago I was in Sydney and was delighted to see a large number of Central/South American Jacaranda * trees in full bloom. Their colour was remarkable, and on our first day there it seemed intensified by the overcast sky.

Laurie and Cooper under the Jacaranda.
At the same time the really stunning Australian Illawarra Flame Tree * (Brachychiton Acerfolius) was also flowering abundantly, as you can see in the two photos below

Two weeks ago I posted a photo of a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, which a number of people enjoyed, including my ikebana friend Joan

This week she gave me the photo, above, of a cheeky looking Kookaburra * she had just fed in her Melbourne garden. Co-incidently, I had seen one that very morning in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens being chased by a smaller bird that obviously felt the eggs in its nest were in danger of being eaten by the Kookaburra.

At the beginning of the week I received a parcel from the USA. It was a porcelain vase I had bought from Mark Bell *, a ceramic artist in Blue Hill, Maine, whom Laurie and I were introduced to thanks to our friends 'the Michaels'. 

Here is the vase with two Oriental Lilies whose stems beautifully echo an inversion of its profile curve, scalloped opening and complement its colour.

Greetings from Christopher
29th November 2014

* Click on the blue text for further information.


Two weeks ago my teacher set the exercise of 'making geometric shapes' for our class. Not to be confused with 'repeating shapes' from the Sogetsu curriculum. I chose to use the common reed (Phragmites Australis) that grows in the creek below our house as well as along the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne. Through my internet research I was interested to learn that an environmental authority from South Australia * regards these plants as desirable, unlike the wikipedia entry on the same plant.

When arranging five stems of the material I bent the leaves at a sharp angle back to the stem where I threaded the tip through I a small slit I had made. This resulted in numerous triangles ascending vertically above the open ceramic vessel. Maren, a fellow student at the class, kindly lent me the single South African 'pincushion protea' * flower that I have placed at the back of of the righthand reed stems. 

On Monday last, the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School held a workshop that was led by Emily Karanikolopoulos on the theme of creating 'Ikebana as a gift'. Emily produced six beautiful examples that are on the Victorian Branch * website along with a slide-show of the participants work. Click on the blue text to see the photos from the sogetsu workshop and then select the heading 'Recent Workshops' .

Greetings from Christopher 
22nd November 2014


A few months ago I posted the photo, below, of the Cootamundra Wattle flowering beside the garden path. When the flowers have finished they form multiple seed pods... 

...that are loved by birds. This Sulphur Crested Cockatoo * is making the most of the free food. I note that Wikipedia says: '...They are very demanding pets, being very loud and having a natural desire to chew wood and other hard and organic materials...', quite true, this includes wooden window frames.

The cockatoo moved closer to a casurina after I took the first photo.

Last Tuesday I attended the meeting of the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International. We were treated to a demonstration and workshop by the visiting Iemoto designate, Shihosai Uematsu, of the Shogetsudo Koryu school. I really enjoyed the hands-on workshop which was very well conducted. Following the morning demonstration each participant was presented with diagramatic instructions and a bunch of suitable materials for creating a seika arrangement. Here is my effort at the exercise, re-created at home.

Above is a side view of the work showing how, in this case the (seven), stems are aligned in a single row, one behind the other.

More photos from the event can be seen through the link: Shogetsudo Koryu at I. I. Melbourne.

* click on the coloured text for further information.

Greetings from Christopher
16th November 2014


Since my last post we have returned home to find that the weather has been unusually dry for this time of year; so the newer plantings in the garden have needed a little 'hydro-therapy'. The weather has been typically unstable with changes every couple of days, being warm (mid 20's) then cool (mid teens) in turns. In August before we left one of our native creepers Pandorea pandorana had come into flower.

This particular variety is called 'Snowbells', the photo above shows it growing on the side fence.

I particularly wanted to use it to make a hanging arrangement. In the Sogetsu Ikebana curriculum, the work I have created is nearest to 'An arrangement to be viewed from below'.

After trimming most of the leaves away, I have placed the vine in a shallow bowl and allowed it to cascade over the edge of the plinth on which it stands. As it falls below the level of the bowl the flowers and vine stem are seen against the surface of the plinth.

This is the arrangement viewed from the side; the bowl is by the ceramic artist Phil Elson and the ceramic plinth by Graeme Wilkie.

Greetings from Christopher

8th November 2014


After our tour of Fallingwater (see last week's blog), we travelled with my ikebana friend Michael and his partner Mike to spend a couple of days with them in their Florida home. What a change of climate. Orlando is at a similar distance from the equator to Brisbane in Australia and seems to have a similar climate, though the latter is a bit drier. I was rather amazed to see huge lengths of Spanish Moss trailing from trees (and power lines). Apparently it rarely kills trees, but I saw groves of orange trees covered in it that looked decidedly unhealthy. 

Above, it looks beautiful framing this view of the lake at the bottom of our friends' garden.

In the front garden a 'Silk Floss Tree' (Ceiba speciosa) was in full bloom, scattering many flowers over the path and roof.


Above, by climbing on a wall, I managed to take this photo of a single petal caught among some Spanish Moss that had attached to the spikes on the tree trunk.

Two weeks ago, when we were in Maine, I picked some miscanthus that I later noticed had a white stripe down the central rib. I thought I would like to emphasise this feature so I cut the flowers off and arranged, it in a glass salad bowl, leaning well forward to show the stripe. 

Then I added a long stemmed hydrangea stripped of leaves to preserve the emphasis of the lines in the design.

Greetings from Christopher
1st November 2014

* click on the blue text for further information