My ikebana colleague Joan has identified the flowers in the driftwood arrangement in last week's posting as godetia *, a native of the coast of the north west of North America. The description of them being azalea-like strikes me as apt.

The peak of hot summer days seems to have passed and, after extra watering, the roses in the garden have started their second flowering.

In this photo the pale pink is cecile brunner,  a charming, prolifically flowering, small rose. The deeper pink is a climbing lorraine lee * . The cecile brunner  * in our garden is the 'grandchild' of a plant given to me by the father of a friend about 45 years ago.  

Here is a close up of a cecile brunner bud that I find so exquisite. I used to like to wear one in the lapel of my sports coat. It also has a delightful, slightly spicy, perfume.

I took these next photos yesterday in the bright early morning sunlight. 

The poppies had miraculously survived from the spring of 2013 and when I spilt some fertiliser on them they started flowering vigorously again.

This year I have grown some dwarf sunflowers as an experiment and above is the largest of the flowerheads.

When I went to class this week my ikebana teacher asked us to use agapanthus. Because of the summer heat and the lateness of the season most had finished flowering where I live. I cut some finished stems from a friend's garden and removed all the seeds from the heads so that I could emphasise the rather sculptural qualities of the ball of spiky flower stems at the top of the strong stalks.

I pressed the flowerheads together so that they interlocked and were then able to be freestanding without the use of kenzans or any other fixing at the top. The arrangement is formed of two groups so that the space can be emphasised and a dark leaved, orange flowering, canna lily * is used as a contrast. 

Greetings from Christopher
28th February 2015

* Click on the blue text for further information


I have been doing some internet research following an enquiry by Gail, who lives in New York State, about the seed heads I used in my 'Memories of Summer' arrangement last week. To my amazement have discovered it is an indigenous plant, spinifex sericeus *, and not marram grass at all. These two grasses look very similar to the untrained eye and share many adaptation features for growing on the harsh environment of sand-dunes. One of their most noticable differences is that the spinifex has the beautiful seed heads I showed last week. In my journey of discovery I also learnt that the nearby town of Barwon Heads, east of Torquay, has a voluntary conservation group that has an excellent website that focusses on a coastal headland and the adjacent marine environment. Check their website: 'Friends of The Bluff' *.

In keeping with the summer theme of last week, the ikebana above also features driftwood and some unidentified fresh flowers I bought. The stems of the  flowers looked a bit like dianthus, however the flowers reminded me of poppies.

I also created this arrangement of nandina domestica leaves, from the garden, in a circular glass and metal vase. I was pleased that I managed to reseal this leaking vase by painting the joins with PVA wood glue the night before. A major advantage of the glue is that it dries clear. I was fascinated by the red edge that developed on the leaves and pleased to have two of them above the water surface.

Greetings from Christopher.
21st February 2015

* click on the blue text for further information.


This week I attended the first meeting of Ikebana International (Melbourne) for 2015. Members are encouraged to create ikebana at the meetings, according to a particular theme. February's theme was 'Memories of Summer Holidays'. I have lived in the seaside town of Torquay, Victoria since childhood and so the first thing that springs to my mind of summer holidays is the beach. However, I learnt a long time ago that a beach is more than sand, water and sunshine. On the exposed cliff tops are wonderful works of nature as you can see below.

In this photo, above, at the edge of the low cliff is a clump of silver-grey cushion bush * (leucophyta brownii). 

On the sand dunes is found marram grass *(Ammophila), a species from the coasts of the North Atlantic Ocean, that has now naturalised in many parts of the world where it has been used to 'stabilise' sand dunes. I took the photo above on the east coast of Tasmania in 2011.

Also on the cliff face are found Moona trees (Melaleuca lanceoleta), a low growing tree that develops remarkably twisting branches in the prevailing winds that are a climatic feature of this region.

At the I. I. meeting I was given the task of explaining my interpretation of the theme and demonstrating how I created my ikebana to express my ideas about the theme. First I had to create a support fixture so that a Moona branch 'floated' across the top of the vase. In this instance I used a single length of dowel at a 45 degree angle into the vase that rested on the lip of the opening and which I inserted into the branch. Then I added carefully bundled groups of Cushion Bush, followed by the seed heads of Marram Grass that I had wired together.

A photo of me at the end of the demonstration. Here is a link to more images on the Ikebana International Melbourne blog.

Above is my first version of this ikebana that I made at home to ensure that the 'mechanics' would hold up and that my ideas were appropriately expressed. The vase is wood-fired ceramic with a shino glaze made by Sergio Sill, a New South Wales potter. The red colour of the glaze has a hot dry, Australian summer feel.

Greetings from Christopher

14th February 2015

Click on the coloured text for further information


This week marks the beginning of the academic year and children have returned to school after the long summer holidays. It is often the case that the first month of the school year is the hottest. January has been reasonably mild on the south coast, but today we are expecting 35 C. Because of the anticipated heat we took an early morning walk on the beaches west of Torquay and I caught these reflections of the sky in some rock pools.

This reminded me of the theme of the class I gave the evening before, it was: an arrangement 'Emphasising water'. Always an appropriate theme for this time of year. Below are some examples of the students work.

Maureen created both works above. The first with long lines in a suiban leaving a large open water surface and the second in clear glass bowls using green materials only.

Christine also used a suiban arranging berries drooping down toward the water surface that also reflected the lines.

Her second work was a single leaf carefully suspended in a glass vase filled to the top with water.

Ellie arranged these materials both above and below the water and added a single sunflower petal to create a small colour accent.

In her second work she arranged two sunflower heads in a glass bowl and added two stems projecting to the rear to give the work depth.

Vivien, a second year student, created a variation number 3. This is said to be the most 'western' looking of the early curriculum lessons, as the materials are centrally placed in the suiban with the flower projecting forward. 

Above is my work, two stems of Japonica with two fruit attached, arranged in a glass cylinder. 

Greetings from Christopher
7th February 2015