This week we were delighted to welcome my ikebana friends, Leonora, Richard and Eleanor, from Ottawa to Melbourne on their ikebana holiday to the southern hemisphere. Leonora had invited me to Ottawa, last year, where I gave two workshops at the beginning of October 2014. 

Laurie took this photo of Leonora and me in front of a spear lily (doryanthus palmeri) *, in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  

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On Saturday Leonora, Eleanor and I attended a Sogetsu workshop led by Emily Karanikolopoulos on the theme of interpreting a favourite work of art into an ikebana arrangement. The challenge was to create an ikebana work inspired by an image, sculpture or other work of art, but not to simply try to recreate it with botanical materials.

I chose this wood block print of Laurie's by the Japanese artist Onda Akyio. It depicts a traditional Japanese New Year celebration in which a young monk is 'ringing out the old year' at the Eihei-ji Temple * in Fukui Prefecture in western Honshu. I have always like the dynamism in this image that depicts the wind and snow swirling around the monk in the belfry.

I have curved the stems of arum lilies to create a sense of movement and added gypsophylla to represent the flying snow.

Greetings from Christopher
27th September 2015

* Click on the blue text for further information.


In this part of the world the weather in Spring-time is especially variable. On Monday last week the temperature got to 28 Celsius. At the end of the day a cool change brought the temperatures down and very welcome heavy rain overnight. The maximum on Tuesday was 13C. 

At 8.00 am the beach look like this...

...and the creek was flowing swiftly out to sea as a result of the overnight rain.

Then the sun came out, illuminating the cliffs. The combination of warm weather and rain has brought out the first of the roses. 

On the pergola a climbing Lorraine Lee releases its perfume.

And hangs over a Cecile Brunner.


The annual Ikebana International exhibition that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago finished last weekend and photos can be seen at I.I. Melbourne Annual Exhibition * . For the first time the exhibition was held over two weeks. This meant greater exposure for the Melbourne Chapter and the opportunity for 39 members to exhibit. For me, as the curator, and other I.I. members, it also meant a lot of work. 

We were fortunate in being able to hold the exhibition in the ground floor gallery of the Town Hall in the main thoroughfare of the city.

This was the view from the footpath through one of the windows on the street. I was responsible for the layout design, the placement of the exhibitors' arrangements and installations and the design of the window poster seen in the photo above. The ikebana featured in the poster is by Chieko Yazaki the President of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter.

Taking the advice of my mentors, my own ikebana contribution, in the second week of the exhibition, was uncomplicated. One head of a gymea lily * flower and three leaves arranged in a vessel by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery.

Greetings from Christopher 
19th September 2015

* Click on the blue text for further information.


To continue last week's theme, the second day of workshops on Sunday 23rd August with Mr Umemura from Sydney were again focusing on two Sogetsu curriculum exercises combined. The morning workshop was combining the following two exercises: 'Kabuwake' (two or more groups of material), and 'using branch material only'. Branch material can include flowers that occur on the branches.

I decided to use again some of the prunings from the apricot tree, that had started to flower after being placed in a vase, with Japanese flowering quince and some camellia leaves. The apricot provided wide sweeping lines that the quince leaned into. While the camellia concealed the kenzans and provided a small mass high in the arrangement.

The afternoon workshop combined the themes, 'using two or more vessels' and 'using only one kind of material'. This second part, 'one kind of material', is made a little easier when the material chosen has very distinctive elements, such as contrasting flowers, leaves, stems or seed pods, for example.

I had only a little of my camellia left. However, I was able to make a freestyle nageire arrangement, in the tall vase, and float a single flower in the bowl. This enabled me to make a feature of the surface of the water, thus creating an additional element to the composition.

Examples of Mr Umemura's and my colleagues' work can be seen by clicking on Sunday workshops * .

Greetings from Christopher
12th September 2015


The first workshop on Saturday 22nd August, given by Yoshiro Umemura from Sydney, was on the two themes of: 'a vertical arrangement' and 'an arrangement using flowers only'. Now, to do this double exercise properly, one needs to be attentive to the traditional Japanese nomenclature of plants, with regard to ikebana. There are two principal classes: tree plants and grass plants. The category, 'grass plants' includes those plants that westerners think of mostly, as annuals and perennials, in which flowers are on stems that grow up directly from the ground. For example: iris, arum lilies, tulips, poppies and the like.  On the other hand, camellias are in the category of 'trees'. So are banksias. My good friend Heather has in her garden a most spectacular Banksia, a cultivar called Giant Candles * , with huge, long flower heads. Very suitable for a vertical arrangement, one would think. But not for the exercise that was set at the workshop!

While this is a vertical arrangement, I'm afraid it didn't meet the 'flowers only' criteria. (The bowl is by Phil Elson * .)

Meet my friend, the talented gardener, Heather (and her banksia).

It is pretty obvious why I was tempted to use these amazing flowers for the workshop. 


This flower-head was so heavy the branch couldn't hold it upright.

You can see photographic examples by people who got the exercise right at Workshop Number One * . The second workshop was on the two themes  of: 'a horizontal arrangement' and 'using leaves only'. Photos of the second exercise are below the first set of photos.

Photos of the Ikebana International exhibition that I mentioned last week will be posted in the next week or so.

Greetings from Christopher
5th September 2015

* Click on the blue text for further information.