A couple of weeks ago Laurie and I took our Canadian visitors to the 'Australian Garden' at the Royal Botanic Garden in Cranbourne. It was a great opportunity to see some of the huge variety of Australia's unique flora.

Here Leonora is examining a Gymea Lily, Doryanthus excelsa * .

Eleanore and Laurie checking-out a Queensland Bottle Tree, Brachychiton Rupestris * .

We also came across some Grass Trees, Xanthorrhoea * that were in flower.

The same flowering spikes from below.

This species above, grows in the clifftop-heath west of Torquay.

A close-up of the flowers.

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Earlier in October the theme in Elizabeth's class was a Sogetsu, Book Four, curriculum exercise: 'Paying attention to the container and the place where it will be put'. Ikebanists are instructed to allow the work to 'stretch freely' so that the space becomes part of the work. We chose the locations for our work in advance and then brought along materials that we felt would work there.

Emily chose an elevated shelf and used this beautiful clematis from her garden, in a hanging arrangement 'to be viewed from below'.


Elizabeth created this dramatic arrangement on two shelves connected by strong angular lines of reed. It looked excellent and I'm afraid the photo does not do the work justice.

I liked the large surfaces of the fireplace chimney and thought it would be interesting to create an ikebana that would stretch across and around these surfaces. The day before the class, Laurie and I took our visitors to a cafe by the Yarra River and on the way back I picked some large dried stems of last summer's wild fennel. We must have made an odd sight, walking home in single file each with a bundle of fennel sticks.

I chose a large vase by Alistair Whyte * , that belongs to Laurie, and using fennel branches that still were green at their bases, arranged them at the corner of the fireplace. Some of the branchlets have been brought across the side surface of the chimney as this work could be seen through 270 degrees.

I used lighter branches, inverted, to make a strong line across the surface above the fireplace and added some pale yellow dried agapanthus stems for a lighter contrast.

Greetings from Christopher
30th October 2015

* click on the blue text for further information.


Last weekend my guests and I visited the home of one of my students in the countryside northeast of Melbourne. It proved an opportunity for an outdoor Sogetsu sculptural installation workshop, for my Canadian visitors as well as my host. 

Out door work is always a challenge, most particularly because botanical materials are likely to get lost when competing with features in the landscape. Therefore, one strategy to overcome this is to try to integrate the 'sculpture' with some elements of the environment.

Leonora, who worked with Nici, chose to site their work against this large elm tree and to incorporate an old iron, garden-chair.

They added lines of fallen eucalyptus branches and yellow roses.

Notice how the branch lines continue up into the branches of the tree. Unfortunately the photo doesn't do the sculpture justice as the rusty metal of the chair blends into the texture of the elm's bark.

Eleanor and Marcia chose to site their work against these benches made from railway sleepers, looking across a wide valley. Marcia was keen to use a large old gate. It was fixed to the bench with some brackets and stood on one corner. Two large branches were threaded through the wire mesh to provide additional stability.


Eleanor and Marcia at work adding large pale grey-green artichoke leaves. 

The final result had a surprising sense of playful movement.

Greetings from Christopher
25th October 2015


The spring weather, as usual, is highly variable; although the heat extremes have been greater than ever before. One consequence of the unsettled weather is beautiful cloud formations. 

I took this photo of the surf beach at Torquay late in an afternoon last week. 

Ikebana activities continue apace with a meeting of Ikebana International last Tuesday on the theme of Australian native flora. Members were encouraged to create ikebana using indigenous plants. An excellent talk was given about the Royal Botanic Garden's Australian Garden at Cranbourne. Details through the following link: Ikebana International Melbourne * .

When we were in Apollo Bay last week we bought some beautiful Waratahs (Telopea Speciosissima) that Leonora used with Bushy Yate (Eucalyptus Lehmannii) to make this arrangement 'to be viewed from all angles'. Vase by Graeme Wilkie * .

This means the arrangement has quite a different appearance depending on the angle from which it is seen.

I slightly reworked my arrangement from the I.I. meeting which appears on the I.I. blog. I have used 'Cushion bush' (Leucophyta brownii) and a sedge (Lepidosperma gladiatum), both of which grow on the cliffs at Torquay. I found a newspaper article about the Bendigo potter, Ray Pearce *  who made the vase, which reminds me of a sea urchin.

Greetings from Christopher
17th October 2015 

* Click on the blue text for further information


After I published last week's posting I removed a photo. I had incorrectly identified an ikebana arrangement of one of Emily Karanikolopoulos' students.  Here it is again. 

Margaret Wilson created this arrangement using a partially furled Strelitzia Nicholai leaf and stem, and a maroon succulent.

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During this past week Laurie and I have toured around western Victoria with our visitors from Ottawa. 

We stayed a night in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, where we walked along this stream to the series of rock pools known as Venus Baths. 

In the resort at Halls Gap where we stayed, I noticed this huge Waratah * (Telopea)  bush.

I had never seen one so large and prolifically blooming. This is the state floral emblem for New South Wales.

In the evening kangaroos came out of the bush to feed on the grass around the cabins, this one with a 'joey' in her pouch.

The next day we went down to the coast and at Tower Hill State Park near Port Fairy we came across this male Emu protecting his chick.

Eleanor, Richard, Laurie and Leonora at a lookout overlooking the Twelve Apostles.

 Some of the Apostles. These are large 'stacks' that have resisted the erosion of the waves and are left standing as the cliffs behind are slowly worn away.

Heading back toward Torquay we passed through the rainforest in the Otway ranges where tall tree ferns grow.

On the road to the Cape Otway light house many koalas are to be seen. Sadly they are causing a great deal of damage by stripping the trees of leaves and as a result are running out of food.

This week's ikebana was an impromptu exercise I set for Leonora and Eleanor. I asked them to improvise a vessel and make an ikebana arrangement in it.

Leonora chose three pieces of thick bark, using the inner curve as her vessel. She reversed a small piece of the bark to show the outer surface. The flowers are the pink buds of a delicate grevillea that contrasted with the strength of the improvised vessel.

Eleanor created a structure on a picnic table using some long pieces of eucalyptus bark that had curled on itself. She used the same grevillea, slotting it into the curling bark. In this case the pink in the grevillea enhanced the soft pink tones in the bark.

Greetings from Christopher
11th October 2015


As I mentioned last week, we are hosting visitors from Ottawa at the moment. So of course we had to go in search of some Australian flora and fauna at the Iron Bark Basin nature reserve, part of the Great Otway National Park.

This view is of the walking path into the reserve and is typical of the forest type, with low-growing eucalypts, an understory of Grass trees (Xanthorrhea * ), and a variety of heath plants including - at this time of year - small terrestrial orchids. 

This orchid is known as the Donkey Orchid (diuris carinata).

We also spotted this crimson rosella * coming out of a hollow in a tree branch.

The nature reserve is in the forest above these cliffs at the sea shore.

We saw this sign at the road side...

...and the proof can be seen in the distance between Leonora and Laurie.

The wonders of a zoom lens! 

On Wednesday Leonora and Eleanor attended a class with Emily Karanikolopoulos in which the subject was to work with the pruned leaves of her overgrown Strelitzia Nicolai * .

Leonora made an arrangement in two vessels, using dried and fresh material and added an arum lily. 

Eleanor used a large dried strelitzia leaf, some fresh strelitzia leaf and a small palm spathe.

As I mentioned last week, Emily gave a workshop for the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu school at which participants were invited to create ikebana inspired by a favourite artist or work of art.
Follow the link: Art re-interpreted * . 

Greetings from Christopher
3rd October 2015