Late Spring in Melbourne is when two of my favourite Australian flowering trees reveal their glory. The first being Brachychiton acerifolius * also known as the Illawarra Flame Tree.

I noticed this one in the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens last week. The second tree is Grevillia Robusta * , sometimes called the 'Silky Oak' because of its wood grain.

I took this photograph beside the Yarra River in Melbourne. We have both of these 'trees' in our garden, which have been struggling with poor soil and low rainfall for about 25 years, and we are waiting patiently (?) for the flowers still.

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At Elizabeth's class this week our exercise was to make an ikebana arrangement in 'an everyday object'. This stretches the imagination and creativity a bit in terms of the object, which is to temporarily become a vase and then the choice of material that is going to be suitable.

My colleague Ruth used these very cute tea service objects with intense red roses and a fine green line.

Sandra used a stackable ceramic lunchbox, with red eucalyptus flowers and some long stemmed white flowers.

Maren used a lemon squeezer that she had bought on her honeymoon. Her materials are grape leaves and alstroemeria.

I used a stainless steel cutlery drainer that I have tilted to give a 'dynamic' feel and not have it simply look like a vase with holes in it. I struggled for some time before I found this way of using an 'egg ring' to tilt the drainer. The second ring provides a further sense of this being an object out of its usual context. The materials are agapanthus flowers and dietes leaves.

Greetings from Christopher
29th November 2015

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In the garden this week the strelitzia (s.juncea) * has finally flowered; it seems to be late and has fewer flowers than last year. I decided I should use it in ikebana before the flowers are damaged by wind or rain.

Here it is beside the path and you can see why it is called the 'rush leaved' strelitzia. It has miniscule leaves at the end of long pointy stalks.

I was intrigued by the satiny appearance of the soft petal as it emerges from the spathe.


In this photograph of the same flower, you can see the soft folds of the still fresh emerging petal.

When I make an ikebana arrangement my usual starting point is the material itself. Some particular qualities of the plant will draw my attention. In this case the vibrancy of the flowers and the unique beauty of the emerging flower. Because these flowers are visually strong I needed to find other visually strong materials to balance them. In my ikebana storage pile, under one of the garden trees, I found some dried agave leaves that I had collected last year. They have beautiful texture (and still sharp thorns).

In this first photo you can see that the upper flower is still emerging.

I decided to use this visually strong vase, given to me by my Canadian friends who visited recently. The cylindrical vase has been manipulated after being thrown and is split down the sides. This enabled me to fix the materials as though they were flowing around the vase.

By the time I managed the set-up to take a better photograph, in the warmth of the house the top flower had opened! The unique vase was made by Janet Keefe, a Sogetsu ikebanist and ceramic artist from Ottawa.

Greetings from Christopher
22nd November 2105

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On Tuesday this week I attended the monthly meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne. 

We had an interesting guest speaker, Dr Hironobu Kitaoji, Director of Japan Seminar House, who spoke about haiku - Japanese short form poetry. He made some very interesting points about haiku, including some parallels with ikebana

The traditional pattern for haiku is that the poem has two connected ideas expressed in three lines of: 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, then 5 syllables. When haiku poems, written in Japanese, are translated into English the original word order is almost always lost even if a 5-7-5 syllable structure is retained.

At the meeting members were invited to create an ikebana arrangement to express their favourite haiku. After searching the web I came across the following haiku that put me in mind of a hot summer day on the beach:

'I walk across sand
And find myself blistering 
In the hot, dry heat.'

To try to capture this feeling I have used driftwood, spinifex longifolius * and orange-yellow alstroemeria. I used the same shino-glazed bowl I used last week by Elena Renka*  

There is more information and photos on the I.I. Melbourne blog. You will find these at: I.I.November meeting * (10th Nov 2015). 

I would also like to draw your attention to the launch of I.I. Melbourne Chapter's new website. The address is: *

Greetings from Christopher
15th November 2015

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In mid August I posted the image, below, of some small native Clematis (c. microphylla) growing on our back fence. This dainty flower makes a large creamy-green mass covering the surface on which it grows. 

One of the delights of the plant is that it makes a second fluffy mass when all the seeds heads form, now three months later.   

These two photos are of a plant growing on a fence on the cliff top overlooking the beach. You can see the barbwire fence in the top right hand corner of the photo.

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I recently set my students the exercise of making a mass 'floating' above the vessel that they were using.

This example is one I made a long time ago using Abelia in a tall ceramic vase that has two side openings.

Above is my class demonstration, using New Zealand Flax and a single Calistemon from the garden. The vessel is by the New Zealand ceramicist, Elena Renker * . 

Greetings from Christopher
8th November 2015

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