A couple of weeks ago we had an exceptionally violent wind storm that blew down a large eucalyptus at the back of our property. The tree had a long horizontal branch which added weight to one side making the tree unstable.

Fortunately there was no serious damage. However, it did fall across the middle of the New Zealand Flax.

The annoying thing about landing on the flax was that this year it had grown four lovely flower stems. Last year it had only produced two flower stems. I decided to cut and use the flower stems before a workman came to cut up and remove the huge trunk and branches.

This arrangement uses all four of the flax stems, cut down to about one quarter of their original length. The vase is the same one that I used in last week's posting, this time showing the reverse side. In the process I learnt why New Zealand Flax is not used as a fresh cut flower. They drop huge numbers of individual flowers, constantly. Also the pollen is a bright yellow and looks as though it might stain fabrics.

Here is a photo of the bright orange side of the vase. In the firing the vase was lying on this side, so it has no wood-ash deposits.

In this close-up you can see the imprint of a bi-valve sea shell that supported the vase and prevented it from sticking to the shelf.

A couple of days ago my friend Leonora sent the above photo of the tortuous willow in her front garden in Ottawa. The temperature had risen to - 3 C from the previous week when it was - 24 C (!).

This was the beach 9.30 Christmas morning. The temperature is expected to be the low 30's C.

After a big night, one of Santa's elves takes an early morning dip?

For my Christmas ikebana I decided to use Australian native materials only, in an unusual stainless steel conical vase.

The materials are: seed heads of spinifex sericeus, a single lepidospermum gladiatum leaf and three flowers of a red calistemon called 'Ned Kelly'.

I also used one of the spinifex seed-heads as the star on our Christmas tree.

Season's Greetings from Christopher 
Christmas Day 2016.


I took this photo of a globe artichoke in the garden towards the end of October. I was particularly attracted to the flower bud as it had started to develop a mauve colouring on the margins of the petals.

A month later at the end of  November I made this arrangement using the flower, and first published these two photos on the 3rd of December. It has now been out of water for two weeks and the stem and petals have begun to dry and shrivel. However, to my complete surprise this week the inflorescence, the 'choke' part of the flower, started to open.

To arrange the flower I chose a vase, by Graeme Wilkie, from this year's firing of the large anagama kiln at Qdos Gallery. 

This photo shows the vase as I first saw it in October before it was fired. It is the taller vessel on the left side of the photo.

The artichoke is a member of the thistle family and this is especially evident once the flower opens. Here I have arranged the flower, for a second time, in the new large vase with three dried aspidestra leaves, that are just peeping over the rim. The vase suits the flower well, because the natural ash glaze has a soft mauve flush. The reverse side of this vase is an intense orange which I hope to utilise in another arrangement soon.

Greetings from Christopher
17th December 2016


This afternoon we went for a walk along the cliff-tops to Bells Beach and were rewarded with a sighting of a blue tongue lizard * beside the path. These are beautifully patterned creatures, this one about 40 cms nose to tail. The little bit of sunlight must have brought the lizard out to warm itself up.

The fleeting sunshine also brought out the echidna to the delight of our visitors.

These photos show the echidna * crawling out from underneath the house to the terrace where it can drink from the saucers under the pot plants.

Because an echidna has very poor eyesight, by my keeping completely still it continues foraging, apparently unaware of my presence.  This close-up gives a good view of its tough 'snout ' which it uses to push into the earth in search of ants.

Earlier in the week we were surprised when Laurie looked up to see that our grevillia robusta * had flowered for the first time. It has been growing slowly for about 25 years. Perhaps the heavier than usual spring rains were what it has needed.

This photo shows the small flowers about five metres off the ground, taken with the camera on zoom.

We are not going to live long enough for it to reach the glorious height of this mature tree in the grounds of Melbourne Girls Grammar School. There are some similarly mature trees in the nearby Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

This one beside the garden's cafe allows me to show you the way the flowers grow horizontally on the otherwise pendulous branches.

Like so many Australian plants the flower's form * is defined by a mass of lines. In this case having no petals.

I think it is the multiple small translucent lines that makes the flowering tree appear to glow when in full sunlight. Here is a link to more information about Grevilleas * .

This week's ikebana is of two arrangements of nandina domestica * made eight months apart, but using the same glass vase. 

I made this first arrangement in April using nandina berries from a friends garden.

The second arrangement I made two weeks ago using flowers from the nandina in our garden. The two arrangements contrast an autumnal feel and an early summer feel as we head toward Christmas.

Greetings from Christopher
11th December 2016 


This last week my student Ros brought some beautifully coloured eucalyptus leaves to class. The colours, in broad stripes, were so striking that the leaves looked painted. They had in fact been attacked by some sap sucking insect. It seems amazing that nature can produce colours which to the human eye are so wonderful and yet are the result of insect damage.

This photograph is not the best quality because I failed to take a close-up and it is a small section of a larger photo.

The exercise I had set for the students was to make a freestyle arrangement in a glass vessel. In this case Ros used a glass jug. Care was taken to remove leaves from inside the curve of the left hand stem to emphasise the line of the branch.

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Recently I have noticed yet another garden escapee in the nearby creek, growing among the tall bullrushes. 

It is verbena bonariensis * from tropical and temperate South America. It has been declared a weed species in some tropical climates, but not here. Co-incidently, only this year I have planted it in our garden as its long stems will make it a good subject for ikebana. 

In this photo you can see it along side dock (rumex acetosella) which, in the moist environment of the creek, has grown to 2 metres. 

I gathered a couple of the verbena flowers because the plants in our garden have not begun to bloom yet. I thought its mauve colour would compliment the highlights in the globe artichoke that I had grown this year for the first time.

A couple of weeks ago the margins of the outer petals were beginning to turn a purplish colour. I decided to use the flowerhead with the almost leafless stems of strelitzia juncea, which is also growing in our garden.

This clump, with its spear-like leaf stems, is growing in the Melbourne Botanic Garden.

I have made a massed arrangement using the, now more deeply coloured, artichoke balanced by a mass of lines made from the strelitzia. The verbena provides a complementary highlight colour. The black ceramic vessel is one I bought a number of years ago in Seto City, one of the 'six ancient kilns' * in Japan.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd December 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


Two weeks ago I attended a lecture at Monash University given by Dr Osamu Inoue, an academic from the Kyoto University of Art and Design. The event was organised by Dr Shoso Shimbo whose student Angeline Lo made the welcoming flower arrangement below.

Dr Inoue spoke about the historical development of Ikebana, tracing the evolution of rikka from both Shinto and Buddhist aesthetics and practises. He explained that rikka developed as a highly structured formal style used in ritual and religious contexts and that nageire developed as 'free' or 'casual' style. 

I was interested that he described seika as an intermediate style, that grew out of both the rikka and nageire styles, and that it was more suited to domestic environments. Examples of rikka and seika have been included in the  Ikebana International Melbourne annual exhibitions of the last two years that I have curated. 

This rikka was made by Yukako Braun of the Ikenobo school...

...and this seika by Pascale Tremblay of the Shogetsudokoryu school both in the 2015 exibition.

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A few weeks ago we had a visit at home from Jason Smith, the Director of the Geelong Art Gallery. In honour of the occasion I made this contemporary ikebana arrangement which has some qualities of formality, being upright and with the leaves facing forward rather than naturalistically arranged. 

This arrangement fits the Sogetsu curriculum exercise of 'Showing lines at the base'. I have always thought this particular exercise in the curriculum owes something to the requirement in rikka and seika to have all the materials arising in one column from the vessel.  

The strelitzia leaves were given to me by my student Val, and the flowers are the first of this season from our garden.

Greetings from Christopher
27th November 2016


In early October I posted a photo of a calistemon flowering in the garden. Since then many of these, often vibrant, 'bottle brush' * flowering shrubs have become very conspicuous along the roads where they are commonly planted as street trees. They are one of many Australian plants that have long fillaments or stamens and very small, often modified, petals. In this case the flower spikes surround the branches, creating a 'bottle brush' effect. 

In this photo there are two plants, one with red and the other with pink flowers.

The buds just beginning to open and the filaments to unfurl.

A fully opened flower with seed capsules from the previous season to the left of the flower.

This stem is several years old and some seed capsules still remain waiting for the right moment to release their seeds.

The flowers in this photo of a related melaluca are tiny, only 2cms long. After the flowers have formed the branch continues to grow from the tip, quite often dividing into several new branchlets.

These seed capsules, on the plant shown in the previous photo, look as though they are being absorbed into the stem.

In this week's ikebana I have massed the flower heads and stripped almost all of the leaves to reveal the lines of the branches and seed capsules from previous seasons. There are flowers from two different bushes used in this arrangement.

I took this final photo when I realised that the different colours were difficult to discern in the previous photo. In the middle and to the lower right side of the mass some of the flowers are a soft pink while the others are a clear red. It was much more apparent to the eye than in the photo.

Two weeks ago I attended the final meeting for this year of Ikebana International Melbourne *, for which the theme was a somewhat early Christmas. Click on the link to see photos from the meeting.

Greetings from Christopher
20th November 2016


The Spring weather in this part of the world continues to be highly variable, as usual for the time of year. 

On Wednesday it was warm and sunny and to my delight I noticed this quiet and very shy visitor while I was sitting on the couch in the living room. 

One of our neighbours refers to this charming creature as 'your echidna'. Which, of course, is not true; but it is a fairly frequent visitor to our garden. This is principally because we have no grass, only leaf mulch, which makes it easier for the echidna to forage for ants and other insects. 

Which is precisely what it was doing between the gaps of the brick paving. We do not often see the echidna as it usually comes into the garden at night and it is only later that we find the holes where it has been digging.

Here the echidna * is drinking from the tray underneath the pot of irises I was recently given by my ikebana colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos.

On Monday this week I attended a Sogetsu Victoria workshop * lead by Elizabeth Angell, photos of which are on the website. Then on Tuesday, at my regular class with Elizabeth, our subject was 'roses' with 'any other material', giving us a free choice. It was interesting to me that the three senior students at the class, without prior discussion, chose to contrast the delicacy of rose petals with dried materials.

Swan used vine with her rich pink roses in a contemporary vase.

Dianne used tortuous willow and an orange rose in a turquoise and blue streaked vase.

I used red roses with dried agave flower stems in a wood fired vase by Ian Jones of Old Saint Luke's Studio * . My ikebana also met the criteria for the exercise of 'incorporating the area in which the arrangement is placed'. I was also interested to see the pattern of shadows on the table top.

Greetings from Christopher
12th November 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information and to see photos.