On our way home from India last week we spent a few days in Singapore, which is famous for its luxuriant botanic gardens. 

At a distance I caught a glimpse of these South American, 'Victoria' water lilies. These are possibly the slightly smaller Victoria cruziana species, from the Parana-Paraguay basin.

The dominant colour in the gardens is lush tropical green, against which many flowers seem positively luminous, especially the orchids in the National Orchid Garden, located within the Botanic Gardens. I was rather amazed to see the paths lined with the delicate yellow orchids, known in Australia as Dancing Lady Orchids. A couple of other orchids are shown below.


This 'torch ginger' (Etlingera elatior) made a striking contrast to the greenery. The natural distribution of gingers ranges from India to the Pacific.

Also looking very dramatic were some 'Crab Claw', Heliconias from tropical South America.

From this lush tropical environment we returned to summer in the 'Mediterranean climate' of Victoria.

Having arrived home I was stuck by the vivid contrast of these bright pink Begonias and the orange of the Crososmia beside the path.

The intensity and combination of these colours reminded me of the colours I had seen so recently in India. I have arranged them in a celadon bowl by Alister Whyte * .

Greetings from Christopher
31st January 2016

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Last week, the northwest of Rajasthan was cooler and foggier than the previous two weeks of our tour. Consequently this atmospheric early morning view over Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer.  

Gloom aside, colour is never very far away in India.

This man was watching the busy traffic at the entrance to the Jaisalmer Fort...

...and the combination of bougainvillaea and broccoli in the hotel garden was very eye- catching.

The cherry tree frieze, above, is from the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg *, grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal.

As is this beautifully decorated ceiling. Painted with crushed stone pigments, lapis lazuli for example, it is still amazingly vibrant after nearly 400 years.

In the tomb of Akbar the Great *, to demonstrate the original appearance of the decoration, this wall panel in lapis and gold leaf has been restored recently .

But not the domed ceiling above in the entrance. Akbar was an enlightened ruler and tolerant of the religious plurality of his empire.

I was moved by the modesty of the unadorned room in which his grave is set.

This is the shadow of the only ornament in the room.

At last we came to one of the world's most iconic buildings, the Taj Mahal.

Here, seen through the entrance gate of the outer courtyard, it was created as the tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife, and favourite, of Shah Jahan - the fifth of the Mughal Emperors of north India.


One of the things that has surprised me in this journey of discovery in India has been the degree of two-way exchange of artistic ideas between India and Europe, over more than 2000 years. I have seen many mughal buildings with Florentine wall designs and also pillars with corinthian capitals * .

Taking this link in an odd direction, this week's ikebana is of two acanthus leaves and one acanthus flower-head.

Greetings from Christopher, in Agra
22nd January 2016

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In the past week we have travelled through the arid region of western Rajasthan. At a wayside stop I had a chance to photograph this large-leaved shrub that I later discovered was called Giant milk-weed Calotropis procera.

It has attractive but rather inconspicuous flowers.

Only after taking this photo did I notice the caterpillar at the bottom of the photo.

Much more noticeable in the desert was this small tree, Desert or Mawar Teak, tecomella undulata.

From the distance of our bus I thought these bright orange globes were fruit. However, at our next hotel, I found the tree growing in the courtyard where I could clearly see the clusters of orange trumpet-shaped flowers.

Above is the outer court of Castle Bijaipur. As we passed through this second gate we were showered from above with very fragrant red rose petals. A first experience for me. 

Here is the evidence after they were swept up, a little later.

I have had little time to make any ikebana, because our travel program is very full and all the gardens are exceptionally neat with very limited opportunities to scrounge fallen leaves or flowers. 

However I was inspired by the beautifully carved sandstone ramp at Castle Bijaipur, to which I added a single fallen yellow leaf. 

On a later occasion, at Jaisalmer, I found some yellowing frangipani leaves that I arranged on a sandstone balustrade with a single green leaf. 

At Nagaur our hotel is within the 16th century walls of the Khimsar Fort. 

Here I arranged Bougainvillea in a niche, using dried leaves and fresh flowers.

Greetings from Christopher
in Bikaner
16th January 2016

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It is really not possible to walk through a market in India without being stimulated by the variety and intensity of colour, especially in fabrics. The artists who create these fabrics and garments have a unique feeling for colour combinations that westerners usually would not consider possible as harmonious combinations. The photos below offer a small glimpse of just one market in Jaipur, as an example of the wealth of India's saturated colours.


The photo above doesn't do justice to the richness of this display of shoes. When it comes to flowers as well, the impact of saturated colour also seems to be the first attraction. These two photos below are of flowers sold for offering at a nearby temple. 

They are sold strung in garlands of the flowerhead only; in this case, the intense yellows of marigolds and deep pink-red of fragrant roses. Such garlands have also been hung around our necks as we have arrived at our hotels on a number of occasions.


Here is a floral offering that greeted us at our hotel in Jaipur. I have deliberately added the slightly dried green leaf to the right of the basin to provide a colour contrast. My interpretation of this in ikebana terms is that it is a work that subtly 'emphasises water'.  Although we cannot see the surface, it is clear that the flowers are a floating arrangement. It might also, at a stretch, be an example of colours in the 'same tonal range', both of these being Sogetsu School curriculum exercises.

Greetings from Christopher.
(late on) 10th January 2016. 


Just to explain the photos below:  this week Roadside Ikebana comes to you from India. We are on a study tour focussing on the Mughal Empire in the period 1526 to 1720. 

 We started the tour in old Delhi. In this photo Laurie and I are at the tomb of Humayan, second of the six great Mughal emperors. There are subtle influences of the Hindu craftsmen who worked on this building, such as the characteristic four small pavilions on the top of the building. However, the aesthetic values of Islam predominate in features such as the symmetry of the building, the distinctive arches and the surmounting dome.

In the garden of the Red Fort, I was amazed to see the aerial roots of this Banyan tree.

It reminded me of the decorative surface carving I have seen in photos of Hindu temples. With such a writhing surface it is easy to understand that people should come to believe that a tree like this is inhabited by a spirit.

In the same fort are the most beautiful white marble palace buildings with extensive use of decorative inlays.


The detail above is from the bottom left hand corner shown in the previous photo.

This weeks 'ikebana' is a flower arrangement I noticed on the reception desk of our hotel in New Delhi. I was fascinated by its asymmetry, as that does not seem to be usual in this culture.

Wishing you a Happy New Year from Christopher, in Jaipur.
3rd January 2016