On Sunday of last week I was invited to give an open air demonstration at an 'open garden' fund-raising event for the children's charity Cottage by the Sea * . Five gardens in all were open, including 'Northleach', which is an extensive Japanese garden and an appropriate one in which to set ikebana. 

When giving a public demonstration I always start with a basic arrangement from the early part of the Sogetsu curriculum. These arrangements make it easy to explain the essential asymmetrical nature of ikebana, and its principal elements of line, mass and space. It also allows me to mention the relevance of the concepts of 'In' and 'Yo' (Japanese for what most of us know as yin and yang).

Here I am making a basic slanting arrangement. In and Yo dictate that in a naturalistic arrangement flowers face toward the sun overhead rather than being directed at the viewer. 

Having the opportunity to gather materials from this beautiful garden, I was able to make this large nageire (tall vase) arrangement using nandina, pomegranate and some orange chrysanthemums from the florist. 

In the garden I photographed the finished arrangement against some antique doors. 

I reconstructed, trimmed and slightly altered the work at home, then photographed it against a plain backdrop. At the demonstration I had also made arrangements in a glass vase and a Japanese lacquered basket. 

I concluded the demonstration with an arrangement of Australian native materials in a ceramic vessel by Graeme Wilkie * from Qdos Gallery Lorne. 

Greetings from Christopher
26th March 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


 The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show took place from Wednesday to Sunday this week. The venue was the 1880 World Heritage Site-listed Royal Melbourne Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens. The central transept of this spectacular building is crowned by a dome, modelled on the duomo in Florence.

This view is from the south across one of the ornamental lakes

The dome is lit by a clerestory at its base...

...and ornamented with frescos. In this huge hall Ikebana International Melbourne had a great success this year winning a bronze medal for their 'inner city oasis', a Japanese themed courtyard garden. 

It is particularly difficult to photograph in this space. There are clearer and more detailed photographs at the I.I. Blog * .

My student, Nici Thompson, who is a professional florist, contributed this exhibit with a strong Australian theme. She created three structures representing the bottle- shaped boabab * (Adansonis gregorii) trees of the Kimberley area of Western Australia.

It has been a very busy week in the ikebana world. My contribution is a divided arrangement featuring the bright orange flowers and oddly shaped seedpods of crosomia * .

Greetings from Christopher
20th March 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


Imagine my surprise when we came home to see this strange looking bird in the garden. It is a Tawny Frogmouth * , a nocturnal hunting bird that looks somewhat like an owl. I have not seen one of them for many years and never in this garden. 

I find them especially remarkable for this head-up pose they adopt (above) when they are trying to blend in with the branch on which they sit during the daytime.

Their mottled gray plumage really blends well with the bark or bleached dead-wood of many eucalypts.

On the first day I unintentionally disturbed the bird, which moved around the garden and I was able to take this front-on, eyes wide open, photo.

The bird reappeared two days later and I managed to take this photo in the early morning sunshine.

Earlier in the week I attended the monthly meeting of Ikebana International in Melbourne. Our guest speaker was an expert in the history of porcelain and ceramics. Members were encouraged to make an ikebana arrangement in a favourite ceramic vessel. I chose this 'swooning' vessel by Graeme Wilkie, in which I have arranged dietes leaves and a single alstroemeria flower stem. I was  a little rushed and the result was not what I had planned.
At home I re-worked the arrangement and was happier with the result. 

Notice the big difference in the arrangement by slanting the tallest line to the left and then loosely looping the ends of the leaves. I feel this is much more harmonious with the vase.
There are more photos from the meeting at: Melbourne I.I. meeting * .

Greetings from Christopher
12th March 2016.

* Click on the blue text for further information.


Two years ago there was an uplifting article in a Melbourne newspaper about an art installation in an empty allotment in an old industrial area in Melbourne. The artwork was an eye-catching field of Sunflowers * . The idea seems to have been taken up by the City of Melbourne council, which has created a large meadow of cosmos and other annuals on a steep slope of parkland very close to the sports precinct this summer for the second time. 

This view caught my eye in the late afternoon with the sun shining through the sprinkler mist creating a beautiful haze.

With the sun coming from the side the colours were much more intense.

*          *          *           *

The exercise for my Geelong class last week, like the previous week, was a combined one. I asked them to make an arrangement using only one kind of material in two or more vessels.

Helen used agapanthus that she disassembled in a suiban emphasising the surface of the water. It is not obvious in the photo but the material in her other tsubo-shaped vessel stretches over the surface of the water. 

Maureen used statice that she also partially disassembled. She lightened much of the righthand side by stripping some flowers off the tips, which helped make the arrangement asymmetrical. 

Her second arrangement was of pomegranate separated into dry and fresh material.

Ellie used hydrangeas that are showing colour changes from the early autumn weather. Each of the three vessels has a different feel but together they make a single arrangement.

Greetings from Christopher
6th March 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information