The native clematis * (clematis microphylla) is flowering in profusion again at this time of year.

Although this vigorous climber is seen throughout Australia, excepting the Northern Territory, I am intrigued that it was not seen at all in this area during my childhood. However, I have often commented that much of the area where we now live was a quite degraded environment back then, being largely grassy sheep paddocks bare of other vegetation. With the subdivision of those paddocks for housing in the 1960's and 70's, many people planted Australian native plants. Some of which, like this clematis, have flourished and seeded abundantly.

These photos were taken on the sand dunes and clifftops where the clematis forms its masses of flowers as it climbs over the top of other low growing plants.

The mass of the flowers is quite spectacular for its density.

Here it is growing over a 'tea tree' * (leptospermum laevigatum).

My 'recycled' ikebana uses the apricot branches that I used in the 'Arts Trail' exhibition last week which have now produced some dainty white flowers in the warmth of our living room.

I have contrasted them with the Japanese Flowering Quince that were also in that previous arrangement. They are now somewhat more pale. The salt glazed vase is by Gail Nicholls * (the link also includes other ceramic artists).

If you are in Melbourne between 6th and 16th of September be sure to catch the Ikebana International Annual Exhibition in the Community Gallery of the Melbourne Town Hall.

Greetings from Christopher
27th August 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


Last weekend in Torquay and nearby towns many artists and art groups opened the doors of their studios to the general public in a two day event organised by our Shire Council called the Arts Trail * . In Torquay I teach an ikebana class through an organisation called the University of the Third Age * . This organisation operates on a learning exchange model. It is targeted at people in the 'third age' of their lives, having finished with full-time employment and childrearing.

As part of the Arts Trail my students and I held a collaborative exhibition with members of the Probus Art Group over the weekend. Paintings and drawings in a variety of media were hung on the walls of a large community space and our ikebana was placed on tables around the room.

These next photos are of the individual arrangement. I was quite interested to see how the first two changed as the flower buds opened.


 Above, by Leonie.




... and Ros.

For my arrangement I used a vase given to me by Doreen Schofield, a longstanding member of the Sogetsu School and Ikebana International in Melbourne.   

I used apricot branches and Japanese Flowering Quince from our garden, and camellia leaves. The vase was made by the New Zealand potter, Keith Blight, and is a slab construction of marbled clay.

Greetings from Christopher
20th August 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


This week the first of the climbing Lorraine Lee * roses has opened. This is a prolifically flowering Alister Clark * rose that has a lovely, light sweet perfume. 

The rose is growing on a pergola and is usually ravaged by marauding possums which like to eat the soft new growth of the plant, and the ornamental grape that also grows on the pergola. So far this season they have not done any damage. I live in hope.

Here is a cluster of blossoms on a branch that overhangs the garden path.

In keeping with these late winter images, my teacher recently set our class the exercise of arranging camellia with a second different material, of any kind. 

I decided to make a modern arrangement of bare apricot branches (plenty of these to spare after the winter pruning) and a rich pink camellia. I have spaced the branches irregularly and braced  them across a suiban. The branches then provide support for the flower stems allowing me to show the space below them without using a kenzan. 

Follow the link here to Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter * blog. The AGM was held last Tuesday, at which meeting there were demonstrations from the Sogetsu, Shogetsudokoryu, Ohara and Ikenobo schools. 

Greetings from Christopher
14th August 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


The winter flowering plants are really brightening up the garden.

This year the white Japonica, given to me by my ikebana friend Joan, has flowered well and in advance of the red Japonica.  

The prostrate Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia Baileyana) in this photo is situated in front of a strelitzia and in the background is the upright form of the wattle. 

As you can see the prostrate form has continued its spread underneath a bush of Pomederris paniculosa, and now extends to the right emerging into the sunshine on the other side of the bush.

At the beginning of the week I was asked to assist Chieko Yazaki, Melbourne Head of the Shogetsudokoryu school * and the president of Ikebana International Melbourne, to set up some ikebana for a reception at the home of the Consul-General of Japan.

This arrangement of late winter flowering plants, including: cherry branches, chrysanthemum,  iris and asiatic lilies, was made by Chieko...

... as was this table centre arrangement, with nandina, pine, narcissus and Japanese flowering quince.

I made this arrangement, also for the dining table, using banksia (b. intregrifolia) and Coast Sword Sedge (lepidosperma gladiator) leaves. Because of the length of the table we deliberately extended the arrangements sideways and kept them low.

Above is a small arrangement I made for the mantle shelf in the dining room, using apricot and cherry branches, iris and camellia leaves.

As a westerner and teacher of ikebana to, mostly, other westerners I was interested to learn from my Melbourne based colleague Lara Telford * that she had been invited to contribute an article to the International Journal of Ikebana Studies *  Vol 3. 2015. I really enjoyed reading Lara's article and feel she has addressed many of the questions that have been issues for me. I have re-printed her article in full below.

Greetings from Christopher
7th August 2016

Ikebana - A Global Phenomenon.
Is it a paradox to teach ikebana in the West and not being Japanese? I ask myself sometimes if I measure up to my Japanese fellow teachers. Although I teach using Sogetsu textbooks, am I able to pass on the very essence of Ikebana to my students? Have I touched on its unique and elusive spirit myself? Is everyone destined to find it in their own way? Although Ikebana has evolved in Japan from flower offerings in Buddhist temples and flourished to contemporary installations of Sogetsu school, is it still Japanese or has  it transcended its borders? Many questions but a few answers.
It's very challenging to teach Ikebana in the West. The major barrier is the Japanese language, or lack of it in my case. I discovered Ikebana, like many of us later in life, and it's definitely too late to study Japanese, become fluent and read The Chronicles of Japan. There is no professional Ikebana literature in English- just picture books, and some with 1-2-3 steps. School publications and magazines are mainly in Japanese with a small percentage of articles translated into English.
Masters' visits are rare and their command of English is not strong enough to talk about concepts, philosophy, or current direction of the school. I remember my first trip to Japan. I was astonished by Japanese aesthetics, the attention to detail, fascination with nature and the urge for beauty. I'll never forget my first Ikebana lesson in Sogetsu Headquarters. By the time I decided on flowers and picked the vase from huge variety on the shelves, half of the lesson had gone. Then I struggled with an instructor's help to secure too heavy branches in a totally unsuitable vase, quick embarrassment of critique, and the lesson was over.
My second challenge has been the mysterious Japanese culture. We tour through Buddhist temples, stroll picture- like Japanese gardens, even clap at Shinto shrines, but we get just a glimpse. We try to grasp intellectually, while Japanese people just live it. By the end of two weeks I had caught myself bowing, buying precious Ikebana vase, saying "Arigato" and leaving with a yearning to come back. Over the years I came back again and again to absorb drop by drop Japanese duality, aesthetics and spiritual practises - the origin of Ikebana.
It's easy for Japanese Ikebana artists. They have Buddha and Shinto, Kadensho, Chado and grandma's  old nageiri vase. I do not have these.
But what do I have? I have my busy western mind, my language of flowers, centuries old wealth of art, literature, theatre and architecture. Botticelli and Kandinsky, Shakespeare and Kafka, Bernhard and Chaplin, Brunelleschi and Ingels, Versailles and The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. May be we have too much? May be that's the reason we're not so good at "Less is More" concept, but rather "The More the Merrier"?
I have taken Ikebana philosophy and concepts to my best abilities, developed dexterity and enriched it with my own cultural background. Ikebana has become Spanish and American, Portuguese and Australian. We've made a spiritual connection from Japan through Ikebana to more than one hundred and sixty countries. We opened Japanese borders. We made Ikebana a global phenomenon. I feel we do measure up. Well done!

Lara Telford.