During Autumn this year I established a small garden bed using a very rich soil mix that I bought from a local garden-soil maker. This company mixes horse and fowl manure with mushroom mulch to make a compost that is like potting mix. 

The natural soil of our garden is fine sand, which is hydrophobic (water repellent) and so does not hold moisture, this is a big problem during our hot dry summer. The sand layer sits above very dense clay, tolerable for indigenous plants but a major challenge for most exotic plants.

What has surprised me is the ease of growing these bedding plants in the photo above when the soil is improved.

This small artichoke is growing just to the left of the plants shown above.

Also flourishing this year are some roses, these ones climbing along a wire fence...

...and the Cecile Brunner which has responded to a hard pruning with vigorous growth.

Today I removed two full buckets of spent flowers. The fragrance of the flowers fills the air around our terrace.

At a recent class my teacher, Elizabeth, set a combined exercise: 'using two vessels' and 'incorporating the area around the vessel'

I have used three coastal sword-sedge * leaves (lepidosperma gladiatum), some very small succulent flowers and begonia flowers and leaves. The sedge was left over from the Ikebana International exhibition in September. I was delighted with the warm colour that had developed on the longest of the leaves. In researching this indigenous plant I was intrigued to find a photo of a beautiful basket made from the leaves by a aboriginal fibre artist, Audrey Frost * .  

This photo from above shows how the leaves stretch to the sides of the vessels, which are two shino-glazed soup bowls from the Qdos Gallery Studio * .

Greetings from Christopher
30th October 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information.


Laurie and I recently attended a luncheon at the Geelong Art Gallery * , at which the table was decorated by a staff member, Mary-Ellen, who is a friend of ours. In a true Roadside Ikebana style she had gathered small Plane Tree branchlets that had been blown down in a windstorm and used them to decorate the long table along with a number of very long Gymea leaves. Her husband had collected a large bunch of wild-growing Arum lilies; but these were not used, and the flowers heads of Asiatic lilies graced the table instead.

After the lunch Mary-Ellen offered me the no- longer-needed materials. Being school holiday time, I did not have a class and so declined the offer. However the upshot of our conversation was a request that I create an ikebana work for the front desk. I happily agreed and the following day brought a large black porcelain vase by Alister Whyte to the gallery for the arrangement.

The leaves were exceptionally long, which worked well in the high-ceilinged space, by placing two of them vertically, back to back. I then created some rectangular forms with four other leaves to give some mass at the base of the work. The dry branches were placed on one side with a couple of the arum lilies. I was very relieved that all the materials held up well for a week in the temperature controlled environment.

Greetings from Christopher 
22nd October 2016


On a bright sunny day this week there was such a feeling of Spring in the air that Laurie and I decided to take a walk in the nearby Ironbark Basin Nature Reserve, part of the Great Otway National Park * .

There was plenty of delightful birdsong and wild flowers coming into bloom. One of the more dramatic of which is the Grass Tree, Xanthorea Australis *  which is endemic to the south-east of Australia and Tasmania. This specimen was a little over 2 metres tall including the flower stem.


You can see that the flowers have only just started to open and are doing so first on the sunny side of the stem. 

The nature reserve sits in a shallow valley above high cliffs on a long sweeping beach.

I was fascinated by this almost bonsai-looking Casuarina * growing right on the edge of the cliff, seeming to be so lightly connected to the earth. Proof of the hardiness of these plants.

Here is the view the casuarina is looking at far below.

Earlier in the week I attended the meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne * . We had a guest speaker who is a French-born florist and potter from a small town east of Melbourne. In acknowledgement of his cultural heritage I made a simple ikebana using the French national colours: blue, white and red

The blue lines are painted cane, with white chrysanthemums in a copper-red vase by the, no longer active, ceramic artist Jamie Beeston * .

Greetings from Christopher
15th October 2016

* click on the blue text for further information


Yesterday we drove down to Lorne to visit the Qdos Art Gallery * . Unusually wet weather in the past two weeks had resulted in the closure of the Great Ocean Road beyond Lorne, because of land-slips and rock-falls. For a couple of days it was even closed between Torquay and Lorne. However, the beautiful sunny day belied the drama of the previous fortnight.


Seen on the approach along the Great Ocean Road, the township of Lorne on its forested hillside is always beautiful. Laurie was driving when I took these photos from the car.

We had come to see the results of the first firing of the large anagama kiln since 2013. However, the weather and a landslip beside the kiln had disrupted the process. The firing is now scheduled to begin in about a week's time and will take up to three weeks before it is completed, including the cooling down time.

Instead we were able to see the unfired 'greenware' and Graeme Wilkie making final preparations including stacking the kiln.

The photo above is of Graeme beside the kiln during its last firing in 2013. Over the recent past the huge kiln has been 're-furbished', with extra layers of 'mud' increasing its insulation and heat retention properties, as well as other refinements to improve its efficiency. 

This photo shows Graeme with some of the larger vessels and sculptures he has made for this firing. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes out of the kiln in about three weeks and the exhibition that will follow over the Summer holidays.

Last week I showed a photo of the first flower on the pink calistemon in the garden. 

A week later and there are many flowers on the bush, much to my delight. I thought I should use them in my ikebana as they are likely to be damaged in the rain we are expecting later today.

Here I have made a 'mass and line' arrangement in a shino-glazed vessel made by Graeme Wilkie. 

Links to the collaborative Ikebana and Ceramics exhibitions at Qdos Gallery between 2004 an 2013 are on the righthand side of this blog page.

Greetings from Christopher
9th October 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information


Last week I showed some photos of flowers I had planted in the autumn. This week I thought I would focus on Australian native flowers in the garden. These all started to bloom in late Winter and early Spring.

The first of these is Pandorea pandorana * , a climber on the side fence. This is how it looks from the bathroom window catching the early morning sunlight.

The dense panicles are slightly fragrant and always make me think of the abundance of mother nature in Springtime.

I planted this helichrysum * (possibly h. apiculatum), which has very small flowers, last autumn in a rather dry part of the garden. I am pleased that it has survived quite well and am hoping it will spread over a sloping bed beside a walkway.

The small flowers are still partially closed as a result of the rain we have had over the last few days.

There are a few spreading bushes of Goodenia ovata * in the garden which provide some screening against fences and help breakup the garden into discrete spaces.

The small yellow flowers are very bright against the dark green of the foliage.

It was only this afternoon that I noticed this pink Callistemon * had started to open its flowers.

The bush has a somewhat weeping habit, unlike its neighbour, another callistemon, which has an upright growth...


...and pale yellow flowers.

Nearby on the side of the road is a wattle, Acacia seligna * . I have been watching the wattle for the last few weeks as it has started to blossom. As you can see it has a weeping habit and quite large, very richly yellow, ball-like flowers. As this wattle has a weeping habit I thought it would work well in a unique vase, with side openings, made by the Canadian ceramic artist, and Sogetsu Ikebana practitioner, Janet Keefe. 

I have stripped all the leaves from the wattle and arranged the blossom almost entirely within the vase, keeping it below the top of the curving lip. A single leaf of Coast sword-sedge, Lepidosperma gladiatum * rises vertically with a gently twisting curve to give height and movement.

Janet emailed me recently to say that she has launched her own web-site called Snailpace Pottery * . On her home page you can see an arrangement I made in this same vessel in July.

Greetings from Christopher
1st October 2016

* Click on the blue text for further information.