Recently, my student Kyoko has started the second part of the Sogetsu curriculum, books 3 and 4. After the foundational exercises focusing on the proportions and angles of the materials relative to the vessel, the curriculum then attends to other design aspects of ikebana. In this instance the exercise was to make an arrangement using materials 'in the same tonal range'. 

In her cascading arrangement Kyoko has used the deep maroon leaves of Copper Beech Tree Fagus Sylvactica purpurea, a deep purple coloured snapdragon Antirrhimum and pink peonypaeonia suffruticosa.

In the same class, Robyn's exercise was an arrangement using two vessels and intertwining the materials. Robyn has intertwined dietes leaves with a long branch of dried wood and used red berries as a focal material. She has placed a modern ceramic vessel on a black metal right-angled vase.

On Tuesday, the last meeting for 2017 of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter was held. Photos can be seen on the link. 

Greetings from Christopher, in the Sydney airport having attended Sogetsu Book 5 training with Mrs Misei Ishikawa. Photos next week.

19th November 2017


In the garden at the moment a number of Australian native flowering shrubs are covered in blooms. The most conspicuous at this time of year are plants in the Myrtaceae family. In our garden are pink, red, and pale yellow callistemons as well as some melalucas

Recent research has confirmed that the callistemons belong in the same genus as melaluca. All of the examples in our garden are characterised by flower-heads of cylindrical 'bottle-brush' type.

This pink one is about 9 centimetres long.

Most flowers of this pale yellow one were damaged by rain a couple of weeks ago. It is slightly smaller.

Here is a red one that I photographed to show how the individual flowers open separately.

This red one is slightly different to the previous photograph and has the longest flower-head at about 14 centimetres. It is distinctive for the conspicuous, bright yellow spots of pollen on the stamens.

Here is the very small flower of melaluca decussata.

Its flower-head is only 2 centimetres long.

Strangest of all these is Melaluca pulchella which has masses of oddly-shaped, tiny purple flowers less than one centimetre across.

Here is a close up of the flowers of Melaluca pulchella in our garden.

My ikebana for this week is a wall hanging I made for the annual exhibition of the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana. The irregular red lattice is made from painted dried stems of agapanthus. The other materials are two very large (about 60 centimetres long) dried leaves of Tetrapanax  and two small bunches of dwarf nandina. Click here to see photos from the exhibition.

Greetings from Christopher
11th November 2017

Lara Telford has new posts on her blog from Tokyo where she is the latest recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship.


At the beginning of this week Laurie and I visited the Japanese collection in the Pauline Gandel Gallery at the National Gallery of Victoria. We were re-aquainting ourselves with three woodblock prints by Junichiro Sekino, that had been hung for the first time. 

Sekino was an artist of the sosaku hanga movement, a group mid-20th century artists who broke with tradition by completing the whole process of designing, cutting, printing and selling themselves. In the past the activities of cutting the wood blocks and printing were undertaken by separate artisans under the direction of the publisher. 

Laurie had donated these three woodblock prints to the gallery a couple of years ago. Here we are with Dr Wayne Crothers, Senior Curator of Asian Art, Laurie and me. If you have the opportunity to visit the gallery in the next few months these modern works give an interesting insight into the evolution of Japanese woodblock prints. This is particularly relevant at the moment as the outstandingly successful Hokusai exhibition at the gallery closed only two weeks ago.

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Meanwhile in the classroom some of my students have been working on 'basic' arrangements from the early part of the Sogetsu curriculum.

Jacqueline's exercise was a 'Variation No 1' Slanting style. This arrangement creates a lovely open space between the two 'arms' of the branch material which stretch forward and to the back. The flowers make an eye-catching focus between them.

Marisha created a 'Basic up-right' arrangement in the nageire style. She has used the Australian native pomaderris elliptica, which sits well with the fresh look of the white chrysanthemum. This is probably the most difficult of the nageire exercises, as the longest branch has to rise from the centre of the vase without touching the bottom and being supported by the shorter branch. 

My arrangement this week is a freestyle in an open bowl using scabiosa from the garden. The vessel is actually a porcelain soup bowl with a pale blue glaze by Graeme Wilkie

Greetings from Christopher 
4th November 2017.


This morning, Sunday, we had a walk in the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

This is a corner of the ornamental lake from the Northern lawn.

Conifers by the path through the Hopetoun lawn.

Looking down the Hopetoun lawn to the Rose Pavilion.

This patch of iris in the Asian collection was eye catching.

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Last week I discussed the Saturday workshops lead by Yoshiro Umemura for the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Now for the Sunday workshops. The first of these was on the theme of 'complementing a work of art'. Mr Umemura pointed out that the ikebana and the art work should be in conversation with each other. I found this particularly interesting. Previously when I had done this exercise I think my focus was on re-interpreting the art work with botanical materials. This new sense of engagement with the art work was a much more interesting perspective to take on the exercise.

My art object is a ceramic sculpture by Graeme Wilkie in the form of a stylised female  figure. I have used the leaves of a sedge, lepidosperma gladiatum to create open loops in which the figure is nestled or perhaps from which it is emerging. I was pleased with the sense of movement this brought to the sculpture.

The second theme was, 'using various locations'. In this exercise it is important to integrate the ikebana with the specific location.

I chose an unused door. Again using the sedge leaves, I wedged them between the door and its frame to create a geometric design. I then added some dried flower-heads of agapanthus to create a focal point with a contrasting colour.

Lara Telford has a couple of new posts on her blog from Tokyo so scroll down to her previous post. Lara has also provided a link to a photo gallery of an exhibition by Kosa Nishiyama

Greetings from Christopher
29th October 2017


A 30 degree day earlier in the week brought out 'Spike' the echidna, who I caught fossicking for ants under the brick path.

The sudden heat also brought out a number of roses. 

This photo shows the first flush of our Cécile Brünner, in the bed below the climbing Lorraine Lee.

My favourite rose for fragrance is this 
Mr Lincoln, which I managed to photograph before the sun had burnt off the morning dew. I picked this bloom which lasted five days in a 'specimen' vase, wafting its perfume every time I walked passed it into the kitchen.

While out walking I came across this nasturtium growing through a fence and thought it looked like one of natures spontaneous ikebana works.

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Last weekend the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana held four workshops over two days. They were led by Mr Yoshiro Umemura, Australia's most senior ikebana teacher and a great favourite with the local Sogetsu members. The workshops were on themes from the new Book 5 of the Sogetsu curriculum. 

This is my arrangement from the workshop theme, a 'floor position arrangement'. Mr Umemura explained a more literal translation of this theme is an 'arrangement rising from the floor'. The material I chose was really too short even though it was about 90 cms tall. In my arrangement I have used acanthus leaves, with a branch of acacia blossom between the two tallest leaves.

This arrangement, which I included on my last posting, is a more correct example of the same theme.

The other exercise on the first day was 'an arrangement on a table'. Using nasturtiums and Coastal Sword Sedge, I envisioned this low three vessel arrangement on a dining table. I reconfigured the dishes for the sake of the photograph and so the arrangement lacks the rhythm of its original arrangement. My intention was that the arrangement should be long and narrow for our dining table at home.  The dishes are by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery.

Sogetsu workshop photos.

Greetings from Christopher
22nd October 2017

Lara Telford has a new post on her blog from Tokyo where she is the latest recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship.


This has been an especially busy week with the monthly meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne, an ikebana class with my teacher Elizabeth Angell on the same day, and two days of workshops with Yoshiro Umemura from Sydney on the weekend. I will report on those workshops next weekend. 

The theme for the Ikebana International meeting was Japanese Day and a workshop was given on how to tie the simplest decorative knot using mizuhiki, Japanese paper strings. 

This photo shows Chieko Yazaki leading an enthusiastic group at the meeting, step by step through the process.

This example of the desired knot was made by Reiko Ito as a demonstration piece. Reiko also made a beautiful small mizuhiki rosette for all the members at the meeting.

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At Elizabeth's class the exercise was to make an ikebana arrangement in a vessel standing on the floor. I set the work beside the fireplace as it was possible to contain the arrangement  within the narrow space. I used two dried flower stems of New Zealand Flax that are just short of two metres tall. By placing them slightly apart I have further emphasised their height and in the space between them have created an elevated focal point with the heads of dried agapanthus flowers. As the focal point was set high in the arrangement I dropped a line down by hanging an inverted stem of agapanthus. The black porcelain vessel is by Alistair Whyte.

Lara Telford has a new post on her blog from Tokyo where she is the latest recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship.

Greetings from Christopher
15th October 2017 


Last week I showed photographic evidence that an echidna had been roaming through the garden hunting for ant nests. 

This week, on another warm day, when I was walking to the clothesline, 'Spike' the echidna heard me coming and tried to hide by burying itself into a compost heap. (I say 'itself' because I have no idea how one determines the gender of an echidna.)

Some years ago we planted this rather interesting South African daisy, Osteospermum. I was fascinated by the peculiar end of the petals that made the flower look like a raindrop splash in a puddle. 

This year the next generation of the original, which has spread around the garden, has become a meadow where we had some unhealthy casuarina trees cut down in one corner of the garden.

In addition to the white-petal blue-centred version shown above, there are some mauve flowers as well.


Here is another garden. It is my ikebana friend, Kath's. She recently commented how delighted she felt to see the white Iris and the Blue Bells welcoming her when she came home. Together they certainly looked a treat.

When I subsequently visited her I was greeted with this 'welcoming ikebana' of white iris in a ceramic bottle from Kyoto.

At home I have been watching a particularly intensely yellow wattle (acacia) come into bloom over the past few weeks. Unfortunately I cannot identify this specific acacia. However, I have been attracted by its large buttercup- yellow ball-shaped flowers and thought it would make a good ikebana subject.

I was wanting to contrast the rich yellow with the turquoise blues in this ceramic vase by Mark Bell from Maine USA. The ikebana turned out to be, almost, a 'Basic Upright' style in this round-bodied 'tsubo' form vase. The principle difference being that I have used flowers for the two main lines (shin and soe) on the left and pittosporum undulatum leaves, instead of flowers, for the third (hikae) line, on the right hand side. The group of leaves has provided a counter-balancing mass for the flowering lines that reach upward and to the left.

Greetings from Christopher
7th October 2017


We had some warm days last week that felt like the promise of summer. One morning when I walked out of the house along the garden path I noticed this large basalt rock had been dislodged.


Later that day as I drove the car out into the street I saw an echidna walking nonchalantly along the footpath, looking for ant nests to raid.

When I returned home and walked around the garden I found further evidence of echidna activity, including these holes dug in the mulch. Apparently it could sense the ant nest beneath the basalt rock. This was the first appearance of an echidna following the winter hibernation period.

This photo of an echidna under a rosebush was actually taken last year. With the typical variability of Spring-time, the weather has now turned somewhat cooler again and the echidna has not been evident since.

In the meantime the progression of the season is apparent. This week the pandorea pandorana vine growing on the fence is in full bloom. In the past we deliberately chose to use mesh fencing at the back of the property so that we could more easily grow vines and see the trees beyond the fence. The profusions of flowers shows nature in its abundant mood.

Here is a close up of a cluster of the bell shaped flowers. I thought they would make a good ikebana subject for my class in Torquay.

I set the students the task of making an ikebana arrangement using vine . The photo above is of my class demonstration using two large lengths of dried honeysuckle vine, Lonicera, and pandorea flowers. I have deliberately placed the flowers on one side to enhance the asymmetry of the ikebana. The vine, which envelops the space within the arrangement, comes a long way forward, which is not so apparent because of the foreshortening in the photo.

Greetings from Christopher
1st October 2017


There are still many spring-blossoming trees to be seen in this part of the world. I took the photo below as an outdoor exercise of the Photography Group of the Friends of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. I joined the group in the hope of learning how to make better use of my new pocket camera that I bought in Japan last March.

This photograph surprised me by the amazingly abstract-looking quality of the reflections in the water. 

In the garden at home over the last couple of weeks I have been watching with pleasure as a range of flowers bloom.

This gazania is really striking for its dark, brick-red, colour, which contrasts beautifully with its furry, soft green foliage.  Some gazanias have smooth, shiny green leaves

My second photo shows the first flowers of a small Forsythia bush that was bought for me last autumn by my friend Shirley. I am delighted and amazed that it has produced these flowers in the first spring since planting. I have great ikebana hopes!

Again this week I have photographed the apricot tree in flower. This time to contrast it with a small flower...

... that has finally appeared on a branch... an ikebana arrangement I made eight weeks ago. The photo above shows the 'no-kenzan', bare-branch arrangement today. I have moved the arrangement into the warmth of our conservatory in the hope that it will flower further. 

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My Melbourne-based ikebana colleague, Lara Telford, is now in the second week of her Norman and Mary Sparnon Scholarship in Tokyo and has posted photos from her first week of classes at the Sogetsu Headquarters
On the righthand side of her web-page there is a button where you can sign up using Facebook. I think that means you will get an automatic notification when she publishes a posting.

Greetings from Christopher
23rd September 2017.