Last week I set my senior students a combined exercise. I asked them to to make a 'variation No 2', nageire (tall vase) arrangement  and contrast the materials with the colour of the vessel. Both of these are separate exercises in the Sogetsu curriculum. This second exercise highlights the importance of thinking about the qualities of the vessel being used and recognises that it is an integral element of the arrangement.

In this example Christine has contrasted red and green...

...and here, blue and yellow.

Ellie has also contrasted green and red.

This photo is a 'Hanging, Variation No 4' by Tess, who managed to overcome the difficulty of securing the long branch to prevent it from falling out of the vase.

*          *          *          *          *

In another class, Kyoko made two morimono-style arrangements of fruit and vegetables. In this instance she has given the arrangement height by standing the two egg plants and a textural variation by slicing the pomegranate to reveal the seeds within.

With her second example she commented that she wanted to emphasise the fine line of the carrot root.  This line draws the eye in a circular patten around the orange coloured elements in the arrangement.

Greetings from Christopher
20th May 2017


Last week I showed this same footpath. Now it is littered with even more flowers and leaves ripped from the trees.

Finally I have the evidence that the sulphur- crested cockatoos are littering the paths. When I looked closely at this photo I was interested to see that the cockatoo has a small branch with a cluster of flowers in its left claw. In his mouth is one flower from which it is taking nectar.

There were about half a dozen of them inside the canopy of this tree in our garden.

*          *          *          *          *

Last Monday I was the substitute speaker at the Ikebana International meeting in Melbourne, as our invited guest was unavailable. The subject was to be origami, however that is certainly not my area of expertise. I therefore spoke about one of the Sogetsu School curriculum exercises, which is to make an arrangement incorporating 'unconventional' (manmade) materials. An earlier version of the curriculum had a separate and specific exercise to use paper in an arrangement.

Over the years I have experimented with various ways in which to use paper and there are a few points worth mentioning. The first is to consider the unique properties of paper and to take advantage of these. The second is to decide what is the subject/idea of the ikebana. That means, either the botanical materials or the manmade materials should be dominant and the other is in a supporting role. The third point is that all the materials should be integrated in the arrangement. So that if either were to be removed the arrangement would be incomplete.

I made this arrangement in class some years ago. Clearly the paper is the dominant material. I particularly like using newspaper, which is readily available, and changing it to reveal characteristics not normally noticed. This paper has been pleated diagonally and then folded in the middle, creating two 'fans', one on each side of the middle.

A couple of weeks after that class I created this work for the 50th anniversary exhibition of Ikebana International in Melbourne. As you can see I have also used coloured wrapping paper. The botanical material is the dried leaves of Dracaena Draco, which are bright orange where they attach to the plant.

This arrangement also incorporates a second manmade material, plastic mesh which keeps leaves from collecting in the roof gutters. It is contrasted with a strelitzia flowerhead. The newspaper has been rolled on the diagonal into straws. The straws are quite strong and develop spiral stripes from the colours on the page. In both of the examples above the 'subject' is the manmade material.

My final example is the arrangement I setup at last week's meeting. Again I have used newspaper straws, that I had demonstrated how to make. In this case the subject is the botanical materials, dried agapanthus heads and two dietes leaves, with the paper making a contrasting element. The ceramic cylinder is by Graeme Wilkie.

There are more photos from the meeting on the Ikebana International Melbourne blog.

Greetings from Christopher
13th May 2017


We returned home ten days ago from our trip to Japan and Taiwan. I was relieved to find that the garden was in a good state, having been watered in our absence, as arranged. In fact a couple of days before we returned there was an exceptionally heavy storm in our area leaving the ground quite damp. Nothing has died and the weeds are not too big!

This is how the beach looked this morning after further rain overnight...

...and the promise of a little more today.

Having come home from travelling, one of the things that I noticed is the chattering and song of the large variety of birds that visit our garden. It is certainly greater than in the cities in Japan and Taiwan.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of eucalyptus flowers strewn on the grass.  

These creamy flowers are on a street tree.

The next tree has deep red flowers, which were also on the grass underneath the tree.

The flowers are a source of nectar for the Rainbow Lorikeets that visit our garden. These small parrots are to be found all along the eastern coast of Australia. The flowers scattered on the grass have probably been chewed off by the larger Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.

I took the two photos below in the garden this morning.

The much better photo below is from a website setup by a primary teacher and a librarian for school children. You can check it out here: Rainbow Lorikeet.

As we are now deeply into Autumn, this week I set my students the exercise of making an arrangement, incorporating berries and/or fruiting branches. 

Kim borrowed the apples from fellow student Val and my vase by Ian Jones. Kim wisely curled the fig leaf, which came from the garden, because otherwise it looked too flat.

In the evening class Christine chose this branch of quince with a particularly interesting line. Some solid mechanics went into keeping the heavy stem from resting on the side of her Graeme Wilkie vase.

Greetings from Christopher
6th May 2017

* The title of the blog comes from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Near the end of the film the good witch Glinda says to Dorothy: '...tap your heels together three times and think to yourself, there's no place like home

(after five and a half weeks of travelling)