Three weeks ago, on the 3rd of June, I published a photo of my re-worked ikebana from a workshop given by my colleague Lee Johnstone. The theme was 'an arrangement to be viewed from all angles'. At the time I was somewhat dissatisfied with my own arrangement and also the fact that I only photographed the work from one angle.

This is the previously published photo of my arrangement that I had re-constructed at home after the workshop. Last week I returned to the exercise using the same berry bearing materials to which I have added dried aspidistra leaves for a textural contrast.

In this exercise two things are important. Firstly that there should be some material facing the viewer from every angle. That is, from no angle should the viewer see only the 'back' of the materials. Secondly, from each angle the arrangement should present a different aspect.

Here is the new work from three views. 

I think from this first view, the mass of the aspidistra moving toward the backward-stretching branch on the left is the main focus of the work.

View two emphasises the long line of the pittosporum now stretching forward.

The third view makes the mass of the red cotoneaster berries the main focus of the work.

Last week, after I published the blog, I discovered the beautiful blue Ibis was a Straw-necked Ibis, an uncommon visitor in this part of Victoria.

You also might like to follow this link to the 13th June meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne at which some members made presentations about their experiences at the I.I. Convention in Okinawa in April. 

Greetings from Christopher
25th June 2017


In the garden last week I was very surprised to see this lovely little ring-tailed possum in one of the trees. I have never seen one in our garden in daylight before. Possums are nocturnal, so I suspect this one was disturbed by some of the very noisy, larger birds that were in the garden at the time. 

It did not flee when I went and got my camera...

...however, I think it was being quite wary...

...and wanted to know what I was doing. Here is a link to a YouTube video of a possum feeding in someone's backyard.

A day or two later Laurie told me there was an Ibis in the garden. I took this photo from the bathroom window. What fabulous colours in the feathers on its back and tail. (18/6/2017 Addendum. This is a Straw-necked Ibis. It is not as common in this area as the White Ibis.)

These shades of blue had a wonderful iridescence.  Now, who would have thought this photo provides a link to ikebana?

This week I set my students the challenge of two exercises from the Sogetsu curriculum to be combined in the one ikebana work. The first exercise, relating to the photo above, was to make an arrangement with colours 'In the same tonal range'. This means using colours that would be closely adjacent on a colour wheel, or even shades of the one colour as the dominant aspect of the material. In this exercise the colour of leaves and stems are different they need to secondary to the main colour.

The second exercise was to pay attention to the 'space' within the arrangement.

Val has used various shades of pink from a deep colour through to the orangey pink of her geranium flowers.

Kim has used closely matched the tawny tones of his orchids with the pale yellow of his tortuous willow.

Christine created an arrangement using two kenzans in the kabu wake style, that is, using two or more kenzans. Her two columns of closely related pinks emphasise the central space.

In a second work she has used blues and mauves arching over the water surface in her suiban.

Ellie used vibrantly coloured materials in the warm yellow-orange-red range and carefully inverted one branch to create the space to the left of the main vertical line.

In this second work she has used warm velvety tones of her branches, a brown amaranthus caudatus and banksia helianthus.

Alana used red-tipped leucodendron, red tinged gum-nuts and some unidentified red berries. They have teamed well with her maroon vase.

In her second example she used Hakea Laurina, the red tinged gum-nuts and red tipped leucodendron.

Greetings from Christopher
17th June 2017


Last week I posted the photo below of a tree in rich autumn colours on the Oak Lawn of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Being in the gardens again on Monday, I decided to check its botanical name and was amused to see that it is a Liquidambar (liquidambar styraciflua). If I had walked up to the tree previously I would have realised by the leaf shape it was not an oak. Having grown up on the southern coast of Victoria I must admit to not being particularly familiar with northern hemisphere trees.

This week in my class with Elizabeth, our exercise was from the new Book 5 of the Sogetsu curriculum: using a 'Vertical type fixture' Tate-no-Soegi-dome. In Australia this is usually called a 'down stick'. This is the preferred method of securing branch material, especially to stabilise heavy branches. It enables the ikebanist to control the angle of the branch and prevent it from rolling on the edge of the vessel. We were asked to use a difficult vessel in the exercise. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph the arrangement in the class. 

This is the vase I used. It has a narrow opening within the raised rim and the 'shoulders' of the vase are wide. Therefore it was difficult to secure the branch ends against the inside of the vase.

When I came home I re-set the arrangement in a larger vase, also with a narrow opening, and even wider shoulders.

Here is how it looked initially. The long branch on the right-hand side tended to rotate forward so that the buds were pointing toward the viewer instead of up toward the sun. By using the fixing technique I was able to correct this problem.

The addition of two arum lily leaves gave the branches a feeling of freshness.

I then added two autumnal hydrangea heads which picked up some of the warmer colours in the ash glaze of the vase. Thanks to Trish who allowed me to prune the magnolia branches from her garden. The vase is by the New South Wales potter Sergio Sill.

Greetings from Christopher
10th June 2017


While I was in Melbourne this week I particularly noticed the Autumn colours.  

The first autumn leaves to catch my eye were these, cascading over a garden wall. I also made a point of visiting the Botanic Gardens.

The Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens are situated on a swathe of parkland that slopes down to the Yarra River. The garden is divided by a small valley, with an artificial stream that runs down the hillside to a series of ornamental lakes. This view is at the high end of the garden. It shows the 'English landscape garden' style for which these gardens are famous. The yellow leafed tree in the photo is a Ginko Biloba.

Nearby is the 'oak lawn', with a variety of oaks from across the northern hemisphere. Sadly, some of these trees have been damaged or blown over in recent years during severe storms; thus the small replacement tree in the right foreground. The relatively mild climate of Melbourne, compared to the natural habitat of the oaks, results in them growing and ageing more quickly than would normally be the case.

Beside one path the sun was shining through the leaves of a smoke bush cotinus coggygria. Although it is hard to see in the photo, just to the right is a purple buddleia, that made a lovely colour contrast. 

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On Monday last week, Lee Johnstone lead a workshop for members of the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School. The two combined themes were: 'an arrangement to be viewed from all angles' and 'an arrangement with an autumn-winter feeling'. I had noticed orange pittosporum and red cotoneaster berries over the last month and had been wanting to use them in an arrangement. So here was my opportunity.

Unfortunately, the photograph I took at the workshop was blurred so this photo above is a re-working of the subject at home. I have added some 'fingered citron', citrus medica var. sacrodactylis, in the centre as a textural contrast. At the workshop I had used three vine leaves. However, they did not survive the journey home. The vase is by Graeme Wilkie.

I'd also like to draw your attention to a posting on Emily Karanikolopoulos's blog. Her students made some delightful ikebana works from the new Sogetsu Curriculum Book Five. The exercise is a 'Composition expressing a Movement'. You will need to scroll down to the post of 23rd May.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd June 2017