WINTER BLOSSOM

Three weeks ago the Cootamundra Wattle Acacia Baileyana started to open. I first noticed it from the bathroom window and went into the garden to take this photo.



The small bright yellow blossom was at the tip of a branch and lit up by the sunlight.



This is how the whole tree looked then.



This week the tree is a mass of yellow with almost all of the blossom open. It is slightly past its prime as we had some rain a couple of days earlier. 


On the 1st of July I posted this photo of buds on a new chaenomeles japonica called 'apple blossom' that a friend bought for me when she was on a spree in a nursery.


This is the first open flower. Thank you Shirley, it is beautiful.


In this week's ikebana I have combined red 'Japonica' and the acacia baileyana. I find them both emblematic of winter and to me they suggest two different feelings. The stark beauty of the 'Japonica's' blossom on bare branches remind me of the coldness of winter. Meanwhile, the abundant gold of the acacia is glorious and lifts the spirits in a different way, reminding me of the coming Spring.

The ceramic vase is by a young Japanese ceramic artist, Arikawa Makoto.

Greetings from Christopher
30th July 2017

BARE BRANCHES


Today we had a late afternoon walk and were delighted to see a flock of Galahs on the power-lines.

  

Their warm pink feathers contrast beautifully with the pale grey of their body and upper wings and seemed more intense in the afternoon light.

We have just come back to Torquay after spending nine nights in Melbourne. On Saturday last weekend I gave a workshop for members of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter, which we also opened to visitors. Our intention with weekend workshops is particularly to provide an opportunity for members who are working or otherwise unable to attend our regular meetings. 

The theme of the workshop was 'Bare Branches'. Being winter, it is a seasonally relevant subject. I had prepared two examples and demonstrated a third. 


The intention of my first example was to capture the feeling of the wind, which has sculptured this branch of Leptospermum laevigatum. I added a small sprig of camellia leaves to give the arrangement a feeling of life.


The branches for my second example (Leucopogon paviflorus) were chosen because of the effect of lichen on their surface texture and colour. All the branches were relatively straight so I cut the thickest one to make a sculptural form from short lengths, then added one finer branch and two blue iris flowers for a contrasting highlight.


My third example was a 'no kenzan' arrangement of branches from our apricot tree expressing the stark lines of their wintery state. I have added three orange tulips as a focal highlight.

Further images can be seen at Ikebana International Winter Workshop.

Greetings from Christopher
21st July 2017

WABI-SABI

This week, as we were out walking, the distinctive cry of a Gang-gang Cockatoo caught our attention. The call of this bird is like the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle; or like a squeaky door hinge. 



This particular bird was happily feeding on the nectar of a street tree, a cream-flowered eucalyptus. 


It was only a couple of metres above our heads and appeared quite unperturbed by our presence. This was a male bird, identifiable by the red feathers on its head.

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Last weekend I attended a Sogetsu Branch workshop lead by Lara Telford. Her theme was 'Wabi-sabi in Ikebana'. I would like to recommend the excellent article on this concept, which arises from Buddhist philosophy, in Wikipedia Wabi-sabi

As the weather has become colder I have been watching my hydrangea flowers pass from their early autumn greenness to being mottled with dark pink-red spots. This, I thought, would make a suitable subject for the workshop where we would be paying attention to that beauty which is to be found in imperfection. I posted the photo below in 2014...


...this shows a paler version of this year's colouring of the hydrangea. In the workshop I arranged this year's large, richly coloured flowerhead on a long arching stem with only a couple of leaves.

Lara correctly pointed out that it was too beautiful (!) for the exercise. I hope you can imagine my pain when I recognised that she was right. So the large beautiful flower had to go. I bravely cut the flower off, leaving only a single fading leaf on the stem and a smaller flower with a group of leaves at the opening on the vase.


I re-set the arrangement when I got home against a grey background.


This photo shows just how right Lara was in her critique. The focus of the arrangement has become the leaf with its final autumn colouring before it falls. The feeling is one of loneliness.

Greetings from Christopher
15th July 2017

The vase is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery.

ARRANGEMENTS ON THE TABLE

Last week I commented on the cold weather and said that '...living by the sea we rarely suffer frosts...', hmmm, talk about famous last words. The very next morning...


...a patina of light grey covered the ground.

                                   

This leaf outlined with frost must have fallen from the apricot tree only the day before.



The birdbath was frozen solid.

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A couple of weeks ago, my teacher set us an exercise from the new Book 5 of the Sogetsu curriculum: An arrangement set on the Table. Among the points of consideration are whether the arrangement will be seen from all angles, that its height does not interfere with the guests' line of sight, and that it is in harmony with other aspects of the table setting.

Below are my fellow students' creations from that class:


Dianne used a 'finger citron' and two variegated leaves in this stylish modern arrangement.



Toula used four matching vases in which she arranged camellias and cotoneaster branches. She removed all the leaves from the branches to emphasise the berries and branch lines.



Marilyn used two complementary shallow vessels. She arranged her camellia branches to arch between them creating a long narrow arrangement.



Swan used a long narrow vessel in which she arranged 'spinning gum' branches and a line of yellow chrysanthemums.


In thinking about this exercise beforehand, I decided to use three matching cup-shaped vases by the Bendigo potter Ray Pearce. Their external appearance reminds me of heavily appliqu├ęd patchwork fabric. The glaze is an olive coloured celadon. Initially I thought to use my cotoneaster branches in a naturalistic manner. However, the branches looked too fussy against the vases, which I found to be unexpectedly visually strong. 

I then decided a strong contemporary design was needed. Using some short lengths of sedge leaves braced across the vases, I removed the berries from the branches and floated them on the surface of the water in crescent shapes that I had created. This massing of the berries significantly increased the impact of their red colour.



Here are the vases re-set on the dining table at home.

Greetings from Christopher
9th july 2017

WINTER SOLSTICE

Japanese flowering quince has to be one of my favourite plants at this time of year, especially to use in ikebana.


This year in our garden the Japanese flowering quince, chaenomeles japonica, seems to have started flowering earlier than last year and more prolifically. I think it may be a result of the removal of a tree in our neighbour's garden that was sheltering the plant. Now it is exposed to the prevailing winds.


I took these photos this morning when it was sunny, 'though only 6 Celsius. Mild by some standards, but cool enough. The temperature may get down to 0 Celsius overnight during the next couple of months. However, living by the sea we rarely suffer frosts. 


On a different bush, given to me by my ikebana friend Joan, this white flower is the first for the season.


These buds are on yet another bush. This one is called Apple Blossom and the petals are soft pink and white. It was only planted last autumn and seems to have settled in well.

Ten days ago was Winter Solstice and I was interested in trying to capture the idea of the longest night and shortest day in an ikebana arrangement. The quince blossom seemed an ideal material, particularly as it allowed me to reduce the colours to red, black and white.

    

I have set the arrangement in a white bottle-shaped vessel, with a black design, against a dark background 


In this version of the arrangement, which I have had to reverse, I have created a background with a large dark area and a smaller white area to represent the different lengths of day and night at the solstice. 


Here is the arrangement against a plain white background.



And this is how it looked a week later in the niche in the living room. You can see that the blossoms that were fully opened have retained their colour and the more recently opened blossoms are pale.

The bottle-shaped vessel is by the ceramic artist Tadao Akutsu from Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture Japan. 

Greetings from Christopher
1st July 2017