The radio news reported extra cold weather in Canada and the internet says that in Ottawa it is minus 23C, but feels like minus 28C! Our friends from the UK have had snow but are not quite so cold. They wrote to us remembering a warm Christmas in Australia 3 years ago. A couple of days ago here on the 'surf coast' the temperature got up to 33 Celsius.

The day before that, Boxing Day, the temperature was in the high 20's and we went for a long walk in Iron Bark Basin, which sits above Point Addis beach.  

Many people were enjoying the summer weather on the beach and in the water. Other people were enjoying a birds-eye view.


The trees in the foreground are causurinas, which are mostly found on the cliff edge. 

This photo is taken further away from the cliffs  and shows the characteristic nature of the bushland of the nature reserve, where the understory has become dominated by the local Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoeas) since the terrible bush fires of 1983. I really like the way there is no visible horizon, just mass of grey tree trunks that recede into the distance.

I was pleased to see this pink ground orchid, Dipodium roseum...

and this delightful...

...very small Fringed Lily Thysanotua tuberosus.

On an earlier walk I had photographed this cluster of dainty Centaurium erythraea. For many years I had thought this to be a native plant. However, some years ago now, my friend Fermi informed me that it was an introduced species that had naturalised.

My big surprise about two weeks ago was to see this gecko one night outside on a glass door. I took the photo without a flash so it is somewhat blurred. I had thought geckos were tropical lizards. A friend of Rosemary and David's identified it as Christinus Marmoratus, which is widely distributed across southern Australia. We live and learn.

This year we had Christmas lunch with my brother and his family in their new house and I offered to create a 'welcoming ikebana' for the entrance.

This provided some interesting challenges. Firstly I set the arrangement against a mirror on a long narrow, hall table. This meant I had to ensure that the back of the arrangement looked attractive as it showed in the mirror. Because the table was about two metres long I was able to extend the width of the arrangement by using a pair of matching vases and and connecting them with Gymea leaves. The flowers were hydrangeas from our garden. The mirror made it difficult to photograph because of the busy reflected room beyond.

This year I made a 'Christmas Tree' from the stripped branches of a poplar tree. 

The tree was effectively floating, being suspended from the ceiling and decorated with star-like spinifex sericeus seed-heads, and with gold and silver baubles. I then filled a large ceramic bowl with an abundance of baubles. The inspiration for the last idea I owe to my student Helen, see last week's blog.

Wishing you happiness and peace in the New Year. Greetings from,
31st December 2017


I could not resist this cartoon.

It is by the much loved Michael Leunig and featured on the back page of yesterday's 'The Age' newspaper. 

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Three weeks ago I showed a photo of some Xanthorrhoea plants growing along the clifftop path toward Bell's Beach. 

They have been kindly identified by Freya Headlam who volunteers with the Friends of Dandenong Valley Parklands. She suggested they '...could well be Xanthorrhoea minor, or Small Grass Tree, which grows in SA and NSW as well as Victoria.'  

Interestingly, the Dandenong Valley group of linked parklands includes Jells Park where there is a plaque beside a tree that was planted by the late Norman Sparnon. 


These photos were sent to me by Greg Schofield, the son of Doreen Schofield who is one of the Senior members of Ikebana International Melbourne and the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.

Returning to the theme of my last two blog postings, below are photos from the final 2017 class of my Geelong-based students. This class was held at the home of Maureen and her husband John. The students brought seasonal materials for a Christmas celebration and were allocated a location that suited the nature of the materials. As it is Summer here in Australia, one of the most conspicuous plants in flower at the present is agapanthus, from southern Africa, which has naturalised and become an environmental weed in Victoria. (Gardeners are encouraged to remove the flower heads before seeds ripen and are spread by birds.)

This first arrangement was created by Alana. She has used one of Maureen's vases so that the ikebana could be left in place after the class. Alana emphasised the vertical lines of the agapanthus and contrasted them with the curving lines of a spray of dancing lady orchids.

Maureen created an ikebana arrangement with strong vertical lines. Her principal material was dried agapanthus which she had sprayed silver to match the vase. The blue and green of her secondary material, fresh agapanthus, provided a striking contrast.

Tess also used agapanthus as her principal material. She found these quirky-shaped buds in her garden and sprayed most of them silver. The secondary material, pine needles, were cut short and arranged in an upright mass. Her ceramic vase is a 'tear-drop' shaped vase from Japan that echoed the shape of the agapanthus buds.

Helen created a Christmas table-centre arrangement in a glass bowl. She has floated golden baubles and contrasted them with two strikingly bicoloured roses.

Ellie used pine, white roses and red berries. Her arrangement with sweeping lines was strongly asymmetric in an irregular ceramic vase.

Christine made an arrangement on a kitchen bench, 'to be viewed from all angles'. She used feathery grass-heads, casaurina and red and green flowers. The vessels are made from plastic icecream containers.

Two days ago was the Summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. I made this arrangement for a friend's birthday and felt the upward reach of the sky-blue agapanthus flowers represented the longest day of the year. I enjoyed using the subtly curving lines to make interesting spaces for the central mass of large flower-heads.

Greetings and best wishes from Christopher on Christmas Eve 2017

I think this cartoon sent by Amos (thank you) will particularly appeal to ikebanists.


In the garden about a month ago I was lamenting the lack of flowers on the New Zealand flax this year, after it was damaged by a falling tree last year.

However much to my surprise, following some exceptionally heavy rain, a single flower spike appeared. I was delighted when it grew a full metre in the next week. 

Also this year the Grevillea Robusta has flowered again for only the second time. There are more flowers which are larger and seem more dense than last year.


The strelitzia juncea is also doing well this year. 

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The last class for my Thursday morning U3A students was held at my house in Torquay. The class started at lunchtime, later than usual, and I allocated locations around the house for the students to create their ikebana.

I had prepared this welcoming ikebana in the entrance using a hanging vase I had bought in Seto City, Aichi Prefecture in 2006. I do not often use this location for ikebana as I worry that it could be easily knocked.

This arrangement is by Helen using two strelitzia leaves and some green Kangaroo Paw flowers.

Val made this arrangement as an interpretation of a nativity scene. The three lilies represent the Holy Family and the leaves behind them represent the shepherds.

Leonie made a table arrangement using driftwood and pink lilies.

Frances' arrangement was a two kenzan (kabuwake style) work using molecculla laevis, poppy seedheads and Delphinium.

Rhonda arranged Grevillia and Kangaroo paw in a suiban in the house entrance.

Kim arranged two Pine branches in a new celadon vase. It looked so formal that he wisely decided that flowers would be superfluous.

The students discussed their arrangements during my critique and then we enjoyed a social meal of shared food. 

Greetings from Christopher
16th December 2017


This has been quite a busy week on the ikebana front. Each of my four classes celebrated the end of the year with a class and meal shared at home. The first celebration was with the two classes of my Melbourne students and took place at Margaret's house. In addition to the opportunity to relax and socialise, the students were able to make their ikebana in a specific location. This means taking into account various aspects of the particular space.

This first arrangement was made by Helen. She has used a 'modern' hand-made ikebana vessel that she bought from Norman Sparnon 'quite a few years ago'. Her materials were two kinds of succulents. The placement was on a shelf in an ensuite bathroom and had a cool fresh feeling.

Marisha's arrangement was placed on a shelf in the dining room against a dark textured wall. She has used a pittosporum  and a brightly coloured bougainvillaea  flower in a nageire vessel.

Jacqueline made a freestyle arrangement using cypress and white oriental lilies, in a contemporary bowl-shaped vessel. Her placement was at the further end of the shelf shown in the previous photo.

Robyn made a freestyle 'Christmas' arrangement using dried succulent flower stems, a red anthurium and a mass of small white flowers, name unknown. She has added a glass bauble and lightly spayed the dried stem with gold and silver paint. Her arrangement was made on a window sill in the Den, so I had to re-locate it to take this photo.

Kyoko's arrangement was also on a window sill in the Den and it has been repositioned for the photo. She has made an upright arrangement using a gymea leaf, bright pink celosia cristata  and yellow arum lilies. Her exercise was an arrangement with contrasting colours.

Marcia made an arrangement in a light filled bathroom. She has emphasised the space between the elegant lines of agapanthus in bud and created a small focal point at the base of the work. This was made with some Kiwi vine and a small opening agapanthus flower.

Greetings from Christopher
9th December 2017

This afternoon I spoke to Lara Telford who returned safely yesterday from three months in Tokyo where she attended classes at the Sogetsu headquarters as the recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship. Here is a link to her last blog post from Tokyo.

View Emily's recent post here.


In my posting last week Mentioned the Australian native plant species Xanthorrhoea, because of the use of its long grass-like leaves by Mrs Ishikawa at the Book 5 workshops in Sydney. During this week, when I went for a walk along the clifftops, I was reminded of her arrangement when I noticed some xanthorrhoeas in flower. This particular variety is low growing and does not develop a trunk. 


I also could not help noticing the masses of fluffy seed heads of clematis micro-phylla that had developed over recent weeks. 



This shows how the flowers looked in August when I first posted this photo... 

...and the beginnings of the seed-head formation in September. 

At the second last class for my Geelong students, Helen and Tess were doing supplementary exercises as they both finish Book 2 of the Sogetsu curriculum.

Helen made two arrangements 'for a festive occasion', in this case an Australian Christmas. In her first work she has used red green and silver as traditional colours for the season.

In this second arrangement the focus was on the beautiful lines of a dried eucalyptus branch that has been sprayed silver. The fresh green material is a small sprig of grevillea and the white a mass of geranium flowers. Helen said the very metallic silver was 'chrome' spray paint.

Tess chose to make a 'Variation No. 4 Hanging' arrangement for her revision. She has used a beautiful prunus branch with some deep red gerberas.

The senior students were asked to make an arrangement using an 'everyday object as the vase'

Ellie made a massed and a floating arrangement 'in the same tonal range' using a tagine base and lid.

Christine made this arrangement of spring onions in a paper cylinder she found.

What follows is an item of 'house keeping' for want of a better description. Last week I was pleased to receive a 'comment' on my post. So thank you 'irby' from Nevada. In recent times I have not replied to comments because my reply becomes buried by the next post. For the information of those who make comments, I need to advise that I do not see your email address. If you would like to correspond with me please email me at:

Greetings from Christopher
3rd December 2017

I would like to congratulate my colleague Lara Telford who will finish her 3 months studying at the Sogetsu Headquarters at the end of this week where she has been the latest recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship. She has a new posting on her blog from Tokyo. This is part two so make sure you scroll down further to see part one.