Summer time is the main flowering season of the Moonah, melaleuca lanceolata, which grows extensively on the cliff tops at Torquay. 

As the 'bottle-brush' flowers are at the end of the branches, the effect during the flowering is of a mass of white covering most of the bushes. 

Here on the cliffs they are low growing, hugging the ground, looking very neat and compact having been 'trimmed' by the wind.

In such exposed situations the branches become beautifully contorted into quite extraordinary shapes. When these larger branches fall into the sea and become bleached driftwood, the branch surface can have a quite satiny appearance.

Away from the strong winds, Moonah can grow into small trees with a lovely dense canopy. They are to be seen in some of the older gardens in Torquay, like this one growing in Pearl St.

I decided to make a 'mass and line' ikebana arrangement using some Moonah in a ceramic vessel with warm earthy characteristics. The vessel was made by Margaret Hall, Director of the Australian Sogetsu Teachers Association Inc, New South Wales Branch. 

Greetings from Christopher
27th January 2018


We were in Melbourne on Friday and Saturday this week so we had an early morning walk around the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens, before the heat of the day hit. (The temperature got up to 44 C on Friday afternoon).

This pavilion in the gardens is called the Temple of the Winds and sits on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the Yarra River to the north. Around it are plants tolerant of poor quality dry soils because of the rocky soil and the exposure to the north.

At this time of year the 'herbaceous border', in front of the former residence of the garden's Director, is absolutely in its prime. This lovely building is no longer a residence but is used as a reception venue. 

We have been watching the level of the ornamental lake slowly getting lower, with some concern. The heavy rain in November helped considerably to maintain an acceptable level. If there is sufficient intermittent rain we may be spared from seeing the mud at the bottom.

However, enjoying the mud, the garden staff have planted 'Sacred Lotus', nelumbo nucifera, at  the edge of the lake. This is the first time I have seen this plant in the gardens and it looks a treat. The botanic gardens in Adelaide South Australia also have a wonderful pond that is full of them in the summer.


I think this alone is a good enough reason to call the flower 'sacred'. I have never before seen such a luminous lotus flower.


Neither have I seen the seed capsule forming within the flower before...


...and this...
                   ...sublime nature.

On Monday morning last week Laurie and I were given this huge bouquet of flowers, to celebrate our marriage that was to take place later that day.

Laurie is in the background reflected in the mirror. Here is a link to some wedding photos.

By the end of the week I had to deconstruct the bouquet. I salvaged the lotus pods and teamed them with two agapanthus flowers in this simple vertical arrangement for a party at Torquay.

Greetings from Christopher
21st January 2018


I was amused to note that, in her blog last week, my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos also reported about strategies for preserving hydrangeas through the blistering 41 Celsius heat. As I mentioned in last weeks posting, we were fortunate that we only had one isolated hot day. 

Since then the last two days have brought an unexpectedly good steady rainfall. This has occurred because the weather pattern in the south east of Australia has dragged warm moist air from a tropical cyclone in the north west of the continent. A blessing for us. The same storm system is now bringing good rainfall further south in Western Australia.

Enough of the weather report. This week I noticed that the casuarinas which had to be lopped 18 months ago are really growing strongly again.

I posted this photograph last January when I first noticed the trees re-sprouting. They had been in poor health having been infected by boring beetles. I am hoping that they do not get re-infected.

Elsewhere in the garden the scabiosa atropurpurea is becoming very leggy so I have cut off a lot of the old seed heads.

This is how it looked a few seasons ago when it went wild and began to look like a meadow.

Scabiosa works beautifully as a full, but quite open, arrangement expressing the abundance of the late Spring early Summer season. The chun glazed ceramic bowl is by Graeme Wilkie.

These are the hydrangea flowers, still on the bush, that I managed to salvage from last week's heat. It will be interesting to see if I can nurse them through to the autumn.

Here is an arrangement I created with some I had picked before the heat struck. The double line is in fact a single New Zealand flax leaf that I partially split. The large wood fired vessel is also by Graeme Wilkie.

Greetings from Christopher
14th January 2018


Wishing you a happy New Year in this my first post for 2018.

Two days ago the maximum temperature in Torquay was about 28 Celsius. Yesterday it was about 41C with hot dry winds from the north. This morning it is cool and still below 20C. A single very hot day is unusual, but much better than several in succession. It points out the folly of growing plants that are not really suited to the climate. 

I can only grow hydrangeas in pots, where they can be placed in semi-shade. The lack of shelter from hot north winds and the dry soil in our garden makes this an unsuitable environment even for a more skilled gardener than I am. The photo above was taken on 22nd December 2016.

I watered the pots three times yesterday but was not able to prevent the sun/heat damage.

Fortunately we knew the hot day was coming, so on the previous evening I picked a number of the better blooms in advance of the heat. Later today I will remove the damaged flowers and hope that there may be some more flowers produced by Autumn.

This morning when we walked down to the beach we passed this Corymbia Ficifolia which, being a native of Western Australia, was unscathed by yesterday's heat.

In fact I think a few more flowers blossomed yesterday, but there is no sign of heat stress.


My attention was caught by the noisy twittering of a number of Rainbow Lorikeets that were feeding on the nectar of the flowers.


I made today's ikebana using two hydrangea flower-heads and the stems of Strelitzia Juncea. I used the stems to create a design with strong lines to harmonise with the lines in the vase. The ceramic vase was made by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery in Lorne.

Greetings from Christopher
7th January 2018