When selecting recent photographs for this week's blog posting, I was struck by the coincidence of line dominating the ikebana works. They are from two different classes and are examples of four separate exercises from the Sogetsu curriculum.

The first class was in Geelong with my students who are working at a variety of levels within the curriculum.

Helen made two ikebana arrangements on the theme of 'mass and line', in which these two design elements are contrasted. In the first instance she has used a single arum lily contrasted with the mass of three camellias and their leaves. I encouraged Helen to exaggerate the already existing slight curve in the lily stem.

In her second example, Helen has used a dried palm leaf base. It has been contrasted with a mass composed of autumn-coloured oak leaves. The colour and texture of the leaves are sufficiently robust to work well with the strong appearance of the dried palm.

Alana's exercise was to 'make a surface using lines'. She has stripped leucadendron stems and inserted them in a kenzan. They start as a column and then flatten out becoming parallel lines that form a flat surface toward the top of the arrangement.  She finished off the arrangement with a naturally curving line, creating a low space on the left side that helps balance the work.

Tess was set the exercise of 'taking into account the shape of the vessel'. Her principal lines are placed at an acute angle creating tension with the vase, a souvenir from Ethiopia. Tess has curled some of the leaves echoing the lines on the neck of the vase. 

The second class was with my own teacher Elizabeth. 

We were given the exercise of creating an ikebana arrangement expressing movement. This photo shows my ikebana re-set at home. I have used Sword Sedge (lepidosperma gladiatum) leaves in a modern stainless steel vase. The curving lines sweep toward the right creating a sense of movement in that direction.

Greetings from Christopher, 
posting late on Sunday 27th May 2018


At a class last week I set some students the exercise of making an ikebana arrangement in which they create a mass which is contrasted with a single line. I gave a quick demonstration using some dried materials that have been sitting in the garden. 

To create the mass I used the, now dried, heads of agapanthus that I had used in an Ikebana International exhibition in March. In this Sogetsu School exercise the mass must be made by the ikebanist and not merely be a single large flower head like a hydrangea. Therefore if using globular materials to make the mass a minimum of two must be used.

The second element of the exercise is line. I chose this naturally dried, unknown weed. It has multiple branches so I thought it would be a good example of creating an interesting line by extensive pruning.

This was the final result made with some very quick pruning and assembling in the classroom. The students then set about their own work, producing very different looking ikebana arrangements with a variety of materials.

Helen made a mass of echium leaves and used a single line of fuschia.

Rhonda has used an agave-like leaf for her line and rosettes of a succulent for the mass.

Kim chose a long branch with some attractive lichen and used three creamy bourbon roses for his mass.

Val has used a single cordyline leaf for her line and chrysanthemum and eucalyptus buds for her mass. 

When I came home I reversed and re-set my ikebana and added two camellia leaves into the mass to give a feeling of freshness. The egg shaped ceramic vessel is from Seto City in Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

Greeting from Christopher 
20th May 2018


We have a new winter flowering plant in our garden. I have been nursing it in a pot for a couple of months waiting until we get the first of the autumn rain.

This is an Australian native flower from the south west of Western Australia called Isopogon cuneatus and known commonly as a 'Drumstick' flower, because of its straight stem and globular head. 

'Known commonly' is not the same as 'commonly known'. I for one must admit I had never heard of it before and do not remember seeing it either. The plant was a gift from my ikebana friend Trish. It has only been in the ground for a few weeks and the first of its flowers has now started to open.

Interestingly, it is not a single flower but actually an inflorescence made up of many small rather strange tubular flowers that have a bright yellow 'pistol' (I think), which seems to start yellow then turns red.

In the past week the weather has become much colder producing stronger autumn colours.The richest colour in the garden has been the reds of the Boston IvyParthenocissus tricuspidata... 

...fallen leaves gathered here at the bottom of the steps...

...and the Nandina domestica. This year for the first time whole leaves have coloured evenly on a frond. 

I was very pleased to have the nandina to take to last weeks Ikebana International meeting as the theme was 'Autumn Grasses in a basket'. I had the 'Autumn' and 'basket' parts but not the grasses.

This is the arrangement I made using the Nandina, begonia coccinea and two pomegranate fruits given to me by my ikebana teacher Elizabeth. This is a freestyle autumn arrangement and I was pleased for the opportunity to use these materials together. However, I think it is technically incorrect to use such heavy pomegranate fruit in a basket.

This is the same arrangement re-worked at home in a tall ceramic vase where the visual balance works better.

The white porcelain vase with iron oxide splashes is by the Dandenong Ranges potter Arnaud Barraud. Photos from the meeting are on the I.I. Melbourne blog.

Greetings from Christopher
13th May 2018


A couple of weeks ago I managed to catch these two sulphur-crested cockatoos drinking at the bird bath. These large birds have a raucous call and a flock can be quite rowdy. One of the things about them that surprises me is that in the wild they are very wary and obviously don't trust humans. This pair flew away when they noticed me photographing them from inside the house through a window, even though I must have been at least 15 metres away. 

Behind the birds you can see the vivid green leaves of a strelitzia nicolai that had been ravaged, along with most of the succulents in the garden, by a rare frost that occurred last July.

I was especially relieved when it put forth a green leaf shoot somewhat later in the year and is now clearly on the path to recovery. 
When I return home by car I pass a house that has a large s. nicolai at the front gate. Recently I noticed a yellowing leaf hanging low with the afternoon sun coming through it causing it to glow. Having asked permission from the owner, I cut the large leaf to make the Sogetsu curriculum exercise 'An arrangement with plants on a wall'.

The leaf was large and bold with a beautiful pronounced curve. I added some dried 'Honesty' lunaria annuato give a colour and textual contrast that would complement the leaf. I have photographed it against a grey backdrop rather than our light coloured wall.

From ikebana hanging on a wall, now to a completely different approach where the vessel is a dominant element in the design. 

Late in 2016 I bought a bowl made by the ceramic artist Greg Daly who, in recent years, has experimented extensively with lustre glazes. I loved the brilliant yellow of the bowl with its contrasting turquoise pattening.

The first time I used the bowl I simply made a low mass with three blue Dutch Irises, iris x hollandica set low in the bowl. 

My next experiment was with an unknown small orange flower which has leaves that look a bit like freesia.

My third experiment with the bowl was at a recent class where the exercise was to make an arrangement with Irises. Because of our extra warm, dry autumn, the only ones available at the time were Dutch irises from a florist. This time I added a single line to the mass using a Cape Iris Dietes iridioides leaf.

Greetings from Christopher
4th May 2018