Last Wednesday we arrived back at Torquay to signs of spring. Bright sunshine alternating with cold southerly winds and some welcome rain.

Spring blossom was very evident in the main street. I don't know the tree. But, the flowers have a pea form.

In the garden I was delighted to see these flowers on this Honesty lunaria annua that came from my niece Penny's garden. I think I should have given them some more long- acting fertiliser before we went away to create more flowers. However, they are a beautiful luminous purple and will have lovely seed heads come summer.

The forsythia given to me by Shirley last year has flourished and is now about about a metre high.

I remember seeing forsythia the size of small trees in Japan and never thought it would grow in our poor soil. What a joy. 

The big surprise was this plant. It popped up at the base of a stephanandra incisa, that I had transplanted in autumn. The leaves and growth looked to me like a violet, but the flower is yellow.

A quick consultation with Trish solved the question. She had given me the stephanandra a bit over a couple of years ago. The flower is a Lesser Celandine, ficaria verna. It must be tough to have survived two summers and only just come up at the end of this winter.

I made this weeks ikebana quite some time ago. The only logic for including it today are the yellow flowers, two ball chrysanthemums, in a vertical arrangement using New Zealand flax leaves from the garden.

Click here to see the final instalment of photos from our holiday.

Finally, congratulations to my colleague and fellow Sogetsu ikebana artist Emily Karanikolopoulos who, with the artist John Meade, was awarded the Southern Way McClelland Commission.

Greetings from Christopher
30th September 2018


At the end of our tour through the Canadian Rocky Mountains we visited the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. These world famous gardens are known to many Australian ikebana friends and keen gardeners, who have always recommended a visit to them. For us it was an extra early start to the day as we had our breakfast in the conservatory there.

Laurie is sitting with some friends from Warrnambool and Perth. 

The gardens began as a project, to create a sunken garden in a disused quarry, by the quarry owner’s wife. It has since grown to an internationally famous garden many times its original size. The next four photos are of the original sunken garden.

The gardens were progressively extended with the addition of gardens in various styles. There is a great emphasis on floral display including...

...over-flowing window boxes...

...and rubbish bins.

In the dahlia bed...


...these dahlias caught my eye because of their huge size, colour and patterning. 


After all the exuberance I found the Japanese Garden very restful with its moss covering, running streams and endless-seeming shades of green (and subtle red).

At the bottom of the garden was a small window through the hedge revealing an arm of the Saanich Inlet.

This week's ikebana substitute photo was taken in a forest hike we took along the East Fork of the Skagway River in Alaska, lots of cool fresh air and soft moss underfoot. The connections in the photo with ikebana are the botanical materials provided by nature, and the elements of asymmetry, line, mass and space. 

Greetings from Christopher
23rd September 2018


Roadside Ikebana is alive and well! It comes to you belatedly from the ‘high seas’, well actually not far off the Canadian coast, where internet access is intermittent and unreliable. Laurie and I are taking a seven-day cruise up along the coast of Canada and into a narrow sliver of Alaska that hugs the west coast of the continent. I have had to save up this posting and send it to you from Juneau the first Alaskan town where we will come ashore. 

Last week we to travelled through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. A dramatic and beautiful landscape of high snow capped mountains, dense coniferous forests, lakes and rushing rivers.

These are photos of Moraine Lake whose opaque, but intensely turquoise waters are coloured by the rock powder that washes out from underneath the melting glaciers.

Five glaciers issue from the Columbia Icefield which is a huge area of 325 square Kilometres, beyond the ‘mountain saddle’ in the middle of this photo.

We were driven up onto the glacier in busses with huge  wheels and tires one metre wide. There we got to stand on the ice and smiled in spite of the strong cold katabatic wind flowing down from the ice field.

One of our side-excursions was by boat, not canoe, on Maligne Lake. It was made famous in the 1950’s because of a Kodak advertising campaign using the phrase this is a ‘Kodak moment’.

The ‘Kodak moment’ was a photo of this small spit of land in the lake known as Spirit Island. It is an exquisitely beautiful, serene place that is sacred to the local First Nations People.

Autumn is beginning to show in some of the leaves and late Summer wildflowers.

I’m fairly sure this is wild Tansy that I saw on Whistler mountain.

Here is this week’s ikebana substitute, as I have not had any opportunity to create an arrangement. However, my ikebana eyes were enchanted by the colours on this rock surface. Colour theorists will know better. But, to me it looks like contrasting secondary colours of mauve stone and (tertiary) lime-green lichen harmonising with pale blue grey stone. Another of nature's beautiful miracles.

I hope our ikebana can be inspired by the beauty of nature, which is its true source.

Greeting from Christopher
Juneau, Alaska
17th September 2018.


As I mentioned last week, on the day following the workshops I gave in Ottawa we enjoyed another, more casual, ikebana activity at the country home of Janet Keefe. 

The house has a very large garden that is rather wild in places. This is the sort of garden that ikebanists usually like, for the abundance of naturally growing and often unexpected materials. The activity was set up in the following way: 

The participants drew a number from a 'hat' which corresponded with a location either inside the house or in the garden. 

After looking at the constraints of the location, the participant then chose a vessel from Janet's collection.

The participants were then taken for a ramble around Janet's garden and shown what plant materials were there for their use. Sogetsu ikebanists will recognise that this is a curriculum exercise, 'Taking into account the place in which the ikebana is to be situated'. 

The additional challenges here are: 
1. an unfamiliar site that was not chosen by the participant; 
2. having to use an unfamiliar vessel; and 
3. having to forage for suitable materials in someone else's garden.

Eleanor's space was a small corner between the front door, on the left, and a glass panelled  doorway into an adjacent room.

She created an installation work that exploited the glass panelling...


...and flowed between the spaces. Her materials included an unidentified vine, hydrangea and manipulated hosta leaves.

Michael's location was a low coffee table with bright sun flooding into the front room. 

His vase was a shallow 'U' shaped tubular vase in which he arranged pine, red berries, a white hydrangea with a pink flush and some very small flowers on long stems. He said he took into account the white elephant pattern on the table and its low position. 

This photo was taken after the critique. Mary Lou's space was the hearth in front of a fire place. She decided to create a freestanding structure of birch branches to one side, allowing her arrangement greater height. The materials included hydrangea, hosta leaves and some berries peeking out on the right hand side.

Pierette's space was a small hall table between two doorways with a picture above.

In a small suiban she arranged some driftwood that provided some height and support for a curving vine. White and red flowers provided focal points. She kept her arrangement lower than the picture and took into account the curving lines within the picture.

Anne-Lise's space was by a corner window in a glass-roofed sunroom. This photo was taken by John during the critique.

Anne-Lise made a single material arrangement in a wide bodied raku vase. She chose the material for its lightness so that it connected with the garden beyond.

Leonora's space was outdoors on a small wooden deck in front of a weathered wooden wall. She placed her nageire vase on a piece of dark slate. Her main structural element was an inverted branch. The ends of the branch seemed to float and drew the eye up to the visually strong knot where the branches met. The visual accent was provided by Golden Rod and bull rush. The textural elements of her work harmonised with the location.

Janet's location was on a weathered block of wood under the shade of a deciduous tree. She used one of her own hand-built coil vessels in which she arranged hydrangea and some fine small-leafed material that was colouring toward maroon. 

This photo has been badly manipulated to eliminate the feet of the people in the background. In my critique I placed the fine material horizontally because it was obscuring the strong flame-like lines of the top of the vase.

I caught Elaine in the process of considering how to utilise her location. It was on top of a large rock overhung by the branch of a pine tree.

She chose a simple 'log-shaped' vase with a textured surface. Her arrangement of yellow flowers and bull rushes extended to include some bleached wood, among which she has included a sunflower.

I joined in the fun as a participant and scored an outside space among a copse of trees with some  large rocks. Here I am wiring some lichen-encrusted bare branches with the help of Leonora.

Having created a branch structure I chose a lovely open bowl for its ability to create a large reflective water surface. I used some long stems of Golden Rod which I bunched. To this I added a small group of long stems with red coloured leaves as a small contrasting highlight.

This photo was taken during my self-critique. I explained that I deliberately had fine branch ends on one side of the structure and the stronger bases of the branches on the other. 

This photo by John taken from the 'side' shows the sculpture better than the front and is a good illustration of the difficulty of arranging in an open environment. The materials are easily overwhelmed by the natural world.

This delightful afternoon of ikebana was enjoyed not only by the ikebanists but by partners as well. Sincere thanks to Janet as the host and everyone who contributed to the activity and our shared meal.

Greetings from Christopher and Laurie.
9th September 2018

For more photos from Ottawa click here.