Christmas Day in Melbourne was a bit warm, about 33 Celsius. We had the great pleasure of spending it with our friends Heather, John and their extended family at the Melbourne Zoo.

As you can see from the photo we were not observing traditions but making some new ones. Until then I was not familiar with the idea of being able to 'steal' back a gift during a Kris Kringle exchange round. Much fun and laughter were enjoyed.

Given it is summer I have noticed the arrival of Rainbow lorikeets ... 

...that feed on the nectar of the New Zealand Christmas bush, metrosideros kermadecensis on the Front Beach at Torquay.

Their noisy chatter gives them away. But, you really have to look carefully to see them as their colouring camouflages them in this tree.

In our own garden on the hot days...


...the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have been sheltering under the canopy of one of the taller eucalyptus trees.

I also noticed the Cushion bush, Leucophyta brownii  is in flower.


Here is a close up of the spherical flower head.

This is a photographic detail of the Cushion bush in the ikebana I created for the Ikebana International annual exhibition this year. 

Also flowering at this time of year is Bursaria spinosaThis particular example is in a neighbour's garden.

The masses of white flowers are particularly attractive. From an ikebana point of view, if you can avoid the rather fine needle-like spines, this small tree often has very interestingly shaped branches. 

My arrangement for the New Year is also not traditional, but rather a seasonal, single material ikebana. I have sought to contrast the unusual line with the mass of small white flowers. The ceramic vase is by Mark Bell, from Maine USA.

I would like to wish you a happy and peaceful New Year.

Greetings from Christopher
30th December 2019


A couple of years ago I bought a frangipani, Plumeriaat a local nursery. It is the second time that I have tried to grow one in our conservatory. This time I have had greater success.


I repotted the plant last autumn and have even managed to successfully grow a cutting. The original plant, now about 90 cms high has three flower clusters. The beautiful fragrance of these flowers immediately takes me back to Papua New Guinea, where I worked for a year in 1966.

On Monday last week, my Melbourne students had their last class for 2018. We gathered at Robyn's home where the students created their ikebana, after which we shared a celebratory meal. 

Helen N made this arrangement in an unfamiliar vase and a location not of her choosing. She used dried kelp and a member of the carrot family, probably Ammi visnaga. The vase is one that Robyn had bought in Japan some years ago.

Robyn used a two tiered, metal ikebana vessel in a difficult elevated location where the top of the vase was above eye-level. I had to re-locate the work to take the photograph as it was situated against a window.

Marisha made an celebratory arrangement which used red and green as traditional Christmas colours. (The photo was taken in haste and is much lower than the natural viewing angle, thus incorrectly showing lines arising from the vessel which, in reality, were concealed by the lowest leaf.)

Margaret chose to make an arrangement in response to an art work, a vividly coloured modern painting.

In creating her ikebana that used 'Fresh and Unconventional Materials', Margaret focused on the dominant colours of black, red and yellow in the painting. Her vessel was white porcelain in the form of traditional bamboo vase. 

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A couple of days ago my neighbour Margie gave me two beautiful and spectacularly large artichoke flowers. I thought they would work well in this lovely large (40 cm tall) vase by Graeme Wilkie. The blue-grey ash glaze has a hint of purple in it that is more apparent than shows in this photo. Because of the strength of the flowers for the shin line I have used a curving branch of driftwood which floats forward of the vase.

There will be only one more posting of Roadside Ikebana before the New Year. Whether you are a longterm reader or new to this blog I would like to wish you a very happy Christmas.

23rd December 2018


In Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens last week I was delighted to see some of the spectacular flowering trees that are transformed at this time of year. It is interesting that these same trees can so easily blend into the general lush-green of the gardens during the rest of the year. This is certainly their moment of glory and it is so nourishing for the spirit to soak in their beauty.

This is only one, perhaps the largest, of the Jacaranda trees in the garden.

A closer view of one of the lower branches.

Among the Australian native flowering trees, the Brachychiton Acerifolius has to be the most eye-catching. This relatively young one is at the bottom of the east lawn in the gardens.

Here is another near the Fern Gully...

...with some fallen flowers at its base.

This is a close-up of some flowering stems. One of the reasons for the intensity of the colouring is that the whole stems are also the same red as the flowers.

Grevillea Robusta is the other highly visible tree at this time. Like the Brachychiton it is another east-coast subtropical species that does quite well as far south as Victoria.

Only on mature trees do the branches hang low enough for the flowers to be photographed easily.

This year the Grevillea in our garden has flowered for the third year and much more profusely than before. 

As you may imagine we are delighted, and I fantasise that one day a low branch may offer some flowers for my ikebana.

Nearly two weeks ago I attended the last Sogetsu School workshop for the year. It was led by Lucy Papas who chose the curriculum theme of creating a 'Wall Relief'. 

I did not want to over-prepare for the workshop. However, I had some large dried leaves of Ficus lyrata and Ficus elastica. The F. elastica leaves were various sizes and smaller than the F. lyrata. They had dried with fairly contorted forms, so I painted the back of a couple of them with vermillion paint. In the workshop I arranged and glued them on a heavy blue card.

As there are no suitable unadorned spaces on the walls in our house, I hung it on the front door to photograph.

The smaller leaves are nestled into each other so that their painted backs only show where the leaf curls forward. There are other examples on the Sogetsu Branch website that show a great range of design ideas that I am sure you will enjoy.

Greetings from Christopher
15th December 2018


To continue the theme of last week's posting, below are photographs of my Geelong students' work at the final class for 2018. 

The class was held in the home of Ellie, one of the senior students in that class. Again the students were challenged with having to make an ikebana arrangement to suit the location that they were allocated, using an unfamiliar vessel.

Tess's location was on a side-table in the front entrance of the house. Her particular exercise from the curriculum was 'An arrangement using one kind of material'. She had brought some cypress branches with interesting curves that she emphasised by pruning away many of the smaller side branches and leaves. The lines are emphasised by having the curves cross and flow in opposite directions.

Helen M set her arrangement on a bedroom dresser. She had brought a large branch of dried eucalyptus which she had spayed lightly with bronze paint. The lines in the branch were curved, but symmetrical. So one side had to be removed to emphasise the remaining lines which swept across the top of a tall celadon glazed vase. Fresh materials were introduced by placing some green fruit and gypsophila at the mouth of the vase.

In the living room Maureen arranged some tall, curving prunus branches with yellow oriental lilies and gypsophila. She chose a wide mouthed bowl that created a sense of open space at the base of the arrangement. The tall lines curved toward each other embracing the lilies. 

Christine's location was on the top of a bookcase making the arrangement slightly above eye level. She has used pine that cascaded slightly forward and to the left. Her two intense, red focal flowers were from an epiphytic cactus.

Ellie was allocated the opposite end of the same bookcase. She also used pine which she teamed with a very large white dahlia and a bud, somewhat obscured behind the pine branch. Her vessel is a large circular basket that has a water tube in its centre.

Helen Q had brought along a bunch of pink marbled lilies and some red grapes. She was delighted to find this creamy pink bowl in Ellie's collection, in which she created a massed arrangement. It was set on a desk allowing a slightly elevated viewing point.

In the same room, a study, Jo arranged a cascade of long curving stems of rosemary in a glass cylinder. At the mouth of the vase she created a mass using agapanthus and two other flowers in the blue-purple range. Her exercise was an arrangement of materials 'In the same tonal range'.

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At home, two weeks ago, I was pleased to see that irises I was given by Emily a couple of years ago were about to flower again. This provided a rare opportunity to make a traditional iris arrangement as taught in the Sogetsu School. I was able to gather enough leaves to have five sets, sufficient for two flower stems. 

Above is the beginning of the process with the flower stems, in bud, placed between the sets of leaves. 

Later, when I came to place the small jushi leaves of acacia baileyana, I realised that the tips of the leaves were the same height on each side of the tallest bud. 

Here is the final arrangement, with asymmetry restored, and the second flower having opened. The tallest point of the arrangement is the unopened bud. These are such transitory flowers it is a delight to be able to make this arrangement. Irises are traditionally arranged for Boy's Day, now called Children's Day on 5th May. In the southern hemisphere our gardens are out of sync with the traditional festivals of Japan.

Greetings from Christopher
9th December 2018.


We are coming to the end of term four of the school year in Victoria and two of my classes are finishing for the year. 

The final activity for my informal U3A class was 'Ikebana at home'. The value of this class format is that the ikebana has to be created in a way that suits the location in which it is made, which is so different to making ikebana on a table in a classroom. The students were allocated places around our house by drawing a number from a bowl. They then had to choose a vessel from my collection that would suit their material and the location. They had brought their own materials, not knowing where they were to be used.

Helen T's location was this wooden box in the entrance, which sits below a large wooden shelf. She had brought palm fronds that reminded her of tropical summer holidays. It was necessary to curve the fronds and place them at a low angle to fit under the shelf. Her bright red flowers are geraniums.

Róża had to work on top of a small bookshelf in a corner with windows on both sides. She used some succulent flowers and deep maroon helichrysum flowers in a black ceramic vessel. A Christmas touch was added in the form of some colourful ribbon that cascaded down the righthand side.

Val's location was the living room ikebana niche. She chose white Christmas lilies, a striped ginger lily leaf and some 'feverfew' tanactum parthenium as jushi. I added some mizuhiki for Christmas sparkle.

Kim had to work on a low glass-topped table using a unique ceramic vessel by Graeme Wilkie. This was difficult as the vessel has a small opening and I asked Kim to make his an 'all round' arrangement because of its location. He used long bullrush leaves and some small bright pink flowers from the florist.

Rhonda had to work in a tall narrow space at the end of a corridor. She wisely chose a nageire vase, also by Graeme Wilkie. Her material included Grevillea stems and South African leucospermum flowers.

After the ikebana creations and critique the class all shared a buffet luncheon.

Kim's contribution was this croquembouche which he made himself. As a plain-cook who uses a wok rather than an oven I was very impressed.

Greetings from Christopher
1st December 2018