A couple of days ago we had something of an invasion of sulphur-crested cockatoos. With the recent warmer weather, the bird bath has become quite an attraction in the garden.

As you can see this photo is a detail from the one above. Shortly after taking the photo all but one cockatoo flew away. The one that remained then started to chew on the small Strelitzia nicolai to the left front of the bird bath. I chased it away and now have re-located the birdbath at a distance from plants that are particularly precious.

Speaking of precious plants, I had to take protective measures in advance for the hydrangeas, because of the 40 degrees celsius we had yesterday. After a good watering I picked a few blooms to enjoy in case the rest of the were ravaged in the heat. The watering worked and the plants survived in their pots, which now have much larger and deeper saucers. 

I pruned the hydrangea in this photo very hard last winter except for one especially strong tall stem. I now know this particular variety only flowers on 'old wood'. The tall stem has produced a few beautiful pink flower heads and lots of lush looking leaves lower down where the drastic pruning took place. I am sure some of you who have grown hydrangeas for some time will already know this.

Once picked, I quickly arranged three blooms in a tall porcelain vase by Phil ElsonI then felt that the mass of these flowers was so great that they needed some lines to balance them.

I had saved the stems pruned from the hydrangeas last winter. They have sat outside in the sun and rain in the garden and have bleached naturally. Taking inspiration from my friend colleague, Kath Dacy, I realised that the stems would be a good foil for the coloured masses.

Sitting at the back of my mind was this ikebana Kath had made for the Sogetsu exhibition in 2013, a typically strong and modern work. One of the lessons for me was that pruned hydrangea stems are very useful ikebana material. 

For my arrangement I bundled the bleached stems, forming lines moving in the same direction. Two branching stems running in one direction and two in the opposite direction, thus created an almost elliptical shape. Although it is not apparent in the photo, the branch mass projects forward on the left side. I have added a single pink hydrangea at the front to enhance the pink flush at the bottom of the vase and two blue hydrangeas at the back as a contrast. The vase, which I also used for my New Year arrangement is by Mark Bell, from Maine USA.

Greetings from Christopher
26th January 2019


Don't be too shocked by the photo below. No, we are not overseas. These photos were sent by my internet correspondent Amos, from the eastern USA, with the comment that '...while you have flowers...This is mother nature's way of decorating around here.'  

The photos were taken in Amos' garden and he is so right about the beauty created by mother nature. 

It is interesting to see how the lines of these small trees are revealed by being bare of leaves, and further emphasised by the contrast of the white snow. 

Our TV news had covered stories of recent extreme cold weather in Europe and North America. At the same time, there has been un-seasonally hot weather over much of Australia. On the south coast we have been very fortunate with our temperature being moderated by cooler southerly winds and the hot days occurring in isolation.

On some days the Front Beach at Torquay has looked like this, with many families making the most of the long holidays.

Over the past 6 weeks or so I have been watching agapanthus flowering in many nearby gardens. Such a summery look when the sky is often cloudless. Yesterday, I decided I should make an ikebana arrangement using them before it is too late. Like the trees in Amos' winter garden, one of the main characteristics of agapanthus is the strong lines of their stems. Then the clear blue of their flowers. 

I decided to use this vase by Pippin Drysdale from her ‘Tanami Traces’ series, which has blue and red lines. The glazing technique she developed was inspired by the repetitive lines she saw in the Tanami Desert landscape.

The shape of this vase is a challenge because of its very narrow base and the strong colouring of the glaze. After some time experimenting I found that a single flower looked better than two or more because of the visual strength of the vase. The two ‘shredded’ aspidistra leaves created a textural contrast in the form of softer flowing lines. I have used 'cross bars' to support the materials away from the sides of the vase.

Greetings from Christopher
20th January 2019


About four years ago I was given a pomegranate that has grown well and is now producing beautiful bright red flowers. Well, the birds in the garden love them. I suspect the birds think they are already fruit. The consequence is that the ground around the bush is littered with flowers that haven't had a chance to develop into fruit. Mature pomegranate fruit is just what this ikebanist has been hoping to achieve. 

My frustration has led to the following desperate measure, netting. To ensure that the branches do not grow through the net I made a structure about two and half metres tall. There is a reasonable amount of room around the bush to allow for a couple of seasons growth, I hope. In the process I decided to pick two flower stems from a pale blue-grey succulent that were growing through from my neighbour's garden.

I thought the orange of the flower was a good match for this vase by Gail Nichols. This is a soda ash-fired vessel that is soft green except for a couple of strong orange flashes. I have added some primary eucalyptus leaves from the garden of the neighbours on the other side of our house. Their soft blue-grey glaucous leaves harmonise well with the similar powdery stem of the succulent.

On the subject of orange flowers, I picked the last few strelitzias a couple of weeks ago before they could be damaged by rain. It is only now that I realise that I chose a pale green glazed vase for them also.

This very unusual vase is by Graeme Wilkie, and not an easy one to use. However, I thought it would suit the rather dramatic lines of the two flowers stems. I was particularly interested in the space formed between them.  For balance, a single leaf with a dull maroon central rib has been placed between the stems to provide some mass closer to the vase opening. I took special care to have all the stems issuing from the vase in a single line that does not touch the sides of the vase.

Greetings from Christopher
12th January 2019


On Boxing Day, a cool still morning, we had an early morning walk in the Royal Melbourne Botanic Garden. I was delighted to see the mass of Sacred Lotus nelumbo nucifera, flowering along the board-walk by the garden's lakeside cafe. It is wonderful to be able to stand so close to these beautiful flowers and leaves.                      

One of my favourite ikebana photographs is of a Rikka arrangement by Norman Sparnon made entirely of lotus leaves, buds, flowers and seed pods *. 


I was intrigued by these unfurling leaves that looked like exotic boats on the water surface.  

Outside the cafe tables and chairs were covered in fallen Jacaranda flowers. 

About two months ago I noticed that one of the succulents, Agave salmianahad started to send up a flower stalk.

When it was still just in bud form, on 11 November, it looked quite sculptural... 

...and reminded me of one of the chimneys on the roof of the Palau Guell in Barcelona.

Later flower masses formed at the end of the branches...


...that were obviously attractive to the Rainbow lorikeets.

Back in our own garden, last Thursday I had to take some preventative action to protect the hydrangeas from wilting.

We had a short burst of a few hours of 40 degrees celsius then a return to the low 20's. Fortunately my watering and shading preparations paid off. The photo above was taken on the following day.

One of my emergency measures was to pick a few blooms in advance of the heat in case all of the flowers were badly damaged. I made this arrangement of three hydrangeas, from two different shrubs and teamed with some stems from the strelitzia. I bought the box-shaped vase by the Canadian potter Leta Cormier last year at Almonte, near Ottawa. She described it as an 'envelope form' and is from her 'landscape series'.

I had made an earlier arrangement in the same vase using a large sheet of eucalyptus bark and a King protea.

Greetings from Christopher
5th January 2019

* Japanese Flower Arrangement, Classical and Modern, by Norman Sparnon. p 61