This week, at class in Geelong, two of the students were working on exercises from their text books.

Jo's exercise was a revision from Book 5. In her case, using a vertical fixture in a tall vase. She has used two branches of New Zealand Mirror Bush, Coprosma repens and Belladonna lily, Amaryllis belladonna.

This ikebana by Tess, also from the same book, is on the theme of focusing on the properties of glass vases. She has used clear glass and set a single leaf of the prostrate, Fern Leaf BanksiaBanksia blechnifolia and a Dietes flower under the water.

At the beginning of the year I was struggling to come up with something different and a little challenging for my most senior students. Out of what seems like nowhere came the idea of "Unexpected Ikebana". As with other more nebulous topics, I deliberately do not offer any directions or suggestions, as I am most interested to see the students interpretation of the theme.

Helen Q has used some dried Kiwi Fruit Vine, Actinidia deliciosa, which she has supported on a laboratory test-tube stand. Using fine armature copper wire she has created a focal point by creating a small net.

Helen has also wound the wire around the vine in places, and as you can see in this close-up, has continued the line of the vine using coils of the wire of the same diameter as the missing vine.

Christine used a slightly concertinaed tube of stiff brown paper that leans strongly to one side. A stem of bright green Brachtychiton acerfolius leaves issues from the end of the tube and a mass of (I think) Brachychiton rupestris seed pods bursts from its side.

Maureen created this fine wire sculpture which included small balls of a bright silvery wire that seemed to glitter in the light coming through the window. The vessel is a narrow test-tube-shaped vase. Two single Agapanthus flowers pick up the colour of the vase base.

Ellie's Ikebana made me smile. Some stems of bamboo and a single Heliconia flower shoot from a vibrantly coloured shoulder bag that was hanging on a grey room-divider. It surprised me, and by definition met the (unstated) criterion of an "Unexpected Ikebana".

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With the extra rain in the late spring and early summer last year the Hydrangeas in our garden have grown well this season. However, they have flowered later. I picked three blooms for my ikebana this week. 

These three were growing on almost horizontal stems because the plant's growth was strong and the flower-heads are heavy. I have arranged them as they grew so they are spreading away from each other. To connect them I have added three stems of striped Miscanthus sinensis, 'Zebrinus' . Because I wanted the lines to complement the 'movement' of the Hydrangeas, I have caught their tips together rather than allowing the miscanthus to adopt its natural fan-like habit. The ikebana is set in two opaque glass vases.

Greetings from Christopher
21st February 2021



Harking back to last week's posting, the bee-keeper, rescuer, did arrive. No more bees in the compost bin.

This is Garry lifting the bin off the compost heap.

Later, he cut the large pieces of honeycomb from the side of the bin and placed them in a prepared beehive box. I really admired his cautious and gentle approach, taking great care not to stress the bees.

Changing hemispheres...

two days ago, my internet friend Amos sent this picture from his garden in Maryland, USA. "... four inches of snow so far..." he reported. I checked the temperature at the time and it was -7 Celsius. 

Meanwhile, in this hemisphere, the ducks looked very comfortable on the golf links at Torquay. I wonder whether the golfers were using their presence to take a breather.

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Last week the senior students in my Geelong class were set the topic of an ikebana arrangement on the theme of 'Summer by the Sea'. As one should expect, there were a variety of interpretations of the theme. Here are some examples.

Maureen used a large piece of driftwood, to which she added fresh material including Pigface, Carpobrotus virescens (which grows in our sand-dunes), a red Lucadendron and an unidentified green material.

Christine arranged some dried kelp in an opaque green glass vase. The contrasting fresh material is a succulent, I think perhaps a cultivar of Crassula arborescens.

On the edge of a bowl that suggested a rock pool, Helen arranged a piece of drift wood. Beneath the water is a shell which is partly screened by Samphire, Crithmum maritimum,

An arrangement using direct fixing was Tess's exercise at the class. This means that no mechanical techniques can be used. It is a surprisingly difficult task in a tall nageire vase, especially a glass one - because the surface is slippery. She has used bamboo and Plumbago auriculata. 

In our garden...

 the first of the Belladonna Lilies, Amaryllis belladonna, has flowered. It is a favourite of mine having come from my parents garden and, by family tradition, being associated with my birthday. Last year I missed the opportunity of using it in an ikebana, so I was determined to do so this year. My grandmother called this the Naked-lady-lily because the flowers appear before the leaves, the long bare stems producing an elegant line.

I have tried to capture the simple elegance of the flower by arranging only one stem with two bullrush leaves that I have curved to create a flowing movement around the flowers. As I was setting up to take this photograph the sun broke through the clouds creating a shaft of bright light. So I patiently waited until it began to cloud over again to capture this softer light.

The small ceramic bowl is by the South Australian ceramic artist Jane Robertson.

Greetings from Christopher
13th February 2021


There was a raucous noise being made by the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos when I was in the garden this morning. This link will take you to a 56 second recording of their call made by Graeme Chapman (you will need to click on the "Listen" tab in the top right-hand corner).

When I zoomed in on this photo, which I took at the time, I was able to count 38 cockatoos. I am sure there were others that I could not see.  The Monterey PinePinus radiata is in a neighbour's garden. 

Elsewhere in our garden the red Corymbia ficifolia, is 
flowering for only the second time. This tree has been re-classified and was previously known as Eucalyptus ficifolia. It can have either pink, red or orange flowers. The red is really intense... 

...and is attractive to bees.

When we came home during the week after a few nights away. I noticed quite a few bees flying around our compost bin. On closer inspection I discovered that they had started to establish a hive in the bin.

As I write I am waiting for a bee-keeper to come and remove them.

This week marked the return to face-to-face classes with my students. We were all pleased to catch up again after an eleven month hiatus, because of Covid 19 restrictions. I had four classes during the week and below are some photos I took of the student's ikebana.

Marisha's curriculum exercise was an arrangement in which a surface is made from the massing of lines. She has used Dietes leaves to create the surface and added other shorter leaves with a cream edge. Some fine lines of small white flowers adds a textural contrast.

I set my advanced students the task of making a "cooling summer ikebana emphasising water".

Maureen used three glass cylinders in which she arranged two types of fine vine. The darker vine is set against the white table top and the cylinder with a pale vine is placed against the dark grey background. The small red highlights are very tiny cherry tomatoes.

Helen Q arranged a whole Agapanthus flowerhead with both seeds and open flowers in the front vase. In the second vase she has placed single, opened flowers in some of the inverted test tubes that float in the vase.

Ellie has deconstructed a Hydrangea flowerhead and floated the clusters of flowers in her bowl. She said the idea for deconstructing the flowerhead was triggered by the etched lines in the bowl.

I also had some new students and was keen for others to do some 'back to basics' revision.

This was my demonstration example of the first exercise in the Sogetsu curriculum. It is a 'Basic Upright arrangement' which is composed of three principal lines. The tallest line is nearly vertical and defines this as an 'upright' arrangement. The second line of the same material leans to the left and forward toward the left shoulder. These two asymmetrically placed lines are balanced by the low placement of the flower 
line on the right-hand side. The flower extends forward, which is not apparent because of the foreshortening of the photograph. 

The materials are Cootamundra WattleAcacia Baileyana branches and Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber. The vessel is a traditional ceramic suiban with a cobalt blue glaze.

Greetings from Christopher
6th February 2021



This morning we had a walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne before breakfast, a lovely way to start the day.

I actually took this photo on a morning in mid-December, in part of the Ornamental Lake called
 the Long Island Backwater. This area in recent years has been landscaped with plants indigenous to the area prior to European settlement. The Ornamental Lake has been created in what was originally part of the Yarra River, which is now about 100 metres to the north.

In the Herbaceous border I noticed that the Golden Rod, Solidago, is flowering. My Canadian friends insist it is a weed; but here it is carefully tended to play its part in a colourful display.

Here Laurie is admiring the full extent of the Boarder.

A low hanging Magnolia Grandiflora, that must have opened yesterday, was just waiting to be photographed.

Elsewhere my attention was caught by this brilliant red sedum- like flower. I later discovered that its sedum-like appearance is because it is from the same family. It is from South Africa and has the rather prosaic, common name, of 'Airplane plant'; botanically it is known as Crassula perfoliata.  

The red is so vibrant it seems to glow from inside.

This afternoon I caught up with a senior member of the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School, my ikebana friend and mentor Kath, who had made this arrangement. I showed her the photos below of my ikebana for this week, and was pleased to get her approval. Kath is a young 93, who continues to make ikebana each week.

In the creek near our house at Torquay I had noticed this bright red patch of Dock, Rumex, that I thought would be interesting in my ikebana this week. I had also visited a friend with a very large Strelitzia reginae, from which I was permitted to cut a few leaves.

I decided to combine these two plants in a modern style, vertical arrangement, because the red colouring in the central rib of the new Strelitzia leaves was very close to the red of the Dock. I also borrowed an idea from Val, the owner of the Strelitzia plant, and 'fenestrated' the leaves to change the original appearance of the material. In this photo it is not so obvious that I have placed the smaller stem of Dock partially behind the Strelitzia leaf so that it can be seen through the fenestrations.

Here is a link to an article about teaching ikebana in Australia that I was asked to write. It was published in the Journal of the International Society of Ikebana Studies.

Greetings from Christopher

31st January 2021


The last couple of weeks have been relatively cool and cloudy on the Surf coast. Yesterday was perfect summer weather with blue skies and a slight cooling breeze.

This is a view of Southside beach from near the cliff edge that people paragliding use as a launching place. Any breeze coming off the sea will result in an updraft above the cliff. The day, being so fine, was perfect for a walk in the Iron Bark Basin part of the Great Otway National Park.

One of the first wildflowers I noticed was this little Fringed Lily, Thysanotus tuberosus. The small, intense purple flowers, 
less than 3cm across, have three petals that have the most amazing fringing on their edges.

A little further along we came across a number of small bushes, of what I thought was a white everlasting flower.

Here is one of the larger bushes...

...and a close up of the flowers.

When I zoomed in on the flowers I was really surprised to notice that the flower centres seem to be made up of a cluster of tiny flowers. My friend and excellent plant identifier, Fermi, said that this looks like a member of the Asteraceae family and is most likely a Tansy. The closest I can find on Wikipedia is Achillea ptarmica. 

I have seen this plant in the past and naively assumed it to be indigenous because its petals are papery like an everlasting. However, it may have been introduced as long ago as the 1920s when this whole valley was denuded of its trees. An Ochre mine was established when deposits of Ferris Oxide were identified. It is astonishing to me that the valley was revegetated by the late 1960's when I first began visiting. The following link is to an article about the failed mining project, Jarosite Mine.

It was also a delight to see this Correa with its yellow tipped red bell-shaped flower. Correas are one of our favourite indigenous plants that we have introduced to our garden.

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Meanwhile in our garden the bell-shaped flowers on this succulent have started to open and show their glowing orange interior. The leaves have a silvery-grey 'glaucous' bloom that protects the plant from loosing moisture in the hot sun. 

This week's ikebana uses this succulent, although I removed its large thick leaves. 

Two stems have been arranged at an angle toward the left front. The angle of the shorter stem has been set so that both are a similar height above the vase. I have used the fine leaves of Cootamundra Wattle, Acacia baileyana, for its blue-grey as a textural contrast. Both plants harmonise with the pale blue glaze of the vase by the Victorian ceramic artist Barry Singleton.

Greetings from Christopher
24th January 2021



The La Niña weather pattern brings relatively cooler and wetter summers to Australia. In our case on the southwest coast of Victoria the weather has felt a little like winter, with the temperature down to 11 Celsius last night at 10.00 pm. It may have been slightly cooler overnight.

This was how the beach looked on Saturday evening at 5.30pm, with a fairly strong, cool south wind coming off the sea. It was only when I came home and uploaded the photo that I saw the lone surfer near the middle of the left edge of the image.

The prevailing west and south-westerly winds cause many  of the plants that grow on the cliffs to hug close to the ground. This results in writhing trunks and branches like the Moonah, Melaleuca lanceolata, in this photo.

Back at the house some of our avian summertime visitors are the Sulphur-crested cockatoos. I noticed this pair eating the berries on the Shiny Leaf, Coprosma repens, bush in our neighbour's garden.

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I was looking at my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos' recent blog posting where she commented on an arrangement she had done, having a number of "incarnations". She observed: "...that this often happens when we make an arrangement and, when we walk past it we see faults and make changes...". Her statement made me smile as I had just done exactly that myself. 

Last week I posted this photo in which I had used a single orange Canna flower as a contrast to the blue of the Agapanthus.

During the week I passed a large mass of Crocosmiaand realised that the intensity of its colour and loose mass would work better in the ikebana. It also had the virtue of adding the lines of the leaves. With them I was able to create a radiating fan moving up toward the flowers.

In the garden the pale pink Hydrangea has produced a number of quite large, heavy flower heads that have collapsed almost to the ground; which I have now propped up. The flower heads start out pale green, become white, then pink. If they survive through to the autumn they go a deeper green, with red on the upper surfaces that are exposed to the cold air. 

I thought these blooms would be best offset by black and so chose this large vessel by the ceramic artist Petrus Spronk. This is his signature style of unglazed black-ware that has been burnished when the clay is in its leather-hard stage so that the resulting surface has a soft glossy finish. The large size of the flower heads make the bowl look smaller. In fact, it  is 29cm in diameter.

In this second version I added a beautifully curving branch of Moonah to give a textural contrast. These two photos were taken by Róża Marciniak.

If you missed the on-line demonstration by my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos that I mentioned in last week's posting, it can be seen on YouTube. You will need to search for: "Emily Karanikolopoulos ikebana demonstration". I believe it is also on Instagram.

Greetings from Christopher

17th January 2021