This Saturday morning had the best of autumn weather, bright sunshine and no wind. It was a cool nine degrees Celsius at 8.00 am, but had warmed somewhat when we had a walk on the beach after a late breakfast. The tide was especially low, so we walked out onto the exposed reef. This way we can look at the waves about 80 metres from the shore without getting our feet wet! We also were able to look into some small rock pools. 

This one had a large collection of mostly broken shells with a variety of colour and form.

In the next pool I came across I was delighted to see a rather large sea urchin with characteristic red spines.

The pale purple stripes are masses of tiny pedicellaria it uses to move and to transfer food to its "mouth"

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On Thursday at class in Geelong I had set the students some homework. They were given 20 sets of disposable chopsticks,(hashi in Japanese), with which they were to make a small, irregular, sculptural form by wiring them together. If they wished they could paint the sculpture or leave it in a raw state. At the class, their exercise was to then use the small sculptures as a design element in their freestyle ikebana.

Helen Q had painted her sculpture lime green, (chartreuse, I was advised). Helen had set some variegated Aloe leaves strongly reaching to the left rear from a black suiban. She placed her sculpture within the suiban but spilling forward to the right front.

Christine painted her sculpture a bright blue to pick up the blue tips on the Bromeliad flower, from her garden. At the front is a small mass of blue Salvia flowers.

Maureen chose to leave her sculpture unpainted and found that it went well with a 
bleached branch of Mitsumata, Edgeworthia chrysantha. Some Nandina berries provide a contrasting focal point and the fine green line with leaves in the space on the left side, balances the sculptural mass on the right.

Helen M chose a black vase for her sculpture which she contrasted with some Dutch iris, Iris x hollandica and yellow Chrysanthemum.

Tess also painted her sculpture black and used it with contrasting black and white bottle-shaped vases. Her fresh material of Geranium was placed on the opposite side of the ikebana.

Jo painted her sculpture a rich yellow and set it to the left side of her brown-glazed vase. A single flower of Banksia ericifolia is supported within the structure, which is balanced by the green line of the Banksia stem on the right side.

Jo also made a second ikebana using the twig structure that she had made in the previous week. Here its lightness is balanced by the mass of a single Hydrangea.

Ellie made this ikebana using her pale-green painted sculpture. Her fresh material was green Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota, and Nandina domestica (dwarf form).

In a second ikebana Ellie created this work in a suiban. In this instance the sculpture is both a design element and the support structure for the fresh material, pink Chrysanthemums.

She used hashi that had not been separated into two parts. With the tension between the two parts of the still joined hashi they were enabled to grip other unseparated hashi. I found it an interesting and novel idea.

My own ikebana this week is a much larger sculptural structure. It was made for the exhibition "A moment in time", held in the 
All Nations Foyer at the Box Hill Town Hall, organised and curated by Emily Karanikolopoulos. The venue had three tall and narrow glass display cases, one of which I was to use. This protected environment enabled me to use a special ceramic ikebana vessel by Nakamura Yutaka that has fairly thin walls. 

Of necessity, the structure had to be a vertical form and I have used birchwood branches, 
dowelled together. To emphasise the form I placed some of the thicker pieces high in the structure in such a way that they are suspended above the space beneath them. The contrasting material is dwarf Nandina domestica and three stems of Coastal Sword Sedge, Lepidosperma gladiatum.

Greetings from Christopher
21st May 2022


Two weeks ago the senior students at my Melbourne class had been set the exercise to make an ikebana with "colours in closely related tones". At this time of year the students found a broader range of materials than the flowers that are often used as the main subject in this exercise.

Eugenia used American Beauty berry, Callicarpa americana, Prairie Gentian, Eustoma russellianum, New Zealand flax and some other grasses in a modern black ceramic vessel. 

Marcia used Pieris, Abelia, and three stems of unidentified material on the right side in this tall black ceramic vase.

In my Geelong class...

...Jo's exercise was to make a simplified ikebana. This means stripping the material to a minimum without loosing its essence. She used three Tulips from which she removed all but one leaf and some petals, making the stamens visible, and set them in a black suiban. The branch structure made with fine Birch stems allowed the flowers to be stand without using a kenzan.

The advanced students' exercise was to make an ikebana focussing on berries.

Ellie used "Snow berries", Gaultheria hispida, a plant endemic to the island state of Tasmania. The small pink flower on the right rear is Pieris. The blue ceramic vase has the appearance of three joined cylinders.

Helen Q used branches of Cotoneaster frigidus berries, stripped of their leaves. She contrasted them with dark Ivy, Hedera, berries. The cylindrical vase is by the ceramic artist Graeme Wilkie.

In her first ikebana Christine massed Cotoneaster berries in a dry glass cylinder. She then placed this cylinder inside another to which she added water. The water level was set to the top of the mass. She pointed out if she had simply added water to a vase full of berries they would have flowed over the top.

In her second ikebana Christine set stems of Nandina berries with a branch of Manchurian pear, Pyrus ussuriensis in a modern, footed, ceramic ikebana vase. 

Helen M inverted a stem of Cotoneaster berries which she 
set in a square-section glass vase. To keep them in place she made a hana kubari, that is, a flower-fixing device made from botanical materials that becomes part of the design. In this case it is made from a stripped stem of Cottoneaster.

Helen M also made this simple ikebana using a stem of Eucalyptus, a bunch of Pittosporum undulatum berries, with a single leaf left on the Pittosporum branch.

Tess also used a tall stem of Cotoneaster frigidus, which she used to create an elegant line, and some masses of Pittosporum in a contemporary ceramic ikebana vessel.

On Tuesday last week I attended the monthly meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne. The guest speaker was Judy Hajdu, one of the Chapter members. Judy presented a slideshow about Gardens in Iran, which she toured in 2017. 

I wanted to reference Iran with my ikebana at the meeting, so I used some objects I had at home that came from Iran. I bought the two hand-blown goblets some years ago. The small inlaid box, in which I keep potpourri, was the gift of an Iranian friend. A single camellia flower with some buds on the long stem reference the garden theme. It is split onto a cross-bar at the level of the water surface to support the stem and prevent it from rotating. 

Greetings from Christopher
14th May 2022


It is not officially winter until next month here. However, on the coast in the last week the temperatures have dropped. What has really made it feel wintery is the wind-chill that has made it necessary for me to rug up.

Grey skies and strong wind from the south do produce a wintery feel. 

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The exercise I set for my senior students last week was to make an ikebana incorporating fruiting branches with some "unconventional material" (artificial material).

Maureen's principal material was a single Agave , with Leucadendron and, for the fruiting branch, LemonCitrus limon. Her "unconventional material" was spiralling wire.

Christine also used Lemon for her fruiting branch. Her "unconventional material" was from a loose weave synthetic bag.

Ellie used painted wire mesh for her "unconventional material", with red dwarf Nandina domestica leaves and a branch with two Pomegranates, Punica granatum

Maree's exercise was from the Book 3/4 curriculum, 'a composition of curved lines'. She used eucalyptus stems that were bent and arched across a suiban with two contrasting lines of Heliconia, psittacorum. This is also an example of an ikebana in a suiban without a kenzan. 

Follow through this link to see some photos of the exhibition organised by Emily Karanikolopoulos, which finished yesterday after its second week.

Last week I attended Elizabeth's class for which the exercise was an autumn ikebana.

neighbour had just given me a bag of beautiful bright orange PersimmonsDiospyros kaki. Although they were not on a branch I decided I could use them in a non-naturalistic ikebana. I used bamboo skewers to secure a small mass of them at the mouth of this black vase to which I added a second mass of gathered Liquidambar, Liquidambar styraciflua, leaves. Then I placed two stems of Miscanthus seed heads from the garden at an angle giving the ikebana a different texture and additional height.

Greetings from Christopher
8th May 2022



This week I set my students the exercise of making an "Autumn Ikebana". The night time temperatures have certainly started to become cooler over the last few weeks, although we have been blessed with some warm days. Thus perfect autumn weather with no wind and bright sunshine.

I must admit when I think of autumn my first thought is of the leaf colour change in many northern hemisphere deciduous plants.This thought is really a reflection of my Anglo-Australian heritage where we were taught as children that leaves in autumn would change colour. The truth is that I hardly ever saw such a thing until my teens.

This was because my childhood home, shown above in about 1960, was built on a new estate carved out of a bare paddock and exposed to salt-laden winds, particularly in winter and spring. Deciduous northern hemisphere trees could not tolerate this harsh environment. The hills in the distance are now fully covered by suburban development, their gardens predominately planted with Australian native trees and shrubs.

When Laurie and I visited this garden in Maine USA in 2014 I felt almost overwhelmed by the saturated colours of the autumn foliage.

As Australian practitioners of ikebana we are blessed with the choice of using exotic northern hemisphere plants as well as those plants native to our country. This week the focus was on the exotics.

Judy made a one-material ikebana using branches of one of the Oak family, which are complemented by the colours in the hand-made ceramic vase.

Róża used three stems from her Blueberry bush and two Hydrangea flowers. Set in a wide ceramic bowl, this ikebana was best viewed from above.

Tess used branches of Smokebush, Cotinus, and some drying Sedum as a textural contrast, set in a hand-made ceramic vase.

Helen M. also used a leafy branch of Oak which she combined with some Dwarf Nandina and a mass of maroon Kangaroo Paw, Angiozanthos, in a ceramic vase.

Maureen had been offered some Lotus pods by a friend, which became the starting point of her ikebana. Fruiting branches or stems are another material that is appropriately suggestive of autumn. She has then added New Zealand Flax and Canna leaves to the handmade ceramic vase.

In her ikebana 
Ellie used Ornamental Grape vine for her principal line. She also used two pieces of fruit, a bright yellow gourd and small orange coloured pear. 

In the garden last week I was surprised to notice that, this year, two of the Japanese QuinceChaenomeles, plants had produced a single fruit each.

This one was growing directly on a large branch that I was not willing to cut. However, the second fruit was on a suitably small branch. These fruits are a striking yellow with a rather waxy bloom. A suitable subject for my autumn ikebana

Because of the yellow colour of the fruit I chose this cobalt blue glazed ceramic vessel and positioned the fruit to highlight the colour contrast. The branch lines are from the same bush and the mass is of Hydrangea leaves that have coloured in the cold night air.

Greetings from Christopher
30th April 2022



At the end of January I posted some photos from the exhibition "Found and Gathered" at NGV Australia at Federation Square, showing the work of Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Rosalie Gascoigne. Both artists have used found objects as their principal material. Connelly-Northey in particular uses weathered metal and wire extensively, to reference traditional objects from her Aboriginal heritage. With these materials she "...addresses history and race, and the importance of safeguarding traditional knowledge..."  (The National. New Australian Art. #NationalAU)

When I visited the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery three weeks ago I was delighted to see some of her smaller work for sale. The objects were referencing traditional 'string bags', or narbong, but in this case made from weathered metal and rusty wire.

I have hung the narbong in the living room niche and placed some Dwarf Nandina domestica and Honesty, Lunaria annua, in the small bag.  

The colour and texture of the weathered metal is beautiful, and is complemented by the botanical materials

On Friday I participated in an ikebana exhibition that has been organised by my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos in the All Nations Foyer at the Box Hill Town Hall. The ikebana works are by Emily, her students and some other colleagues who have attended master classes conducted by Emily.  This link to Emily's blog includes a flyer at the bottom of the post with details of the exhibition and demonstrations on the next two Saturdays.

Because I was in the first group to set up at the exhibition I can only include a couple of photos.

This ikebana by Emily is one she described to me as her signature style. She has made a structure creating a surface composed with stems of Umbrella grass, Cyperus alternifolius, and added two stems of Crucifix orchids as focal points.

Vicky Kalokathis' ikebana featured the wandering lines of bean pods and dwarf Nandina as the focal points in two matching conical metal vessels.

Mary's ikebana is a student exercise from the curriculum: Taking into account the shape of the vessel. The materials are Umbrella grass and Lisianthus, Eustoma.

Emily asked me to make two ikebana works for the exhibition. The first of these is in a a large Shigaraki storage vessel.

I have used a large piece of weathered Moonah, Melaleuca lanceolata, and some Nandina domestica from the garden, the tips of which have started to turn red with the coming of autumn. What is not visible are two stems of white Phalaenopsis orchids which are at the back of the ikebana. However, they are visible in the mirror behind the work when the viewer stands directly in front.

In this view the backdrop blocks out the mirror but now the orchids blend in to the white of the backdrop.

The second work was made to be shown in a tall, narrow glass case. I was keen to protect the thin-walled vessel made by the Echizen ceramic artist, Yutaka Nakamura. The dimensions of the glass case made it necessary for the structure to be narrow.

I created this structure using mostly straight lengths of Silver Birch, which I have doweled together. The photo above is of the finished structure taken at home. For the exhibition I added a small mass of red dwarf Nandina and three lines of Coastal Sword Sedge, Lepidosperma gladiatum for the sense of freshness that the green material gives.

This is a close up of the finishing touches in the glass case. It was impossible to photograph the full ikebana work satisfactorily because of the multiple reflections in the glass display case.

Greetings from Christopher
24th April 2022