On Thursday the class for my Torquay students focused on incorporating transparent or translucent material in their ikebana.

Róża had brought a huge lacy tree philodendronThaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, leaf. I encouraged her to manipulate it to alter its appearance. She carefully cut the lamina of the leaf on one side, and part of the second, leaving only the larger veins. The result was a striking sculptural form.

I suggested that it needed a focal colour contrast. Her fellow student, Marta, gave her a sheet of orange cellophane that was formed into an irregular ball-shape.

Marta's ikebana used two stems of ginger to make a vertical ikebana. A length of fine green mesh linked the stems and a small succulent created a focal point.

Coralie created a structure with black plastic mesh supported in two glass box-shaped vessels. Three palm leaves provided a contrast, "bringing the sculpture to life". 

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At the beginning of the week I attended the first face-to-face meeting of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, Victorian Branch, since April. The theme of the meeting was to make an ikebana in a clear glass vessel using leaf material only. This excluded leaves on a branch. I was interested in the presenter, Angeline Lo's, suggestion of finding new fixing techniques. In this situation the fixing needs to be hidden or to become part of the ikebana itself.

I used two vessels with flat surfaces. About two weeks earlier I had cut some stems of Umbrella grass, Cyperus alternifolius,  the "leaf-head" on some of which, had turned an attractive shade of yellow. I have placed one of these with a fresh, green leaf-head in the circular vase at the right rear. It was cut so that it could sit flat against the surface. Another I cut in half and then cut the ends so that they lined up with the edges of the rectangular vase. In each case the leaf is supported by its central stem that is wedged between the front and back surfaces of the vases. I added the variegated Aspidistra leaf to create sense of movement. However, on later reflection, I think it is too visually heavy and is not well integrated.

Click on this link to other images of the Sogetsu Branch  workshop.

Greetings from Christopher
28th November 2021




With the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions we have recently been able to catch up with friends at home.

I made this welcoming ikebana for one of Laurie's former work colleagues, and her husband, whom we had not seen for some time. The sculptural structure is made from disposable hashi (chopsticks) that have been wired together. I used two Dietes leaves to create the ovoid line and added some stems of Forest Bell Bush, Mackaya bella, as a focal accent.

In the garden recently...

 we were delighted to see a male Gang Gang Cockatoo in the Grevillea robusta. They seem to be less 'nervous' than other cockatoos, but are quite uncommon in our garden. When I first heard its call it was in the large red flowering Melaleuca viminalis, (formerly Callistemon viminalis) and was well-camouflaged because of its colouring. The bird seemed quite interested in what I was doing as I got out my phone to take this quick snap.

Elsewhere in the garden the Albertine Rose, that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, has lifted some branches above the Pandorea Pandana vine and is now flowering well.

I particularly like the contrast between the darker outer surface, and the pale inner surface, of the petals as well as the delicate fragrance of the flowers. I chose these flowers as the main subject of an ikebana that I demonstrated to my Torquay students this week.

The exercise was to make an ikebana in a suiban, without the use of a kenzan and to be viewed from above. This is useful when you want to set the ikebana on a dining, or other low table. The technique I demonstrated was the using of materials braced across the suiban in such a way as to be able to support the floral materials. When this method is used it is important that the supporting materials become an integral part of the overall design. 

Here is the ikebana on the dining room table the day after it was originally made. I was pleased to see that one of the buds  had opened overnight, increasing the size of the flower mass. However, the water surface still makes up about one-third of the ikebana giving it a light fresh feel.

Greetings from Christopher

21st November 2021


This morning, Sunday, we visited the Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne to see how the Lotuses were developing this season. 

Some of the new leaves had unfurled sufficiently to sit on the lake surface and, as you can see, capture some of the overnight rain.

A little further along I noticed these reeds and their reflections in the water. This reminded me of a photo I took in the lake at the Sale Botanic Gardens, three years ago.

I was really fascinated by the reflections of the reeds and the pink-tinged clouds as the sun was setting. The image reminded me of the Sogetsu curriculum exercise of making an ikebana with straight lines. Nature has done it before we ever tried.

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On Saturday I attended Emily Karanikolopoulos' “Master Class” workshop.The class is modelled on the process Mr Kawana uses at classes in his Tokyo studio. Materials and vessels are provided along with other equipment for fixing. So the students have to work with unfamiliar materials and vessels. In the case of a whole day class, the student has to work repeatedly with the same material making several ikebana arrangements one after another. As I have said previously, the aspect which I enjoy is having to work without a preconceived plan.

When we arrived at the class each participant had to draw lots for a prepared bunch of materials and a vessel with which we were to work. The exercise was to make an ikebana in a suiban without using a kenzan. 

My materials included a dried branch with many side branches that were relatively parallel. In the photo it is just visible on the table top to the left of the fresh material. The fresh material included two very straight stems of Coastal Banksia, B. integrifolia, and a straight stem of Oriental Lily with a bud and two fully-opened flowers. The vessel was a wide white glass bowl with a slightly domed centre.

I was able to cut the dried branch into two pieces, one of which I inverted to stand with the additional support of the strongest Banksia stem which angles down to the right side in the suiban. I deliberately inverted the stem so that from a standing position the pale underside of the leaves would be visible. The low angle of the photograph looses this aspect. Two leaves on the right side of the Banksia stem clearly show the pale underside as well as the rich green of the top of the leaf. The second piece of the dried branch was placed at an angle across the upright materials.  I cut one of the Banksia stems into short sections to create a mass at the top showing only the pale undersides of the leaves. In the photo, the pale undersides look like flower petals but they are, in fact, leaves. Then I placed the oriental lily at the back so that the flowers are mostly obscured, just providing pink contrast to the underside of the leaves. I was reasonably happy with my technique in this exercise, but think the design aspect could be improved.

Greetings from Christopher

14th November 2021


One of the orchids in last weeks posting was identified by my student Coralie; it was the Tall Leek orchidPrasophyllum elatum.

With the end of the most recent Covid lockdown and the arrival of Term Four, I have been able to commence classes again in Torquay and Geelong. In Torquay I set the students the task of making an ikebana arrangement with three different materials.

Judy arranged two branches of Prunus with three 'Pinwheel' Leucadendron and two bare branches of a third unidentified material in a suiban

Róża arranged a single flower of Echium with a blue-grey leafed succulent and four Lavender flowers. The interesting vase was quite difficult to use because it is narrow front to back, 

Coralie arranged a single flowering stem of Japanese water iris, iris ensata, three stems of Germander, Teucrium fruticans, and a small branch of Bluebell Creeper, Billardiera heterophylla. The exercise turned out to be a lesson is the use of a cross-bar fixture, and the pattern of her ikebana is similar to a traditional seika arrangement.

At the Geelong class four of the students were challenged with having to make their ikebana in fifteen to twenty minutes. Then each student exchanged their material with one other and their vessel with another, different student. The process was deliberately designed so that in the second step the materials had to be arranged in a vessel that was not intended for them.

In the following sequence of photographs the first image is of the original ikebana in the creator's own vessel. The second image shows the original material re-arranged in a different vessel.

Helen M created her ikebana with tonally matched materials of a lichen-covered branch, orange Alstromerias and an orange-tipped leafy branch. The tsubo vessel has an iron-grey crackled glaze.

Christine simplified and re-arranged Helen's materials in a pewter-coloured metal vessel emphasising the space under the branch.

Ellie made a vertical ikebana using some Persoonia longifolia, (sold by the florist as 'Snoddy grass'). The wonderful Wikipedia has taught me that it is actually a small tree or shrub from the south of Western Australia in the region between Albany and Perth. She contrasted the green with a vibrant red Ranunculus and unidentified material being a tight inflorescence of lime green spheres and what looked like very small red fruit.

Helen M re-arranged Ellie's material in a larger suiban creating a sense of horizontal movement by crossing the stems.

In a black suiban, Christine created a vertical ikebana with two tall stems of iris, two seed heads of Watsonia, and Nandina flowers and leaves.

Maureen simplified and re-arranged Christine's materials in a suiban. She created a focus on a bud and single flower under the arching seed head of the Watsonia.

Maureen created a vertical ikebana using two Agapanthus flowers and two budding stems. These protrude above three encasing broad, deep-green leaves.

Ellie shifted the focus of Maureen's materials to a single line of a stem in bud. She then reversed the movement of the line by creating gentle curving lines with the leaves that brings the eye back to the two small flowers at the neck of the vase.

A completely different exercise was Tess's challenge. She had to create an ikebana for a particular space and chose the shelf in front of the mirror in her bathroom. Tess showed me a photo of the space and then approximated it in the class room having brought a framed mirror with her. 

Tess's materials were leafy stems of Bamboo and a single orange rose. She created a light open mass with Bamboo using a cross-bar fixture in a Raku-ware vase.

The classes, as always, hold a challenge. The results are delightful; all the more so, when not planned.

I chose this faceted Bizen vase by Hiroshi Toyofuku to set two flowers and buds of Rosa Albertine with a bare branch of the Japanese Flowering QuinceI managed to strike a cutting from our original Albertine Rose, a few years ago. The original had to be removed because of construction works. The cutting survived but is now at risk of being swamped by the Pandorea Pandorana vine on the same fence. 

The roses are arranged naturalistically and I have tried to reflect the vase's faceted surface by the use of the Flowering Quince branch. The in-house critic (and editor of this blog) commented that there does not seem to be any space showing at the opening of the vase. In fact it is the dark area below the roses on the left.

Greetings from Christopher
(8.10 pm)  7th November 2021


The Spring weather has been extremely variable lately. A week and a half ago, on a very warm and sunny morning, we were surprised to see... Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) at the mouth of Spring Creek in Torquay.

These photos are a little blurry as they were taken with my phone camera and have been zoomed-in a great deal. Just as we were about to walk on, a group of pre-school children were being escorted by their teachers for an outing to the beach. What excitement this rather unusual spectacle created!

Several days later, on a chilly afternoon, our friends Heather and John took us for a walk through a section of the Anglesea Heath where they had come across a number of endemic native ground orchids. In preparation for our brief expedition I took a sheet of white A4 paper to use as background to photograph these very small flowers. Without a plain background my camera struggles to focus on such small subjects and chooses larger materials beyond them. 

Above is a Small spider orchid, Caladina pava.

Unfortunately the next two are not identified.

The next, below, is a Duck orchid, Caleana major.

This extraordinary flower is new to me. I was utterly amazed when John sent me the photo below, a day or two earlier.

When I looked-up this orchid on Wikipedia, I was surprised again to learn that it is not an endemic plant but is also found on the North Island of New Zealand.

Now to ikebana. 
At the beginning of this week the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana held an online event substituting for our October meeting. The subject set for our workshop, by Aileen Duke, was to "make an ikebana arrangement using 'unconventional (non-botanical) materials' with a focus on transparency". 

The starting point for my ikebana was some clear plastic tubing, which was coiled and somewhat stiff. 


I had to find a way to make it more interesting with a looser loop. Thus the two blue, bottle-shaped vases. Then I needed colour and remembered some plastic file covers I had in the home office. The cones, made from the file covers, allowed for a sense of lightness by standing the pink one on its point. I was pleased with the sense of movement generated by both of the bottles being off-centre from their bases. The tension between the bottles and the tubing held everything in position. I was fortunate to have a pot of Bougainvillea, in a closely matched pink, in flower. I enjoyed this exercise because it took me beyond my usual ikebana material choice and caused me to explore something new.

More images from the workshop can be seen through this link, Sogetsu Victoria October on-line workshop.

Greetings from Christopher
31st October 2021


On Thursday we headed into the Geelong Art Gallery to see the exhibition of paintings by Frederick McCubbin. The exhibition celebrates the gallery's 125th year and features McCubbin's 1890 "A Bush Burial", an iconic painting, and the first major work to be purchased by the gallery. McCubbin was a member of the Heidelberg School of Australian artists who painted, en plein air, and are sometimes referred to the Australian Impressionists.

With some time to spare we then ventured to the Geelong Botanic Gardens where we had a picnic lunch.

At the entrance to the gardens, which were established in 1851, is a group of wonderful Queensland bottle trees, Brachychiton rupestris. To give a sense of scale, particularly of the diameter of the tree, I asked Laurie to take this photograph.

Also in the garden is another favourite tree of mine, a Ginko biloba that was planted in 1859.

Among the interesting characteristics of this tree are the slowly developing aerial roots. I have always thought it looks as though the bark is melting.

Here in close-up are three small leaves growing directly from the trunk.

Meanwhile, back in our garden, I recently discovered two plants that were hidden behind a largish Rosemary bush that grows outside the kitchen window.

This Geranium has actually self-seeded from our neighbour's garden and is struggling to survive under the Rosemary. As a result its branches are quite unusually contorted.

The other obscured plant is this clump of Arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica. I did know that this plant was there, however I was quite surprised at how large it has grown over the last year. I think the graceful lines in the lily make it an attractive and quite versatile subject for ikebana.

My first ikebana is the Geranium that I have set in a uniquely curved vessel by Graeme Wilkie. The weight of the vessel allowed me to position the single branch to one side to emphasise the mass of irregularly curving lines. I have added some additional flowers to the naturally growing infloresence nearest to the vessel.

My second ikebana features some of the Arum lilies. I have massed four flowers projecting forward from the vase so that their stems do not show. The second material, on the left side, is a stem of white Pandorea pandorana. The Pandorea flowers did not last long so I re-worked the arrangement.

I think this second version is more interesting because of the space I have created on the right-hand side of the vase opening. It gives the flowers and the single Acanthus leaf a sense of floating.

The vase was made by Mark Bell, of Maine USA.

Greetings from Christopher
24th October 2021


Last weekend I presented a Zoom demonstration for the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter. It was the first time we had used a live online format, which provided a challenge. The President, Julie Ireland, and Vice President, Nobuko Kobayashi, were in their respective homes in Melbourne and I was 100 kms away in Torquay. The event was to replace a workshop that could not be held due to the current Covid lockdown restrictions in Melbourne. Fortunately, I was able to use the room in which I normally hold my Torquay classes. The room has fairly good light and plain white walls with no background clutter. 

Because of the season I chose the theme of "Spring flowers in a tall (nageire) vase". When I set the topic four weeks ago, I felt inspired because the Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber, in the garden was just starting to flower and the Freesias were prolific. A month later the Freesias were finished!

However, the Red Valerian was taking over the annuals bed. For additional materials I had to go to the florist where I bought white Snapdragon, Antirrhinum, and pink Alstromeria.

For my first arrangement I had decided to follow the Sogetsu curriculum exercise of "Flowers only". This means that branch materials cannot be used. This was just an extra level of constraint that I had imposed on myself, not upon the other Chapter members (including members from five other Schools).

The pink of the Valerian led me to choose this cylindrical vase by Graeme Wilkie, which has a pink flush in its ash glaze. For the particular materials I had 
selected, I needed to use a cross-bar fixture. As the rim of this vase is thin I used the following technique to protect it from the risk of being cracked.

I have attached the cross-bars to a vertical fixture that is set into a kenzan to stabilise it at the base. This method means that the cross-bars do not exert any pressure on the side walls of the vase. 

This is the finished work as I had re-constructed it at home. So, it is a little different from the demonstrated work, with the Valerian being more upright in this case. The cross-bars allow the arranger to keep part of the vase mouth free of materials, which can be seen on the right-hand side. 

I had prepared a second ikebana using only Australian native materials from the garden, all of which are technically branch materials. At this time of year the Bottlebrushes, Melaleuca, in particular, are flowering abundantly. They are a very popular garden and street tree/shrubs, widely planted because of their hardiness.

In the garden we have several shrubs and three different colours. Above is Melauca viminalis.

This pink is a (hybrid?) variety of Melaleuca viminalis.

This pale lemon one is, appropriately, Melaleuca pallida.

Elsewhere in the garden is a large coastal tea tree, Leptospermum laevigatum

I also gathered some Black wattle, Acacia mearnsii, so that I had three different kinds of material for a feeling of spring abundance.

I selected this vase, also by Graeme Wilkie, for the earthy tones of its glaze to harmonise with the materials.

The vase is narrow, from the front to back, and has been irregularly pressed inward at the top. To secure the materials and keep the mouth of the vase uncluttered I created this cross-bar fixture with one long and three short bars. This enabled me to restrict the materials to a smaller section of the vase's mouth.

This blurry photograph was taken from the video of the demonstration. Unfortunately, the base of the vase is cropped. The materials have a strong sense of movement extending out of the vase.

Photos of the members' ikebana on this theme can be seen on the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter Instagram account.

Greetings from Christopher
16th October 2021