CASCADING FLOWERS


One of the delights of sharing ikebana with friends via the internet is the relationships that are forged across the world. A month ago I showed photos of ikebana by Leonora who lives in Ottawa and Michael who lives in Florida. Here are two further ikebana arrangements, one by each of them. 


Leonora's small elegant arrangement is of her Magnolia in its second flowering, after the leaves have formed. The colours tone beautifully with the ceramic vase. Coincidentally in the same tonal range is...


...Michael's arrangement of Allium and Monstera deliciosa. This is a classic example of the Sogetsu exercise of 'Showing (or emphasising) the Lines at the Base'. The ceramic vessel is by William Baker. (Also at: https://www.pinterest.com.au/baker2861/ )  
[This is a revised post as I had misattributed the name of the potter.]

These photos shared by friends make me more conscious of the northern hemisphere seasons being opposite to the southern hemisphere. This in turn heightens my consciousness of the seasonal nature of ikebana itself.

The Cootamundra Wattle in our garden, which I showed a couple of weeks ago, is now well passed the peak of its flowering. 

The latest spectacular flowering locally, is the Australian native Clematis, Clematis microphylla. The flowers are rather small but certainly abundant.

I took these photographs in the scrub on the leeward side of the sand dunes. This one has whiter flowers than the species which grows in our garden, which are a creamy-green. 

Also growing in our garden, and only just beginning to flower, is this Lady Banks Rose, Rosa banksiae. As both of these plants have a weeping habit I decided to use them in a cascading arrangement.

The tall yellow-tinted glass vase has sufficient height for the clematis to hang gracefully. I have partially stripped the lower part to emphasise its line. At the top I added the rose to create textural variety and a counter balancing mass. Although it is not apparent from the photograph the two rose stems project well forward. In the next photo this will be obvious.

This is the second version of the ikebana. I have added a leaf of variegated aspidistra, which provides additional textural variation. The leaf was too wide and one side was almost totally green so I split off the green side. Then I curled the leaf, creating the illusion that the branch materials cascade from within. 

Greetings from Christopher
9th August 2020



THE FEELING OF WINTER


On one of our daily walks recently I was delighted to see this small flock of Galahs perching in a Melaleuca lanceolata by the foreshore in Torquay. They had been tearing at the roots of some grasses before they were startled and flew into the tree.
 

On Thursday, in the Iron Bark Basin nature reserve...


...we saw this lone Kookaburra, perched on a branch. These birds are more commonly seen in forested areas and are now occasionally seen where we live because of the large number of native trees that were planted in the 1960s and 70s.

*          *          *          *          *

Two of my students recently created ikebana on the theme of a winter arrangement. 


Ellie said she was inspired by the idea that citrus are fruit that start to be harvested in winter. Her contemporary style ikebana includes a lime, lemon, tamarillo and a bare branch in a black vessel. The use of bold colours and the black vessel set me thinking of the De Stijl art movement.


Eugenia has created a classic winter arrangement using a single pale pink camellia and bare branch in a black suiban. The reduced colour palate and bare branches evoke the stark beauty that can be found in winter.

This winter in Victoria has been quite dry. Only yesterday I decided it was necessary to water some of the plants in the garden to prevent them from becoming stressed. At the same time, and perhaps unrelated, we have been visited at night by Brushtail Possums. They have been ravaging the large Lorraine Lee climbing rose and eating the petals on the Japanese Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles japonica.

The flowering quince is one of my favourite winter ikebana subjects and I was despairing of being able to pick any this year. Three weeks ago I noticed a plump bud that had not been eaten so I quickly cut a couple of branches.


This is the first version of the ikebana I arranged, using two branches in a black plastic suiban. You may just see a small intense red-pink bud on the lower left  of the main stem.


Here it is in close-up where, in the warmth of the living room overnight, the flower opened to a beautiful cup of pink containing a mass of yellow stamens.


Several days later the buds had begun to enlarge. I repositioned the two stems and added some white narcissus from a small clump to give an added feeling of freshness and new growth. Because the clump of narcissus was small I did not pick any leaves as that would have deprived the bulb of nutrients for the rest of the season. The green leaves I have added are from a Crocosmia.


Two weeks later the narcissus had finished but the quince had blossomed beautifully. As you can see the flowers that have opened after the branches had been cut and brought inside are progressively more pale.

Greetings from Christopher
1st August 2020



SOME AUSTRALIAN NATIVE PLANTS


Australia is blessed with many very unusual looking plants that make excellent material for ikebana. Most of the continent has low rainfall and many of our native plants have specific adaptations for such dryness. Perhaps the most obvious are the plants with tough leaves that do not wilt. One particularly striking plant is Eucalyptus Macrocarpa, indigenous to the south west of Western Australia. 


I first came across it in its native habitat in 2014 when Laurie and I drove across the country. This photo was taken at the side of the road near Albany on the south coast.


On another visit to the west I saw this example in the Botanic Gardens at Kings Park in Perth, with a large fully-opened flower on a fairly stiff stem. The leaves and stems are covered in a light grey downy powder giving the plant a silvery appearance. For these reasons and its longevity in a vase E. macrocarpa is  grown for the floristry market.


My student Ellie recently used a single stem of E. macrocarpa with unopened buds to make this arrangement. She has added the dry stem of another species of eucalyptus to create a space and a sense of movement that complements the fresh material.

Ellie told me of her frustration when, in the process of arranging, some of the flower buds dropped off the branch.


Creatively turning this situation into a positive one, Ellie arranged the buds in a glass vase. The four buds are arranged asymmetrically and one is carefully anchored to show its profile. She has also taken care to create space in the ikebana. Under water the powdery surface of the material has developed a silvery sheen.

In our garden another Australian native Acacia baileyana, which I used in my ikebana last week, is at its most prolific flowering. 


During the week I was removing a struggling helebore when I noticed that the semi-prostrate A. baileyana was also starting to flower. This plant is always a little slower to flower than the tree form. In the photo the semi-prostrate plant is in front of the Strelitzia Juncea, the straight stems of which are seen protruding behind. Behind them is the A. baileyana tree form.

I had wanted to use the acacia again as it is such a cheerful sight on a wintery day.


I used two long stems of branch material which also have a blue grey appearance, akin to the E. macrocarpa. These stretch to the right while a mass of blossom reaches forward and to the left among a structure of red painted sticks. I have deliberately chosen this shino-glazed vase by the Canadian potter Don Goddard, because of the bluish grey that complements the leaf colour.

Greetings from Christopher
26th July 2020



FURTHER RE-USING of MATERIALS


Three weeks ago I noted that the Cootamundra Wattle, Acacia Baileyana, in the garden had started to bloom. Now there are large masses of bright yellow blossom cascading from the branches. 


This small branch shows how the mass of blossom begins to weigh the branches down.


In close up each individual blossom is no more than a ball of fine filaments offering their load of pollen to the bees and other insects that can be heard humming among the branches.

About a week ago I decided to use the wattle blossom in an ikebana in such a way as to show its profusion and the cascading movement. This mean that I need to use a tall vase.


I decided to use this tapering vase by the New Zealand-born ceramic artist Arnaud Barraud, who now lives in Victoria. The tapering form makes securing the branches a little difficult.


My solution to this problem was to put a vertical fixture into a small kenzan that sits on the bottom of the vase then wire two cross bars at the top. Without being secured to the vertical fixture these cross bars would easily fall down inside the vase.


In the final ikebana I have massed the blossoms toward the right front so that they cascade below the level of the vase rim. To the left I have created a smaller mass of the blue-grey leaves of the wattle. A visual balance to the masses is created by two lines on the left-hand side. These are stems of Strelitzia juncea, which has a matte grey-green colour. The stems are formed into triangular shapes creating a more contemporary feel to the ikebana and picking up the shape of the vase.

I really enjoyed the exuberance of the wattle blossom for a few days until it started to fade. However the Strelitzia stems were still looking quite fresh so I decided to re-use them. I had noticed an out-of-season flower of Agapanthus and thought it would work well with the stems I had saved.


The single flower had a slight curve which I exaggerated a bit more so that it would make a contrasting line to the straight lines of the Strelitzia. Contrasting straight and curving lines is an exercise in the Sogetsu curriculum. I was pleased to be able to create the interesting space between the curving line and the straight line. The irregularly formed vase by Graeme Wilkie has a pale celadon glaze.

Greetings from Christopher 
19th July 2020



RE-USING MATERIALS

 
On Wednesday last there was bright sunshine even though the air temperature felt quite chilly to me.


Laurie and I decided to go to the Iron Bark Basin nature reserve for our routine walk. A
s usual, the understory around these trees was cleared last summer to reduce the bush fire risk. In the basin to the left of this photo the understory is reasonably dense.


One of the typical understory plants we saw was this beautiful Common Heath, Epacris impressa, which starts flowering in winter. It is the Victorian state floral emblem and has a colour range from red through shades of pink to white.


Also at this time of year many of the ground orchids start to flower. Above is a small colony of Greenhood orchids, Pterostylis.


Unfortunately this close up of one of them is more blurred than I realised at the time of taking the photo.


We also came across this Grass Tree, Xanthorrhoea, that had just started to send up a flower stalk. I will endeavour to track its growth over the next few weeks.

Two of my North American Sogetsu friends have sent me photos of their ikebana recently, which I thought I would share with you. It is interesting to see how they use the materials from their own gardens.


Michael, who lives in Florida, created this massed ikebana using Begonia leaves and two Chrysanthemum flowers. He has made a point of showing the front and backs of the leaves for their colour variation. His ceramic vessel is by Akira Satake.

   
Leonora, in Ottawa, has made a generous horizontally-spreading ikebana using Hosta leaves. She has placed the leaves to show their surfaces, which are emphasised by the contrast of the inflorescence from, I think, a Draecena. The modern metal vessel is a Sogetsu School design.

Two of my students in Covid isolation have sent me the following photos.


Ellie has made an ikebana 'using both native Australian and exotic materials'. Her ikebana features Banksia flowers and leaves, as the principal materials, and dwarf Nandina Domestica for the secondary material. These are arranged with driftwood to provide a textural contrast.


Eugenia's 'one kind of material' ikebana features two Haemanthus leaves and Clivia berries. She has used the leaves to create a sense of movement, as well as containment for the hikae of berries. The low position of the materials complements the unusual vessel.


This week my ikebana is an exercise of 're-using materials' and giving them a second (or third) life. The Acanthus leaves and Hydrangea were used in last week's large arrangement. In this smaller ikebana I have created a space by elevating the upper leaf thereby also showing the interesting pattern of the veins on the underside. The hydrangea provides a colour contrast to pick up colours in the Bizen style vase by Ian Jones.

Greetings from Christopher
11th July 2020

Additional information for flower arrangers.
Acanthus leaves are notoriously difficult to use in ikebana because they wilt very quickly. The photo was taken eight days after their initial use in the previous ikebana. The technique I have learnt is: after cutting the stems under water, stand them in warm water (40C) with 1% vinegar added (that is 10ml per litre). It is worthwhile keeping them for several hours in a cool dark place if you can. If possible do not use a kenzan as the stems are prone to splitting and becoming very soft. I tend to use this technique for any materials that are known to wilt quickly.

SOME PRUNED BRANCHES


Two weeks ago I thought the predicted rain would break through the sand bar at the mouth of Spring Creek.


  
This photo which I took back then made me think of an 'infinity' swimming pool. Nearly there but not quite. 


However, it took an extra week for the water level to breach the sand bar. In the process, the outward flood created an 'S'- shaped flow and the metre-high sand cliffs that you can see.


The drop in the water level exposed large expanses of sand that had been covered by shallow water.


Further back up the creek in the freshly exposed mud flats this White-Faced Heron was using the opportunity to feed. In the foreground of this photo is what looks like a large concrete roller which has probably come from the Golf Links about 20 metres to the left, just out of the frame.

Now to ikebana. 


Eugenia made the above ikebana on the theme of "using an every-day object as the vessel". Her vessel is a metal funnel that has been inverted. A dry branch has been inserted into the funnel and a piece of bark extends to the ground. Camellia leaves give the ikebana a feeling of freshness and life. In the photo Eugenia has also played with the effect of the slanting line of shadow on the wall.


Marcia made her ikebana using rose prunings from her new garden. The tall shin line of the bare branch which rises above the ceramic vessel is from the same bush as the single flower and mass of leaves.


The material for my ikebana this week went well beyond pruning. I had to completely remove the branches of a ground covering Bluebell Creeper, Billardiera heterophylla, which had died. This was planted about 30 years ago and as I removed the mass I realised that I had some very interesting ikebana material in my hands. In the photo above I had already started pruning so that I could refine and emphasise the principal lines. I am hoping the material will dry well for re-use in the future. 
  

The width of the vine was a little over two metres. This created a small logistical problem for the purpose of taking a photograph. After moving a Buffet, then the dining table and chairs I had enough uncluttered wall space to site the Shigaraki vessel.

To ensure that the two sides of the ikebana look asymmetrical I have pruned the right hand side to a single zig-zagging line and kept many more fine lines on the left side. The fresh materials making up the mass are three Acanthus mollis leaves and four hydrangeas with autumnal colouring.

Greetings from Christopher, with best wishes to readers from Canada and the USA - whose respective national days are celebrated this week.
4th July 2020



RINGING THE CHANGES


Last week I commented that if we get some more rain the creek at Torquay will wash through the sand bar. 


Well that has not happened yet. Instead the waves at high tide were washing over the sand bar into the creek. That combined with the slow flow from up-stream has raised the level of the creek a little further.


The water surface was exceptionally still when I managed to take this photo of a cumulus cloud and its reflection in the late afternoon.



In the garden the first of the Cootamundra Wattle, Acacia Baileyana, blossom has started to open. I thought this would be a good material to use with the massed ikebana of curving lines that I included on last week's post.


This is how it looked last week.


For my first re-working of this ikebana I have added two loose curving lines. This 'opens up' the ikebana, allowing it to 'breathe' and creates a different feeling.
 

I then added a mass of Cootamundra blossom, creating a focal point. In Sogetsu terms this mass is called the hikae, which I have seen translated as 'achieving balance'. The hikae mass balances the movement of the asymmetrically placed principal lines.


The Costal Sword Sedge leaves, which are the main material of this ikebana, not only last well but also change. Over time the leaves develop autumnal colouring in the form of orangey stripes that contrast 
beautiful with their rich green. This colouring started to occur in some of the leaves in the five days since I did the first re-working with the Cootamundra Wattle.



Today I have changed the position of the kenzan so that the coloured leaves show better and have added some Dwarf Nandina Domestica, as well as a single upward curving line.

Greetings from Christopher
27th June 2020