Last week I set my senior students a combined exercise. I asked them to to make a 'variation No 2', nageire (tall vase) arrangement  and contrast the materials with the colour of the vessel. Both of these are separate exercises in the Sogetsu curriculum. This second exercise highlights the importance of thinking about the qualities of the vessel being used and recognises that it is an integral element of the arrangement.

In this example Christine has contrasted red and green...

...and here, blue and yellow.

Ellie has also contrasted green and red.

This photo is a 'Hanging, Variation No 4' by Tess, who managed to overcome the difficulty of securing the long branch to prevent it from falling out of the vase.

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In another class, Kyoko made two morimono-style arrangements of fruit and vegetables. In this instance she has given the arrangement height by standing the two egg plants and a textural variation by slicing the pomegranate to reveal the seeds within.

With her second example she commented that she wanted to emphasise the fine line of the carrot root.  This line draws the eye in a circular patten around the orange coloured elements in the arrangement.

Greetings from Christopher
20th May 2017


Last week I showed this same footpath. Now it is littered with even more flowers and leaves ripped from the trees.

Finally I have the evidence that the sulphur- crested cockatoos are littering the paths. When I looked closely at this photo I was interested to see that the cockatoo has a small branch with a cluster of flowers in its left claw. In his mouth is one flower from which it is taking nectar.

There were about half a dozen of them inside the canopy of this tree in our garden.

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Last Monday I was the substitute speaker at the Ikebana International meeting in Melbourne, as our invited guest was unavailable. The subject was to be origami, however that is certainly not my area of expertise. I therefore spoke about one of the Sogetsu School curriculum exercises, which is to make an arrangement incorporating 'unconventional' (manmade) materials. An earlier version of the curriculum had a separate and specific exercise to use paper in an arrangement.

Over the years I have experimented with various ways in which to use paper and there are a few points worth mentioning. The first is to consider the unique properties of paper and to take advantage of these. The second is to decide what is the subject/idea of the ikebana. That means, either the botanical materials or the manmade materials should be dominant and the other is in a supporting role. The third point is that all the materials should be integrated in the arrangement. So that if either were to be removed the arrangement would be incomplete.

I made this arrangement in class some years ago. Clearly the paper is the dominant material. I particularly like using newspaper, which is readily available, and changing it to reveal characteristics not normally noticed. This paper has been pleated diagonally and then folded in the middle, creating two 'fans', one on each side of the middle.

A couple of weeks after that class I created this work for the 50th anniversary exhibition of Ikebana International in Melbourne. As you can see I have also used coloured wrapping paper. The botanical material is the dried leaves of Dracaena Draco, which are bright orange where they attach to the plant.

This arrangement also incorporates a second manmade material, plastic mesh which keeps leaves from collecting in the roof gutters. It is contrasted with a strelitzia flowerhead. The newspaper has been rolled on the diagonal into straws. The straws are quite strong and develop spiral stripes from the colours on the page. In both of the examples above the 'subject' is the manmade material.

My final example is the arrangement I setup at last week's meeting. Again I have used newspaper straws, that I had demonstrated how to make. In this case the subject is the botanical materials, dried agapanthus heads and two dietes leaves, with the paper making a contrasting element. The ceramic cylinder is by Graeme Wilkie.

There are more photos from the meeting on the Ikebana International Melbourne blog.

Greetings from Christopher
13th May 2017


We returned home ten days ago from our trip to Japan and Taiwan. I was relieved to find that the garden was in a good state, having been watered in our absence, as arranged. In fact a couple of days before we returned there was an exceptionally heavy storm in our area leaving the ground quite damp. Nothing has died and the weeds are not too big!

This is how the beach looked this morning after further rain overnight...

...and the promise of a little more today.

Having come home from travelling, one of the things that I noticed is the chattering and song of the large variety of birds that visit our garden. It is certainly greater than in the cities in Japan and Taiwan.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of eucalyptus flowers strewn on the grass.  

These creamy flowers are on a street tree.

The next tree has deep red flowers, which were also on the grass underneath the tree.

The flowers are a source of nectar for the Rainbow Lorikeets that visit our garden. These small parrots are to be found all along the eastern coast of Australia. The flowers scattered on the grass have probably been chewed off by the larger Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.

I took the two photos below in the garden this morning.

The much better photo below is from a website setup by a primary teacher and a librarian for school children. You can check it out here: Rainbow Lorikeet.

As we are now deeply into Autumn, this week I set my students the exercise of making an arrangement, incorporating berries and/or fruiting branches. 

Kim borrowed the apples from fellow student Val and my vase by Ian Jones. Kim wisely curled the fig leaf, which came from the garden, because otherwise it looked too flat.

In the evening class Christine chose this branch of quince with a particularly interesting line. Some solid mechanics went into keeping the heavy stem from resting on the side of her Graeme Wilkie vase.

Greetings from Christopher
6th May 2017

* The title of the blog comes from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Near the end of the film the good witch Glinda says to Dorothy: '...tap your heels together three times and think to yourself, there's no place like home

(after five and a half weeks of travelling)


During the last week we travelled to Taiwan, as it is relatively close to Okinawa. The only hitch was that we had to go back to Tokyo, then Narita, rather than flying directly from Okinawa. 

On our first day in Taiwan we headed off to the Taroko National Park and the Gorge, famous for its spectacular scenery and the marble rocks through which the Liwu River has cut its path.

This gateway marks the entrance to the Gorge. It is so steep sided that in many places the road passes through tunnels or clings to the sides of precipitous cliffs.

This pathway was cut into the cliff face to gain access to the hinterland, about 100 years ago, a time when Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire. Now the pathway is part of a walking trail above the Shakadang River.

We stayed in a cabin at the Leader Village Hotel Taroko, which was remarkable for the number of wooden sculptures around the grounds. I thought this figure created from 'found' branches was quite delightful. This made me think about sculptural work in the Sogetsu School tradition, which however is always abstract rather than figurative.

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I would now like to return to a few other rather striking works from the Exhibition in Okinawa.

This first, large work, is by Shiho Yoshida, the Head Mistress of the Ryukyu Omoro School. The wall piece is very eye-catching. It is made from short tripods cut from the branching sections of mitsumata  (edgeworthia chrysantha). These have been dyed pink and arranged in concentric circles, asymmetrically placed on a circular board. They are also graded in size. In front of this is placed a free-style arrangement using a variety of materials.

The second work is a seika arrangement of considerable technical skill.  The really challenging aspect of the arrangement is that all the stems are held within the finger grip of a pair of hasami (Japanese flower scissors). It was created by Midori Murayama of the Koryu Shoseikai School, Tokyo.

Lastly is a work by Tomoko Morishita, of the Sogetsu School and from Okinawa. This playful work has a vase floating above the table top. To me it seems to be pouring its contents out. The botanical materials are sansevieria, arum lilies, dancing lady orchid and gypsophila.

Greetings from Christopher
29th April 2017


In addition to all the ikebana, we also got to see the fantastic Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. A wonderful presentation of marine life from the seas warmed by the currents flowing north east in this part of the north Pacific Ocean.

This spectacular tank called the Kuroshio Sea has one 'glass' wall of enormous size. It is made from laminated acrylic plates and is 60cm thick.

Later, back in Tokyo, we caught up with the 'Growing Gardener'. I had seen him from a  train on the Yamanote line in 2011 and wanted to get a closer look. 

Last week I showed some photos from the Members' Exhibition at the Convention in Okinawa. Here are some more. 

This work is by my Ichiyo ikebanist and internet friend, Gail Newman, from the USA. Unfortunately, her allocated space was at the end of a table and therefore did not have a full-width white background.

Arrangements by Chieko Yazaki, Elizabeth Angell Emily and Karanikolopoulos can be seen on the Melbourne Chapter blog

Also waving the flag for Australia and New Zealand...

...Masae Ako, Sogetsu School, Sydney Chapter.

Ping Block, Sogetsu School, Sydney Chapter.

Kaye Pearson, Sogetsu School, Lismore Chapter.

Tomoko Hirano, Sogetsu School, New Zealand.

The following works are just a few that caught my attention and are by people unknown to me.

Kazumi Kagawa, Ryukyu Omororyu, Okinawa.

This by Monika Nussberger, a Misho-ryu practitioner from Switzerland. The arrangement was like an early Spring arrangement. In front of which stood 7 glass cylinders filled with water. They were arranged irregularly with gaps between some so that some of the materials appeared to be under water but were not.

A seika arrangement by Regula Maier, another Misho-ryu practitioner from Switzerland.

Doris Wong, Sogetsu School, Hong Kong. 

Unfortunately I did not record the name nor school of this cheeky work. Three slightly crushed cardboard cylinders bound with some vine and a single very small leaf blade, peeping from the back.

Chinara Munduzbaeva, Sogetsu School, Moscow  Two stainless steel suibans, with stainless steel triangles of the same depth and green leaves also in triangles of the same width. Some peonies for colour.

Clara Li, Ichiyo School, Shanghai.

This last work is by Tomiko Uesato of the Ohara School. I got to know of Tomiko, having met her sister-in-law last year when we were on a tour to Rajasthan. It is delightful that the shared passion for Ikebana creates unexpected opportunities for connecting with people from around the world. 

You might also want to check Emily Karanikolopoulos's blog.

Greetings from Christopher
22nd April 2017


This week of our travels began in Tokyo and finished in Okinawa, following our four days on the Nakasendo. We were in time for the last good week of the Cherry Blossom Season.

This photo shows a section of an extensive avenue of beautiful old trees in the Yanaka Cemetery above the Nippori station on the Yamanote line. Laurie and I had stayed in a Ryokan near the station on my first visit to Japan in 1992.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Yukiko, the daughter of one of Laurie's students in his 1978 English class, and to meet her four-month-old son Riku.

I got the chance to do some 'baby wrangling'.

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On Tuesday we flew to Okinawa for the 11th Ikebana International World Convention which ran from Wednesday to Saturday.

While out walking I was fascinated by the large number of tetrapods and this example of what looks like a 'guerilla' art attack. 

The conference provided an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones as well.

I was pleased to meet a passionate orchid grower, ikebanist and fellow blogger Lyn. Her blog is called Orchids and Ikebana.

Lyn is a member of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana and a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of Ikebana International. Above is her arrangement in the conference exhibition. She has used alium, monstera leaves, statice and a peony. 

There were demonstrations by ordinary members of Ikebana International as well as the Iemotos, head-masters, of seven of the schools. Each school has its own characteristic style. 

This is the final grand work of the Iemoto of  the Ohara School.

Above is the work of the Ichiyo School.

And this was the final work of the Headmaster of the Sogetsu School, Ms Akane Teshigahara.

The last village we visited when we were traveling along the Nakasendo was called Narai. This area is a centre for lacquer-ware and I was able to buy an interesting vase. It was made from lacquer-covered linen over a pulp base. I was able to use the vase in the member's exhibition at the convention.

These were my materials, a smallish philodendron leaf and some red alstroemeria flowers. 

I began by doing the work of a caterpillar... 

...removing the fleshy part of the leaf so that only the stem and ribs remained. I then drew the ends into a knot making a 'cage'. 

The finished arrangement had three stems of alstroemeria flowers partially contained within the 'cage'. The vase is placed at a slight angle and the space at the mouth of the vase and within the arrangement is clear. I would have like the arrangement to be slightly lower; however, I wanted to have only two lines arising from the mouth of the vase.

Greetings from Christopher in Okinawa
16th April 2017