There are still many spring-blossoming trees to be seen in this part of the world. I took the photo below as an outdoor exercise of the Photography Group of the Friends of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. I joined the group in the hope of learning how to make better use of my new pocket camera that I bought in Japan last March.

This photograph surprised me by the amazingly abstract-looking quality of the reflections in the water. 

In the garden at home over the last couple of weeks I have been watching with pleasure as a range of flowers bloom.

This gazania is really striking for its dark, brick-red, colour, which contrasts beautifully with its furry, soft green foliage.  Some gazanias have smooth, shiny green leaves

My second photo shows the first flowers of a small Forsythia bush that was bought for me last autumn by my friend Shirley. I am delighted and amazed that it has produced these flowers in the first spring since planting. I have great ikebana hopes!

Again this week I have photographed the apricot tree in flower. This time to contrast it with a small flower...

... that has finally appeared on a branch...

...in an ikebana arrangement I made eight weeks ago. The photo above shows the 'no-kenzan', bare-branch arrangement today. I have moved the arrangement into the warmth of our conservatory in the hope that it will flower further. 

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My Melbourne-based ikebana colleague, Lara Telford, is now in the second week of her Norman and Mary Sparnon Scholarship in Tokyo and has posted photos from her first week of classes at the Sogetsu Headquarters
On the righthand side of her web-page there is a button where you can sign up using Facebook. I think that means you will get an automatic notification when she publishes a posting.

Greetings from Christopher
23rd September 2017.


We have had quite a bit of welcome rain in the past week. The early part of winter had been quite dry. 

These Galahs seemed very happy to be feeding among the, now thickly, growing grass in a nearby park.

On the same walk I noticed the change in some native Clematis micro-phylla. The flowers have now finished and the seed heads are beginning to form. First they develop fine shiny fibres that will soon become fluffy balls capable of distributing the seeds in the wind.

In the garden... 

...the apricot tree has now passed the peak of its flowering. 

At the base of the apricot some tiny grape hyacinths have come up. These plants originally came from my parents' garden.

I was also somewhat relieved to see the first small leaves on the ornamental grape. In autumn I had transferred it into the ground from a pot.

On the fence an unusually blue Hardenbergia is now flowering prolifically, and threatening to engulf the nearby Nandina domestica. I decided to quickly create an ikebana with the Hardenbergia taking advantage of its cascading possibilities. 

In this photo I have arranged it in a shallow bowl by Phil Elson. The right hand side of the bowl is cut off because of the distracting detail in the background of the photo.

I removed a lot of leaves and some flowers to show the twining nature of the vine as you can see in this close up photo. The vine is trailing against a ceramic plinth made by Graeme Wilkie.

Earlier in the week I attended the meeting of Ikebana International where the theme was Clivias, a native of South Africa which does well in our climate.

Greetings from Christopher
17th September 2017


Over the period of the Ikebana International Exhibition mentioned in last weeks posting, I spent a number of days in Melbourne. When I finally returned home and had time to walk around the garden at Torquay I notice that the apricot tree was in bud...


...and Joan's white Japanese flowering quince was at its peak. The red flowering quince is now covered with leaves and only a few flowers can be seen.

I thought the two quince flowers would make a good ikebana subject, to reflect this time of transition. The ceramic vase is by the Castlemaine artist Barry Singleton.

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The exercise I gave my Torquay students this week was to make an arrangement using green materials only. It is something of a challenge to create ikebana without any flowers and it causes the ikebanist to pay close attention to form and texture. I thought the results were interestingly varied and quite delightful.

This first work was by Val.



and lastly Fran.

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This weekend my colleague from Melbourne, Lara Telford, arrives in Tokyo to spend three months studying at the Sogetsu Headquarters. She is the sixth recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment Scholarship. It is her intention to publish an internet blog each week about her activities. 

Click here for Lara's website blog. I will also provide a link to her posting each week. If you have a Facebook account you should be able to connect directly with her blog and share it with your friends.

Greetings from Christopher
9th September 2017


The last two weeks have certainly been a busy time. Last weekend I brought you photos from the Sogetsu workshop I had conducted on the theme of using text in an ikebana work. 

The following day, Tuesday 22nd August, was spent setting up the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter annual exhibition. In this exercise I was the principal curator, assisted by a small team of Kaye Wong, Margaret Wilson, Chieko Yazaki and Elishia Zhang. The exhibition space was the lobby of the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.


As this photo shows, it is a very large space, with a number of challenges from a curatorial perspective when the artwork is ikebana.

The large windows on the lefthand side look into a glass-roofed atrium. This meant that in the day time there was quite strong light coming from behind the three installations in the window recesses. Ikebana works were also set on long narrow tables behind the groups of couches and chairs.

We also used the open central space. For this we brought our folding shoji screens and plinths as were unable to use the walls.

The exhibition was opened by the Consul-General of Japan, Mr Matsunaga. He and his wife are the co-patrons of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter. The photo above was taken on another occasion.

I was assisted by my student Kyoko Imai in setting up this contemporary style ikebana work in a large Shigaraki vessel. The materials are: driftwood melaleuca lanceolata,  gymea leaves doryanthes excelsa, white chrysanthemum, and lattice made from red painted agapanthus stems. 

In this photo, taken at the the official opening of the exhibition, I am sitting on the window sill to provide a sense of scale. 

II Annual Exhibition photos link.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd September 2017


On Monday last, the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School held one of its regular workshops. On this occasion the workshop on the theme: Ikebana Incorporating Text, was lead by me. 

I had set this topic for my own students last year and, at the time, was very impressed by the variety of their interpretation of the idea. I was also struck that each of the arrangements reflected the personality of the students.

When thinking about the theme I decided to create examples where the text in some way related to the ikebana; though this does not have to be the case and the text may simply be incidental, decorative or contrasting with the ikebana. 

For the workshop I created three examples on the theme.

The first example uses the most obvious strategy of using text already written on paper. The text is from an advertisement for the Melbourne International Film Festival and asks ‘What is the role of the artist in a creative city?’.

The second example, is an arrangement 'emphasising water' and is self-referencing. It has the letters I.K.E.B.A.N.A, formed from the green stems of Umbrella grass cypress alternifolius, which sit among the red geometric structure above the surface of the water.

The third example has the text 'Consider......' written on a leaf using a 'gel pen'. I intended this to be an invitation to the viewer to pause and reflect on the arrangement. However, it is also a reference to the quotation from the New Testament. Being the first word of the well known line,  'Consider the lilies of the field...'. This verse, among other things, implies that the perfection of nature cannot be surpassed by man-made creation. An idea consistent with the perspective of ikebana.

Examples of the ikebana by the attendees at the workshop are posted on the Sogetsu Victoria website.

Greetings from Christopher
27th August 2017


Last week I began my post with some photos showing the sculptural qualities of the Sydney Opera House. I have realised there is a connection with ikebana, and Sogetsu Ikebana in particular. 

Ikebana is quite distinctive because of the sculptural quality of the forms we create. It is interesting that old black and white photos of ikebana still look attractive, whereas traditional western floral art in black and white tends to look a little bland. This is because of the emphasis on line, mass and space, in ikebana compared to the primary emphasis on colour in traditional western floral art.

Last week, in my teacher Elizabeth's class, we were set a decidedly sculptural exercise: of making a work from non-botanical materials only. These are usually man-made materials and the exercise has been included in the new Book five of the Sogetsu curriculum. 

The exercise becomes an exploration: encouraging us to create a form using materials with properties that are not to be found in botanical materials. I decided to use A3-sized sheets of card, choosing colours that I thought would be harmonious . 

I began by cutting the red and purple sheets into thirds. The blue sheet I cut further, making thin strips as well. I wanted to utilise the flexibility of the card to make some twisting curves, like in the red sheet on the right and the purple on the left.

The card did not have enough strength when arched, so (plan B) I created a blue cylinder as a support to increase the height of the sculpture. I think I need to repeat the exercise to find ways to increase the strength of the structure.

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The local shire council in Torquay held its annual 'Arts Trail' last weekend. In this event local artists open their studios to the general public. Two of my students from my U3A class and I participated again this year. 

This 'basic upright' arrangement was made by Frances.

Val created a dramatic freestyle using strelitzia leaves from her garden and snapdragons.

I broke a vase while working with this material; so 'plan B' turned out to be a freestyle work using two black plastic suibans. The materials are Japanese Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles and an apricot branch.


Today Roadside Ikebana comes to you from a different location.

Here is the location-identifying photo. Half of the iconic bridge.

I photographed these two ferries through the upper foyer window...

                   ...of this iconic building.

The Sydney Opera House is a building with the most wonderful sculptural qualities. 

From the plaza, the Botanic Gardens are glimpsed between the Opera House and on the right, the Benelong Restaurant.

The vault of the sails over the staircases remind me of a Wells Cathedral.


The interior of the concert hall where we attended a performance of Wagner's Parsifal.

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A couple of weeks ago I gave a workshop on using bare branches and was particularly attracted by the twisting lines of the branch shown below. 

I subsequently refined the line further at home.

On Tuesday the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter held its Annual General Meeting. The Heads of the Ikebana Schools in Melbourne each demonstrated ikebana which can be seen on the above link.

Greeting from Christopher
13th August 2017


This afternoon, while walking along the path among the sand dunes, I noticed another sign of late winter. The first flowers for this season of the native, clematis microphylla. The plant seeds prolifically and it has become more abundant in this area compared to when I was a child.

Here it is growing in sand over some dead branches.

We have planted it on our back and side fences as an effective natural screen that allows glimpses of the view beyond.

This close-up is of one of the flowers in the previous photo.

At the class I give in Melbourne my student Kyoko has commenced Book Three of the Sogetsu curriculum. This is her second exercise, 'A horizontal arrangement'. She has used seasonal flowers, pink Japanese Flowering Quince and Hyacinth, which go so well with the grey of the vase. The single green leaf on the right hand side gives a little 'zing' of contrasting colour. Note the asymmetry, so important in ikebana, achieved by the two sides being of different lengths.

I attended a class with my teacher while in Melbourne. Our exercise was to create an ikebana arrangement incorporating any form of narcissus.

I bought a bunch of Narcissus papyraceus and teamed it with some Kiwifruit vine, Actinidia deliciosa, that my sister-in-law had given me. It was interesting to contrast the tall column of the flowers with the curving lines of the vine in this Japanese compote-shaped vase. 

When I came home I re-worked the arrangement in a ceramic bowl by the Bendigo ceramicist Phil Elson.

Greetings from Christopher
5th August 2017