Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Photo courtesy of Christopher James

My poorer quality photo

Hello all,

As I mentioned in my last post, our Ikebana International group held an exhibition in the Bourke Place Foyer last week. The photograph, above, is of my exhibit. I used aluminium louvres, to which I attached 'feet' for stability. I used two large stelitzia nicolai leaves, just as they were changing colour and wisteria vines, that I coloured black. I included the small picture with me in it to indicate scale. For photographs of the rest of the exhibition please go to Ikebana International Melbourne and click on Blog.

Lucy's Exhibit with an Aboriginal flavour
And here she is with her demonstration piece

My garden suffered a major disaster 10 days ago. Our magnificent, mature weeping willow fell. The trunk, which was growing at an angle, started to split after some particularly windy weather two days earlier. On the day in question, I was watching it as it continued to split and fall forward making very scary noises. Three quarters of the tree fell into our driveway, whilst the remainder was still standing. However, we didn't know how safe the standing portion was, so we called SES to come and secure it until we could engage a tree lopper to take care of it.

The heart breaking view of my beloved tree
Initially, we were going to have it removed completely, which would have left a large gap in my garden. But, thanks to an understanding and accommodating tree lopper, we were able to retain quite a lot of it, with thick branches jutting out of the garden like a giant spider. We are hoping that despite the partial split in the trunk, it will continue to grow. The photo, below, shows what it looks like now.

Of course, this was an ikebana opportunity not to be missed. So the senior students were asked to workshop willow.

I trimmed many side stems to reveal this interesting 'elbow' in the
branch and I removed as many leaves as I left on. The container
had to be heavy to hold the weight of the branch. My flowers
were roses and sedum
Nicole stripped the branches of leaves and used belladonna lilies
Vicky also stripped off the leaves, then twisted the stems into circles
and added a brightly coloured bougainvillea 

Lucy managed to balance this heavy branch on the ground and added
a  vase with dahlias
I leave you with this tall arrangement (1.3m), in which I used the left over stem from the strelitzia nicolai, that I used in my exhibition piece. The white belladonna created a natural mass to contrast the lines and added a delightful fragrance.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

This picture was taken through a fly-wire screen, hence its blurry appearance
Hello all,
The juvenile kookaburra in the picture, above, landed on my kitchen window sill and stayed there long enough for me to get the camera and capture it. For some years now, we have had a pair of kookaburras coming to our back yard and been hand fed by Sam. We've watched as they produce two chicks every year. We know when they are nesting because only one comes to feed and when it has had enough it takes food in its beak and flies off, obviously, to feed the one sitting on the eggs.

When the chicks are still fledglings we hear their awkward and quite comical cry. Unlike the majestic call of the adults. When they are able to fly, the adults bring the chicks to our garden but they, themselves, sit up high guarding them while they learn to eat. The young remain with the parents to help with the next generation of chicks and only leave when the new chicks become independent. It's a fascinating family cycle.

We love having them visit and being a part of our lives but we, also, appreciate the services they render. Many times we've seen one of them swoop down and pick up a mouse or other rodent. They, also, keep me company whilst I'm working in the garden.

Perched on the rose arbour

And on the rake handle over the bin

We love these birds that have learnt to trust us but they are not very smart. In marked contrast is the cleverness of the ravens and magpies. They have observed that when we give meat to the kookaburras, they beat it against the tree branch to 'kill' it. This means that bits of the meat drop down and the very opportunistic magpies and ravens are quick to pick them up. They have, also observed and learnt the routine. When the kookaburras appear in our garden, Sam, whose office windows face the garden, usually will go out to feed them. Sometimes, however, he may delay, due to clients, phone calls etc. Then the magpie will come to his window making all kinds of sounds, to alert him that the kookaburras are here and he should come and feed them. Now, that's what I call clever!

And, now, back to ikebana.
Last week we had our first Sogetsu meeting for the year. The workshop was run by Lara Telford, who is the current recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon scholarship and, who has recently returned from Japan after three months study at headquarters. Lara's theme was number 48 of 'The Fifty Principles of Ikebana' - 'Remember there are always new,surprising themes and approaches to arranging Ikebana.

Lara requested that we plan and sketch a freestyle arrangement using only botanical materials. Then, at the workshop, she asked us to rethink our original plan and come up  with something new.

I had planned to use 2 agave leaves and a garlic flower on a glass base that has two small holes. I was going to cut two sticks to about 10 cm and place in each hole, which would then, pierce the agave at the base, thus holding it upright. My very basic sketch is below and next to it is the my final piece.

Original plan

Please go to  Sogetsu Ikebana Victorian Branch  for more information and photos.

In my class, last week, the senior students were given the theme from Book 5 - 'Glass Containers'. In this exercise, because the glass is transparent, the inside of the container is just as important as the outside and, sometimes, even more important. We can even create an arrangement only inside the container.

I used agapanthus seed heads and stems, both curved and straight.
Although it looks as though the seed head on the right is touching
the table, in fact, it isn't
Nicole used New Zealand Flax and
Nandina domestica
Vicky's arrangement is a little hard to see - the container is up-side-down, with one
flower head under and two over the container. There is, also, water in the centre

Lucy used straight agapanthus stems
and 2 bougainvillea flowers in a tall vase
Bredenia used a type of Aeonium, featuring the interesting
curves of the stems

Below are two pieces with the theme from Book Four - 'Arrangement with Plants on a Wall'

Aurelia used a prostrate banksia stem and Singapore orchids
I used gymea leaves and ivy

Before I go, I'd like to give you details of our upcoming Ikebana International Exhibition:
Monday 5th – Friday 9th March
9.00 am – 5.00 pm
Bourke Place Foyer
600 Bourke St, Melbourne

Demonstration (Free): By our Lucy Papas
Tuesday 6th March 1.00 pm – 2.00 pm
‘Mistress CafĂ©’ Balcony, Bourke Place Foyer

Bye for now,

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Hello all,

I found the seed pods in the above wall arrangement on a small tree growing by the side of the road. I'm surprised I never noticed it before, as I drive past it several times a week. I would love to hear from anyone, who might know what it is.

Last Wednesday was the first of our classes for the year and, even though we were a little rusty after the break, some good ikebana was produced.

My frilly fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) has taken over the garden bed, in which I planted it three years ago and, now, needs to be thinned out. So, the theme for class for the senior students was to workshop this fern, which I was able to provide.

I stripped the fern stems half way and massed them in this
basket and added the garlic flower.
Lucy, also, stripped the ferns in this vertical
arrangement and placed a small iris just
peeking above the vase

Vicky used a curved agapanthus stem with the fern fronds

Nicole used wild Queen Anne lace and sedum with the ferns

Here I wanted to feature the lacey look of the fern, so
I stripped the top half, letting the bottom half drape down.
The apricot rose is called 'Lolita' and I've had it for 25 years

The two arrangements, below address the theme 'Paying attention to the Container and the Place Where the arrangement will be put'.

Aurelia's used curved agapanthus stems, which extend beyond
the vase to encompass the space in front.

I used a Viburnum Tomentosum stem to extend over the dining table horizontally and
hydrangea flowers and leaves. If you look closely, you'll see that the viburnum is
flowering, completely out of season.

I was very pleased to have Judith Cougle return to class after a lengthy absence and just as pleased with her 'Simplified Arrangement', below.

Judith used a calla lily, which turned green as it aged
and a leaf from the same plant, which has mutated.

On Tuesday, we had our first Ikebana International meeting for the year. Christopher James was our speaker and demonstrator. He did a very informative presentation on maintenance tips and preservation of materials in ikebana arrangements. He also demonstrated with materials that he had previously treated to last. Please go to II Melbourne for more.

'Memories of Summer Holidays' was the theme for the members' arrangements. Below is mine. I did not go away this summer, but chose to stay home with hubbie and 'rest' without doing chores around the house. Ha! However, the vegetable patch, which is no longer being used because of aggressive root competition from the elm trees, was so overgrown with weeds, that I couldn't stand to look at it. So I snuck out one morning to make  a start and, after removing a section of weeds, I was rewarded by rediscovering some dried branches I had put there year ago. I used the very first of my Belladonna lilies with it in this container I bought from headquarters last year.

Bye for now,

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

My gloriosa lilies in a made to order, hand blown vase by
Gordon Studio Glassblowers in Red Hill.
Hello all,

In this relatively quiet time of year and with the extreme heat forcing me indoors, I've been able to tackle some projects that I have put off for too long. One of these was the hanging on the wall of these three Washi paper scrolls. I bought them in Tokyo last year when my friend Emiko took me to an establishment that makes and sells washi paper in all forms. Some of them are so exquisite as to be of museum quality. Of course, I could not afford them but I did buy these three. I brought them home all rolled up and had to devise a method of hanging them. It took some doing but I'm happy with the end result. They hang above the couch in my bedroom.

Another, rather pressing project, was to replace the fabric on four throw cushions on my bed. I had made these cushions years ago using obi brocade materials which were showing real signs of wear and (literally) tear. I had bought obis in 2016 in Tokyo when my friend Haruko Hiratsuka took me to several shops selling kimonos, intending to make new covers but other projects always took priority. For an experienced seamstress like me, making cushion covers is child's play. However, these exquisite, Japanese textiles can be difficult to work with. First of all, they fray very easily. Then they are very stiff, some have metalic threads or metalic paint and are so dense that I had difficulty pushing a needle or pins through them. This meant that I could do no hand sewing and had to rely solely on the machine. But, they are done! Tick!

With the cool weather finally here, I was able to walk around my garden and observe, not only the damage, but also the growth, not to mention all the weeds! One very surprising change was to my Japanese maple. It has new and vibrant growth at the tips of the branches, quite uncharacteristic for this time of year. Normally, the leaves are brown at the tips from the excessive heat and this is the case now but only with the old leaves. The new leaves are larger than the rest and quite vibrant. I'm baffled as to why this has happened.

My mature Japanese maple with bright, lime green, new growth.
In this wall arrangement the old leaves are small and dark as compared with the new.

A couple of days ago I picked some Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera) from a tree that is growing by the side of the road near by. The fruit are an attractive lime green colour but are very heavy, often falling from the stem when trying to arrange them. I had some fun making the following three arrangements.

Osage oranges with variegated Japanese Iris
leaves in glass vase
Osage oranges and hydrangeas in resin vase

In this next arrangement, I used blue echinops from my garden, Osage oranges and yellow knophofia, for which I would like to thank Glenda Nielsen, who gave me the plant that produced them. I spayed the dried strelitzia leaf lightly with yellow to take away the dull grey colour. The vase is one I made long ago.

I was, recently, asked to set up an arrangement for an Aikido club, who were having an international seminar and wanted an ikebana arrangement next to the Shomen. As the time was approaching, I was keeping an eye on the weather forecast and became quite concerned when I realized that the four day seminar would fall right smack in the middle of the heat wave. And to make things worse, the gymnasium, in which the seminar was to be held, has no air conditioning. So, I abandoned my original, carefully made plans and decided to use my trusty, blue, mulberry branch. I chose the most robust materials I could find - pine branches, nandina domestica and 18 stems of blue and white agapanthus. These proved an excellent choice, as they survived the heat very well. In fact I was able to reuse some of the materials.

And, speaking of my trusty agapanthus, I leave you with this rather fun arrangement.

Bye for now,

Friday, 19 January 2018

I call this arrangement 'Fun with Garlic'
Hello all,

In my efforts to improve my photography I purchased, some years ago, a cream coloured roller blind, which I had installed on the wall of my ikebana room. I roll it down and place my arrangements on it so that there is a smooth background when I photograph. This works well most of the time but not when I have white containers or pale materials, as they seem to disappear into the background. To address this, I recently bought another roller blind in a dark charcoal colour and installed it myself (with the help of my beloved!). However, I'm not entirely happy with it because it has a shiny surface, which reflects the light, making it appear paler than it is.

I should point out that I keep my camera setting on 'Intelligent Auto' and just click. I have no knowledge of all the different features of the camera. I experimented with the two backgrounds and found something quite interesting. Below are photographs of the same arrangement taken against different backgrounds. The first is the light coloured background and the second, the dark. The colour of the backgrounds in the photos, however, is very similar, whereas the colour of the alliums is quite different. I made no changes to the lighting. Go figure!

By the way, I grew those alliums and manipulated them, hoping to make them squiggly, like the ones sold in florists in Japan. I was not as successful as I would have liked.

Similarly with the photos below. The first is the light background and the second, the dark. Notice how the colour of the materials changes. The materials I used are some sort of mutation of calla lily and wisteria.

Rita, a young friend of mine, had dropped in for a visit before Christmas and brought me, among other  things, two philodendron leaves, so I created this rather large arrangement in her honour.

Usually, when I go into my garden looking for materials, I have some idea of what I want to achieve and the sort of materials I need. However, I, particularly, enjoy going out without any preconcieved ideas and looking for inspiration from my garden. A few days ago, before the onset of this searing heat that we are enduring, I took my hasami and went into the garden. I found myself in the Monstera Deliciosa 'patch'. I call it a 'patch' because it has been allowed to grow, unchecked, and has taken over a large section of my garden. But, I digress. So, I found this delicate unfurling leaf and brought it in. I made the first arrangement, using with it crucifix orchids. This lasted for only two days before the leaf unfurled further and became floppy. Then I re-arranged it in the tall, stainless steel container using the same crucifix orchids and garlic flowers at the back.

Bull rushes from Red Hill and gymea leavves

Remember this branch? OK. You would be justified in asking 'How many arrangements can she make with the one interesting branch?' Quite a few, it seems, because here's another.

Bye for now,