Monday, 25 August 2014

Om swastyastu from Bali.

I'm writing this blog whilst sitting by the pool in a hotel in Denpasar. Sam and I arrived here three days ago in desperate need of some R&R knowing, that unless we went away, we would not be able to rest. I left the writing of the blog for when I got here because there was absolutely no time to do it at home.

So, here we are at the beautiful Chedi hotel in Sakala. Being winter, the temperature is a perfect 28 degrees with a light balmy breeze and the staff are all extremely friendly and eager to please. It seems no request is too much trouble for them. The hotel is new and luxurious. Also, this being their off season, they are not very busy, making it ideal for us.

It's probably just as well that I don't have heliconias like these growing in my garden because they wouldn't last long but Oh, how much I would enjoy arranging them!

I had to include a photograph of these exquisite frangipanies, which grow in great abundance here because they take me back to my wedding day. They were imported from Queensland for my bridal bouquet.

Surrounded by all this lush, tropical vegetation, the ikebanist in me was salivating. I resisted for the first day but the next I asked Dea from Guest Services if I could cut some material and do an arrangement. She was very helpful, giving me permission and providing me with a pair of scissors.

Of course, I have no containers, kenzans or any other tools but, as an experienced ikebanist, I improvised. I used the waste paper basket for a container and some toothpicks to join stems. I even had to resort to the sewing kit for needle and thread to hold the leaves together. This is the first time I 'sewed' ikebana. The important thing is, I had fun! Below is my tropical creation.

There was a lot going on at home, recently, family wise as well as ikebana wise.

For class I had set the theme 'The Challenge of the New', which was a theme for a class that Iemoto conducted when I was in Tokyo and I thought my students would find interesting. They were to use containers of mine that they had not used before. In preparation I, too, made arrangements in new containers.

The first is in a container I bought from the sale of Glynn Lemeiris ikebana collections after her passing. I used fine wisteria branches twisted around to follow the shape of the container and extend forward. I used my cymbidium orchids and a little bit of some very thorny wattle on the right.

The next arrangement is in a container I have used before however, the metal piece I used with it is new and was bought at headquarters. It helps to support this very heavy curved lily and its leaf

On 10th August we had a family celebration with 35 guests for lunch, preparations for which took up a lot of time before the event and, of course, cleaning up afterwards. There was also time devoted to arrangements around the house some of which are featured in the photographs below. To be perfectly honest, whenever we're entertaining, my first priority is the ikebana arrangements and then I worry about the food.

A while ago, when I was cleaning up around my pots, I discovered that the roots from the agave had escaped the pot and were growing underneath creating a delicate lace-like material. I sprayed it black and used it in this rather large glass container with my home grown anthurium and it's leaf.

For the dining table I wanted something light that would not obstruct guests' view of each other, so I used this glass decanter and light wisteria branches, dietes leaves and the last rose from the garden.

The food was buffet style and was placed on two large trestle tables. The arrangement below was placed on a stand on the table to elevate it above the food and was an interesting focal point for the room as it measures over 1.5 metres across.

The next morning, utterly worn out, I stumbled into the Gasworks Gallery with the same arrangement and placed it on the plinth for the Ikebana International Exhibition. It took a lot to secure it in the car without damaging the long dogwood branches or the lilies but I managed it.

A number of people asked me how I bent the lilies. The answer is I 'train' them as they grow. I push down the buds when they are very young and pliable and secure them, so that as they grow, they reach for the sun, thus creating a permanent bend.

I direct you to the Ikebana International blog for photographs of more arrangements.

Two days later, I had class with Elizabeth Angell who set the theme 'Using Rope or Packaging Material'. I enjoyed playing with some of the rope I have in my storeroom and I made the three arrangements below.


I leave you here as the swimming pool beckons.

Bye for now,

Monday, 4 August 2014


Before I start this post, I'd like to let you know of a couple of Ikabana events that are coming up.

Ikebana International
Melbourne Chapter Exhibition
12th - 17th August
9.00am - 4.00pm
Gasworks Arts Park
21 Graham Street, Albert Park

Box Hill Floral Art Exhibition
13th - 14th September
Box Hill Town Hall
1022 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill
Although this is a western floral art group, my students and I have been invited to exhibit Sogetsu Ikebana in the foyer. Also, three of us senior ikebanists will be given a choice of paintings from which to pick one and do an arrangement to complement that painting. I'm really looking forward to that.

And one more thing - in the Links part of my blog I've added two more - Sogetsu School of Ikebana Victorian Branch and Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter.

So it's winter in Melbourne and I don't mind. I find I work a lot better in the cold than the heat but, of course, I prefer more temperate weather. Today started very cold but the sun has come out and it has turned into a glorious day. I've really enjoyed walking around outside collecting material for my ikebana.

When we built our house 23 years ago, we had plans drawn up for a low maintenance garden. However, I started ikebana shortly after we moved in and started planting all the interesting material I saw the other ikebanists using. At one point I had the number of my local nursery on speed dial. I was also given many cuttings and plants by generous members of our group and every time I use each of these plants, they remind me of the person who gave it to me.

So, now I have a prolific, high maintenance garden so that even in winter I can find many interesting materials such as branches, berries, leaves, as well as some flowers - calla lilies, green goddess lilies, hallebores, cymbidium orchids, some early jonquils, Siberian dogwood, Strelitzias and Japonicas. And, of course, let's not forget camellias. I get very excited when I see the first buds on my favourite, the Kamo Honnami. For those who don't know this camellia, it is single petaled, white and slightly tubular in shape. Not a vigorous grower but produces flowers over a long period. I can't resist including a photo.

When I returned from Japan in mid June, my Japanese Flowering Apricot (prunus mume) had started blooming and has continued to date. It has the most delightful fragrance and delicate pale pink flowers. I used it in this large arrangement with my pink camellias.

I also used it in this tall arrangement in my newly acquired container together with the ubiquitous calla lilies.

Continuing the winter theme, the very first of my banksia rose blossoms had to be cut and I used them with this creamy yellow camellia called 'Jury's Yellow'. I love it for its colour but also because it was given to me by my friend Merryl Jessup. This arrangement also fits the theme 'Colours in the Same Tonal Range'

The camellia in this next arrangement is much loved and used because it prolifically and grows well, so I can keep cutting without damaging or reducing the plant. Unfortunately, I lost the name tag so I don't know what it is called. Another winter flowering tree is the wattle, of which there are many varieties in my neighbourhood and I used one here. Wattles are bright and beautiful but they don't last once they are cut, so I don't use them very often.

This little wall arrangement is made with a piece of dried date palm material and two anthuriums, which I grew in my bathroom.

Last weekend our Sogetsu group had two days of very productive workshops with Yoshiro Umemura, who came down from Sydney. We always enjoy workshops with Yosh and we get a lot out of them. He is a consummate teacher and his calm and relaxed manner is conducive to learning and putting people at ease.

Below are a couple of photos of Yosh's demonstration of an 'Arrangement to be Viewed from all Angles'.


Below is my arrangement for the same theme. I used pieces of a very large, dried, tropical Strelitzia, an aspidistra leaf and berries in this big but narrow container. Because it is difficult to work out this arrangement from one side, I am including four different views


Lucy made this very interesting spider-like arrangement using umbrella grass, variegated flax and rose hips.

We also had the theme 'Intertwining Plant Materials' and below is my example. I used a bigger piece of the same dried date palm, as above, dietes leaves, variegated flax and one calla lily.

For the theme 'Showing Lines at Base', I found these cottoneaster berries branches that have beautiful curves. Unfortunately, they don't photograph well because the depth is lost. I used this large container that I made years ago and had to employ some serious mechanics to get the very heavy branches to stay upright. I finished off the arrangement with yellow asiatic lilies. I left my hasami in the picture to give some idea of size.

The final theme was 'Repeating Similar Forms or Shapes'. We had an interesting discussion about what constitutes a form or a shape and how it all applies to this theme. I used the stems and a very small part of philodendron leaves to create rough triangles, I added two calla lilies up high and some of the aerial roots from the philodendron at the mouth of this large container.

You can see a lot more pictures from the workshops if you go to the Sogetsu Link. Christopher James puts a lot of time and effort in photographing and editing, so the photos are really rather good under the circumstances.

I leave you with this last arrangement, which I did for my class with Elizabeth using a bare branch. I did it in a container that always reminds me of my father, whom I lost 14 years ago. He and mum had dropped  in on the day I was working on it on my kitchen bench and he sat and watched me the whole time with a bemused look on his face.