Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Siberian dogwood bare branch, camellias and conifer

Hello all,

At our Ikebana International meeting last month, we had the pleasure of meeting the new patrons of the Melbourne Chapter, The Consul General of Japan, Mr Matsunaga and Mrs Matsunaga.

Also, Christopher James conducted a workshop with the theme 'Working with bare branches'. The photograph, above, is of my arrangement. I used a container by Graham Wilke, which has a small opening and required some serious mechanics to secure the branch above the container. For photographs of arrangements by all members and, especially, Christopher's, please go to our blog - melbourneikebana.blogspot.com.au.

Our group met again this morning for our AGM, when we welcomed the new committee, headed by Patricia Ward as President. Afterwards, there was a demonstration by the Heads of five schools. Arrangements below -

Christopher James - Sogetsu
Yukako Braun - Ikenobo

Aiko Nakada - Ohara

Chieko Yazaki - Shogetsudokoryu
Eliasha Zhang - Ichiyo

We also had a number of arrangements by members, mine below, fits two themes - 'Shape of the container' and 'Colour of the container'. It is difficult to see the latter in the photo but the interior of the container has a dull mauve hue which is picked up by the hellebores. And on the subject of hellebores, I found that one day after they were cut and arranged, they wilted and looked quite sad. I plunged them in a bucket of water for a couple of hours, which seemed to revive them beautifully. They lasted for about two days before drooping again, when I repeated the plunging exercise with the same results.

For class last week the senior students were set the theme 'Jika Dome' - Direct Fixing, which is in Book 5. This seemingly simple fixing method can be quite challenging, especially with heavy branches, as it requires bending and balancing. In my arrangement, below, I struggled a little to balance the ginger seed heads facing inwards when gravity kept insisting on pulling them downwards.

Ginger seed heads, cordelines and hydrangeas

Vicky Kalokathis - magnolia branch and oriental

Bredenia Raquel - geranium and leucadendron salignum

The arrangement, below, has the theme 'Specific Scenes, Occasions or Spaces'. I chose to celebrate my husband's Name Day, a Greek tradition that we use as an excuse to get the family together and which falls on the 6th August (last Sunday). The dry material I used came from my bamboo, which sheds them as it grows. (If anyone knows what they're called, please let me know). These jonquils are the earliest to flower in my garden and I chose them for this arrangement because they are Sam's favourite flowers. He has fond memories of collecting wild jonquils when he was a boy in a little village in Greece and selling them to passing motorists for pocket money. While they're in season, I keep a little vase of jonquils always on his office desk.

Aurelia Dong - 'Disassembling and Rearranging the Materials
Lilly pilly

The black pine in this next arrangement was donated by some kind member of II a month ago and which looks every bit as fresh today as it did then. The kamo hon ami camellia, however, has to be replaced every few days but it's well worth the effort.

Bye for now,

Sunday, 23 July 2017

A spring oasis in a cold and dreary winter.

Hello all,
Judging from the photograph above, you can be forgiven for thinking that spring has arrived in Melbourne. Not quite. This was taken during the winter solstice but the material is Prunus mume, Japanese flowering apricot, which blooms in early winter. The large pink peones were brought to class by my student, Guy, who very generously, brought enough for all the class to share.

Our most recent Sogetsu workshop was run by Lara Telford, who had set the theme of 'Wabi Sabi and ikebana'. This is a difficult concept to describe, but Lara, after much research and, despite the restriction of only 20 minutes of explanation, managed to help us understand this Japanese aesthetic a little better. We also learnt a lot by watching her excellent critique and correction. I recommend you visit our website -  sogetsuikebanavic.weebly.com, where you'll see some very interesting work by our members.

This is the corrected version of my arrangement. I, originally, had more garrya elliptica
and hydrangeas, which Lara, quite rightly, suggested I remove.
Very often our ikebana is opportunistic. I have been doing some pruning in the garden and decided to reduce the size of my persimmon tree so that I may be able to cover it with a net to prevent possums, bats and birds from eating all the fruit. I should say here that I really don't mind sharing our fruit with the local fauna, but they don't feel the same. They have been known to strip the trees overnight, so drastic measures have to be taken. Anyway, back to ikebana. Not wanting to waste the cuttings, I gave each of the senior students a branch from the persimmon tree that they had not seen before and asked them to make an arrangement with it. They had carte blanche as to how they would use it.

For my arrangement I challenged myself by using one of the branches that grew vertically, with very little character.

Persimmon branch, oranges and cotoneaster berries
Vicky - Glass vase with chrysanthemums 

Bredenia - Caprosma caro red and hellebores 

Lucy - Tulips

The two 'Simplified Arrangements' below are mine.
Garrya eliptica and snow drop

The next two are by Aurelia

Camellia and jonquil

One of the most challenging themes in our curriculum is 'In a Suiban without Kenzan', which is near the end of Book 4. Some fixing techniques are usually required but they must be discrete and the structure should stand alone without relying on resting against the sides of the container.  This is Nicole's arrangement.

Corky elm and calla lilies
In my arrangement I used hawthorn with dark coloured berries
and New Zealand flax. Initially I tried using flowers with the
structure but it became too fussy, hence the flax.
Along with the peones that Guy brought to class, he also brought the roses that I used in the arrangement below. I also used gyamea and dietes leaves.

Below are the first of my Green Goddess lilies, that had to be picked and arranged.

Bye for now,

Monday, 10 July 2017


At Iemoto's Hana So Exhibition in April, apart from the spectacle of the 'mirror ivy leaves' and large arrangements in the stone garden, there were, also, cabinets with miniature arrangements. Photographing them was difficult as they were behind glass. I found the tiny hand made vases exquisite and when used with plant materials to create arrangements, they were an absolute delight.

Miniature ikebana is now part of the Sogetsu curriculum as a lesson in the new Book 5. It was first introduced as a style by Kasumi Teshigahara, the second Iemoto. Several tiny arrangements are usually placed on some sort of display board or base.

In class, as we are continuing to work through Book 5, we found making miniature arrangements enjoyable but, not necessarily, easy. Because of their size, the viewer is forced to look at them very closely, thus noticing every imperfection. So, great attention needs to be given to every detail and principle of ikebana.

I enlarged this photograph of my arrangements so that the tiny details can be better seen.
Lucy Papas

Vicky Kalokathis
Bredenia Raquel
A couple of lessons ago, Vicky brought me this large and quite heavy Fan Aloe (Aloe Plicatilis) and said she couldn't wait to see what I was going to do with it. Quite frankly, I'd never used this material before, so I had no idea what to do with it.

Its weight was the first difficulty to overcome and, after trying a number of large and heavy containers, I settled on one I made many years ago. The wings or buttresses help to support the aloe when placed with the weight distributed over the buttresses. In fact, it became quite stable.
Fan Aloe, cane begonia, amaranthus and hydrangeas
Two lessons later, I had set the theme from Book 5 'Glass Containers'. Although the rest of the materials in the above arrangement had died, the aloe was still very green and fresh looking, so I decided to use it in a different way. I separated the two fans and placed them in one large and one smaller glass container. Then I thought they could, also, be displayed together. I tried placing a flower in the arrangement but it looked too much like decoration, so I left it out.

Unfortunately, I could not capture in the photographs the silvery patina that appears on the leaves when they are submerged under water.

The two arrangements, below are Vicky's and, it's obvious, she had the same idea with the aloe.

Fan Aloe and Oriental lily bud

Aspidistra and rose hips

The two arrangements, below, are by Bredenia.
Strelitzia juncea leaves and contorted
hazel branch

Gymea leaf and a very early flowering japonica

Lucy showed versatility by going very modern and very naturalistic.

Strelitzia nicolai  leaf and camellias

Strelitzia stem and beefsteak begonia leaf.
Aurelia worked very hard with the mechanics needed to support the very heavy orange and lemon branches in this arrangement with the theme 'Fruit Bearing Branches'. She, very wisely, chose a heavy ceramic vase with a thick lip. The result was quite delightful.

Nicole, who is nearing the end of book 4, did this 'Arrangement with Plants on a Wall' and hung it next to the woodblock print.
Contorted willow, New Zealand flax and flowers from a succulent
Bye for now,

Friday, 30 June 2017

Ceramic container bought in Tokyo in April but sent by mail.
Recently arrived and had to be used.
Acacia aphyla and tulips

Hello all,

I've just returned from the tropics. Sam and I took a short but much needed break and headed for the warmth of tropical Queensland. We spent six glorious days in Port Douglas where the weather is absolutely perfect with warm days and balmy nights. A marked difference from cold and miserable Melbourne.

Tapeinochilos ananassae, the spiral ginger plant, blow, would be great for ikebana. Its stems grow in a spiral pattern with the leaves on the outer side of the curve. Nature's work of art.

As if the lush tropical vegetation around the resort was not enough to make this poor ikebanist's heart beat faster, I had to come across this pile of 'rubbish' on the lawn. As I stood looking at the various dry palm fronds, my mind went into overdrive - Oh, the things I could do! My 'beloved' had to gently drag me away.

I came across the flower, in the photo below, growing outside a shop and was fascinated with it. I stopped to photograph it when a kind passer-by volunteered to tell me what it was. It's called 'Bat Plant' - Tacca Integrifolia (thank you google) and it comes in either black or white. This one is the white version. I would love to know what evolutionary purpose is served by this bizarre configuration of bracts, flowers and filaments.

I don't want to turn this post into a travel log but I want to share some highlights. For those who don't already know, the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest in the world, dating back 180 million years, older by tens of millions of years than the Amazon. A sobering thought.

 Swimming in the Kassowary falls in the Daintree rainforest is definitely a highlight. The falls are situated in a privately owned property and there is only one tour company with arrangements to enter the property. Seven of us in a mini bus with a driver rattled through the rainforest, then changed to a very rough looking four wheel drive (photo below) went through locked gates, crossed water ways and arrived at the falls. It was a truly exhilarating experience to swim in the pristine pond under the falls, with fish and turtles swimming around us.

As part of the same tour we went on a short cruise on the Daintree river looking for crocodiles and other wildlife. I stopped to photograph this rather lovely yellow hibiscus, when the driver of the boat pointed to the beautifully coloured tree snake resting on a branch just above the flowers.

Near by Palm Cove boasts these giant Malaleucas, around which shops and restaurants have been built. If you look closely at the photographs, you'll see the trees growing through the roofs of the shops. An odd experience, sitting in a restaurant with a huge tree trunk next to you.

Upon our return from a walk to the Mossman Gorge, we came across this giant Golden Orb Weaver spider. It took my breath away. I estimated its size at 18 cm from tip of front legs to tip of back legs. Its web was over one sq. metre.

So, now we're back home and before I start on the accumulated laundry, I wanted to write this post. To those of you who stayed to the end, I say 'Thank you for your indulgence'.

Until next time,