Sunday, 22 October 2017

Hello all,

The rhizome for the iris, above, was given to me by Lyn Thomas, a former student. When she offered it to me she referred to it as 'flesh coloured', to which Lucy and I screwed up our faces. When it flowered, however, we were delighted. Lyn doesn't know the name of the iris but I looked up my iris book and found one that looks very much like it called 'Smoke Rings'. I arranged it in the traditional ikebana style, finished off with Japanese maple.

It's been a particularly busy fortnight, ikebana-wise, with Ikebana Intenational meeting on the 10th, two days of workshops with Yoshiro Umemura last weekend, classes on Wednesday and now preparing for a Sogetsu Exhibition in early November. More about that later.

The theme for the Ikebana International meeting was Japanese Day, so we were asked to make arrangements with the theme 'Memories of Japan'. I used in my arrangement Viburnum Opulus while still green, as I had first used it that way in class at Headquarters in 2014. I loved the vivid green of the flowers. The instructor on the day told me that this material is part of the Hydrangea family and I should dip the stem in burnt alum to help it last longer. A number of our Japanese members demonstrated the use of mizuhiki for gift wrapping and, also made origami bags with a mizuhiki 'knot'inside for everyone. And the light lunch that was provided at the end was delicious. For all the photographs please go to


The themes for Yoshiro's workshops were all from Book 5. The first was Lesson 3 - Arrangements on the Table' Mine was for a coffee table, so the view from above was important.

Dietes leaves, strelitzias and alstroemeria leaves
The second workshop was Lesson 9 - 'Floor Position Arrangements'. Apart from the description in English in the book, Yoshiro explained that the arrangement was meant to appear to be rising out of the ground.

Green Goddess lilies and stem of palm leaf

The third workshop was Lesson 20 - 'Complementing an Art Work'. In this theme we were to incorporate the art work in our arrangement. I picked a print, which I treasure because it was given to me by my friend Akiko Takahira. I made my arrangement to continue 'the story'.

Close-up of the print

I used bamboo and lilac in ceramic container

And the final workshop was Lesson 24 -  'Using Various Locations'. I chose this storeroom door in a dull blue colour. Yoshiro explained that if we were to make an arrangement on a wall we needed to incorporate the space around it and not to just make a 'Wall Arrangement'. I tried to do this by using the door handle, on to which I attached some of the material, continuing the line towards the circle. The door frame acted as a frame for the arrangement.

I have to give credit to our members, as the work produced in all four of the workshops was quite impressive. Please go to our blog for Yoshiro's arangements as well as our members'.

For class last week, Vicky, after cutting back her agave, provided us with ample material for a workshop on this very strong but also versatile material. It is a favourite of mine and I have used it in so many different ways in the past, that coming up with something new was challenging.Below is my arrangement. After creating the structure and placing it with this heavy container, I looked around my garden for complementary material to use as a mass but nothing satisfied me. I used the calla lilies as the best of a bad lot. A few days later, my yellow mollis azalea flowered and I replaced the lilies with it. For the green mass at the back I used my trusty alstroemeria leaves.

Aurelia Dong
Nicole McDonald
Lucy Papas

Bredenia Raquel
Vicky Kalokathis
Today is a cold and wet Melbourne day but we recently had some very warm weather, which was appreciated by all, including some of the fauna inhabiting our garden. I almost stepped on this blue toungued lizard when I turned the corner to go to the back garden. It had a companion, that scurried away at my approach but this one seemed quite comfortable in my presence. Later that day, Sam saw a juvenile lizard walking across the path. We feel privileged to be living in an area where we can have wildlife such as these lizards, the occasional tawny frogmouth, a family of cookaburras, frogs and dozens and dozens of birds. There are, however, some drawbacks such as the possums that eat all our fruit and the one that has made our windowsill its home. It cuts branches from my conifer and carries them to the window sill, making its bed with them. when the branches dry, it drops them in to my garden and goes and cuts new ones. Every single day! Then there was the Crow with a megaphone that sat on the pittosporum  outside my window at some ungodly hour of the morning and who had a great deal to say. The expression 'Stone the Crows!' came vividly to mind.

Our Sogetsu group's annual exhibition will be held at the Malvern Artist's Society Gallery (1297-99 High St. Malvern) from Thursday 2nd November until Tuesday 7th, from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. I will be on duty there on Tuesday afternoon.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Bamboo culm sheath and bromeliad flower
Hello all,

I think I was always meant to study ikebana as is evidenced by a number of vases suited to ikebana that I bought long before I knew anything about this art form. I bought the little vase, above, in 1988 in Athens, three years before I started ikebana.

My grandchildren usually pay no attention to my arrangements. They seem to have accepted them as part of the furniture. Except for the arrangement, above, which is more that a metre tall, requiring 15 stems of Green Goddess lilies and which caught the eye of my granddaughter, Hermione. She said she liked it because it looked like a water fountain.

I made this arrangement because my rhododendron demanded it.

And now for some class work. The two arrangements, below have the theme - 'Keeping in Mind the View from Below'

I used flowering elm branch and rhododendron
flowers in this wall arrangement. 
Aurelia used freesias and alstroemeria leaves

I set the senior girls the theme from book 5 - 'Composing with Branches - A Two-step Approach'. First we created a composition using cut branches that could stand alone. Then, we introduced an appropriate container and fresh materials to complete the arrangement.

The two photographs, below, are my attempts at this exercise. I found a rather large elm branch on the ground and used it by cutting the thicker parts, creating a base and adding the finer branches at the top.  Thereby creating a type of mass. I tried many containers before I settled on this one. Most of them looked too heavy, whereas this one, with the opening in the middle seemed to fit the bill best. The clivias just finished it off.

Bredenia used thick contorted hazel branches with clivias and
alstroemeria leaves

Lucy used dried pine branches with flowering elm
In my absence my stachyurus came into full flower and I almost missed it. However, I managed to get this one arrangement from it.

I leave you with this arrangement which epitomizes  spring.

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum and Dutch iris
Bye for now,

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

This photograph was taken with my phone through the bus window, so the quality is
poor. You can find much better on the internet.
Hello all,

Sam and I have just returned from a trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock). This trip was in our bucket list for more than 20 years and, finally, we can tick it off.

I've seen pictures of Uluru many times and I knew it was majestic but I was unprepared for the emotions I felt as I stood at its base. I hope it doesn't sound corny but it was almost spiritual. I consider myself a pragmatist and not given to such sentimentality but I was truly moved by the majesty and history, both geological and human of this natural wonder. My limited vocabulary cannot do justice to it.

For my non-Australian readers, the Rock is a giant monolith the second largest in the world, surpassed only by Mount Augustus in Western Australia". Its dimensions are : 348 m above ground, with most of its bulk lying underground, 3.6 km long and 2.4 km wide. It is situated almost in the centre of Australia, in the desert. It is a deeply spiritual place for the Indigenous Australians.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has a number of attractions such as Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), King's Canyon, Uluru/Ayers Rock and at present there is a light installation by artist Bruce Munro called Field of Light. He used 50,000 individually crafted delicate 'light stems'. The area that it covers has been described as equal to seven football fields.

This photograph is from a great distance of the light installation in the foreground
and Uluru in the background

We walked through this surreal installation after having enjoyed a sumptuous dinner under the stars in the desert. We only had candle light on our tables and, after the meal, the lights were turned off so that we could appreciate the night sky. Without the usual light pollution, the stars were brilliant. I've never seen the Milky Way so clearly before. It was magical!

Again, I don't want to turn this into a travelogue, so I leave it to those of you who are interested to find out more about this place. I can honestly say that it is well worth the effort and cost involved to get there. The only down side, for me, was the heat - high thirties every day. Perhaps we should have gone in winter.

One more thing, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of vegetation in the desert. I did not expect to see so many trees and bushes that have evolved in this very harsh environment  but, we were told, that there have been unusually good rains in the last 18 months. There were even lawn areas around the resort we stayed in.

Among the many fascinating plants, this Grevillea Bush Lemons was the first plant to catch my eye as we drove into the resort. From a distance it looks like little parrots sitting on the tips of branches. We were told that the flowers have nectar which the Aborigines suck without removing the flowers from the bush. They also use the nectar to mix with water to make a sweet drink. 

Oh, and I had to include this iconic Sturt's Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa), a favourite of mine. 
And now back to ikebana.

At our last Ikebana International meeting, our guest speaker was Dr Peter Haeusler, an expert on clivias, whose talk on the subject was most informative.

I volunteered to do the demonstration using clivias. Unfortunately, I had no actual flowers in my garden though I had plenty of buds and leaves. Under the circumstances, I decided I would do something creative with the leaves. This proved to be more difficult than I imagined. The leaves are not very versatile, as they snap when bent near the base. They don't split very well and have the tendency to look quite boring when used naturalistically. I did, however, discover that they can last, very well, without water for at least two weeks.

Below are the  photographs of my two attempts.

I used the split in the container to wedge the leaves
creating the curves. The flowers are not going
sideways but coming forward

This was a little bit of fun. I twisted the leaves together
and pushed them into each 'cone' of the container 
and added one berry

For more photographs from our meeting, please go to

Vicky recently pruned her kiwi vine and kindly offered some cuttings to me. So I went to town with them -

Original wall arrangement with calla lilies and
alstroemeria leaves

After the lilies died I replaced them with a
cymbidium orchid stem and flowering broom

The original arrangement in a container I made myself. I used
monstera deliciosa flowers with the kiwi vine

And after the monstera flowers died I replaced them with two
cymbidium orchid stems. If you look closely, you'll see that 
there are leaves growing on the vine.

'Arrangements on the Table':

Vicky used clivias, alstroemeria leaves and wisteria vine in this very shiny
stainless steel container

Bredenia used Bird's nest fern and clivias

I used only calla lilies in another self made container
I think this is probably enough.
Bye for now,

Sunday, 10 September 2017

My piece at the recent Ikebana International exhibition.
Copper piping and leucadendron 

Photography and ikebana.

I wanted to share with you some of my experiences with photographing my arrangements.

I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination. I have a digital camera which I point and click. In my ikebana room I have had installed a cream coloured roller blind that I roll down and on which I place arrangements to photograph. Mostly this works quite well except when I have white vases or pale material which does not show up against the pale background. Also, large arrangements can protrude past the perimeter of the blind. I do some very basic editing on the computer and that's the extent of my photographic skills.

I take photographs of almost all my arrangements but I don't include them all in the blog because, often, the photograph cannot capture the beauty of the arrangement. I am reminded of some wise words uttered by Yoshiro Umemura a long time ago when he said that flat arrangements photograph best. That has, certainly, been my observation, as I try to capture a three dimensional piece in a two dimensional medium. So, I often leave out arrangements that are beautiful but photograph badly.

Having said all that, I have to, also, point out the advantages of photography in ikebana. Quite often, after photographing a piece and seeing it in the view finder, I see imperfections that I hadn't noticed before. Many is the time that I have gone back and made adjustments to my arrangement and photographed it again. Below is one example that I kept for the purpose of illustrating this point. Limited memory space in my camera means that I delete all unwanted photos.

As you can see, the adjustment of moving the small container to the right is a minor one, yet, I feel, makes a big difference to the arrangement by filling in the large gap in the centre.

Every year, at about this time, I indulge myself by making really large spring arrangements on my kitchen bench. This type of arrangement makes everyone who sees it stand and stare as it brings spring into the house when it is still very cold outside and its sheer size means it cannot be ignored. It is, however, messy and time consuming work, firstly to set up and later to maintain as it keeps dropping petals constantly.

The vase I used is as old as my marriage, as it was a wedding present from work colleagues and it housed a terrarium. In those days, I absolutely no gardening knowledge and the terrarium failed but the vase, which takes 60 litres of water, works very well for this type of arrangement. I should point out that the water was carried from the rainwater tank outside by my beloved. Below are the before and after pictures.

And now to class - "Fresh and Unconventional Materials'

Emily - Net and Aspidistra leaves

Aurelia - Rubber and banksia spinulosa (I think)

Guy Pasco's very first free style arrangement.
Bark and magnolia 'Black Tulip' ( I think)
'Featuring the uses of Water'

Here I wanted to feature the shadow cast by the leaf over the water

Here I wanted to feature the magnification
of the water in the cylindrical glass vase
and the buoyancy of the water.
Aurelia used two glass bowls with different levels of water with a New Zealand flax
leaf and camellia
I leave you with this last arrangement - 'In a Tsubo Vase' from Book 5.

'Strelitzia, clivia and Geralton wax. The branch material was found
by the roadside, so I don't know its name
Bye for now,