Tuesday, 14 March 2017


Lucy and I have been working on this project since November last year and, finally, we can unveil it.

We were commissioned to do a permanent, sculptural installation against a wall of a newly-built apartment complex in Northcote. This was both exciting and challenging as neither of us had done anything like this before.

There were a number of problems for which we had to find solutions. The first was the dimensions of the site. It is 7 metres long but only 60 cm deep, so our design had to be almost vertical. This is where our ikebana training came to the fore. We used stainless steel poles through alucobond (the blue material), which we tilted, giving the impression of greater depth than we had.

Our second consideration was how to make it safe and strong enough to be in a public space, so we chose stainless steel and alucobond, a type of cladding material. We spent a great deal of time on the mechanics that would hold the whole structure in the right position whilst the concrete was poured around it and then set. However, and this may be hard to believe, the most difficult problem we had to solve was the correct position of the holes in the alucobond for the poles to go through. In the process of solving all these problems, we learnt a great deal, making any possible subsequent project easier. Oh, and I should add that our clients are very happy with the result.

Because it is so difficult to photograph, I thought I would try using a video here. I'm not very confident with technology but here goes!

OK, so once I published this post I discovered that the video will only play on my lap top, not on my iPad or my phone. So I apologize to those of you who may not be able to see it.


Back to class now. The theme I set the senior students was a combination of Book 4 lesson 2 - 'With leaves only' and Book 4 lesson 13 - 'Dried, Bleached or coloured material.'

Lucy used 1 strelitzia nicolai dried leaf and 3 green strlitzia reginae leaves

Vicky used 1 dried agave and 1 fresh
gymea leaf
Bredenia used strelitzia juncea leaves with
dried strelitzia nicolai leaves

I used 2 fresh birds nest ferns and 2 dried aspidistra
'Vegetables and/or Fruits in an Arrangement' - Nicole and I had similar ideas, using square glass containers

Nicole used squash and figs with a wisteria vine 
I used cherry tomatoes, an egg plant and
a snake bean

By the way, I'm preparing for my trip to Okinawa for the Ikebana International World Convention. I plan to take part in the exhibition and I have the honour of being asked to be one of the member demonstrators, the thought of which is both exciting and daunting. Also, I'm looking forward to meeting any of you that will be attending. If you recognize me, I would be delighted if you would come and say hello.

Until next time,

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Hello everyone,

Last week our group held its first meeting for the year which included its AGM and a workshop lead by Betty and Toula Karanikolopoulos, my sisters-in-law. The theme for the workshop was 'An arrangement combining panty hose and wire in a sculptural form'. The girls made a number of quite amazing and creative pieces. Unfortunately, due to grandparenting duties, I had to leave the workshop early and didn't take any photographs. I would strongly encourage you to go to our website at sogetsuikebanavic.weebly.com for all the photographs.

I really enjoyed playing with these materials and made the piece below.

The brief also indicated that we were to use a vase and fresh materials to complete the piece but I felt mine didn't need it. However, in order to comply with the brief, I tried a number of flowers and leaves and finally settled on the amaranthus in a square, white container. I still feel it looks better without it. What do you think?

Having one leg of each of the pantyhose left over, I played a little bit more, this time with colours.

I couldn't even throw the scraps away, hence the playful piece below. The hosta leaves and flower are from a plant that was given to me by my colleague Lee Johnstone many years ago but has only just flowered, so had to be used.

Recently my sisters and I had occasion to visit the garden of Glenda Nielsen. I have known Glenda for a long time through our mutual love of our respective floral art and our appreciation of each other's work. We have, also, collaborated in doing the flowers in a couple of weddings. I'm not able to enumerate all of Glenda's achievements in floral art but, suffice to say, she has dedicated her life to it in all its forms including acting as judge for many years. She is now retired but, clearly, has not stopped gardening or practicing her floral art.

Glenda's garden, when seen from the front, looks deceptively small but is, in fact, quite long and narrow with something of interest at every turn, including a glass house at the end. It is definitely a floral artist's garden, rich in material for her use.

The garden also has a very generous owner. No sooner did we show some interest in a particular plant, than Glenda would pick up a shovel and dig some up for us. There were many interesting plants but, for us, the piece de resistance was the viburnum setigerum with its glorious berries that look like they're made of glass. All in all, a very pleasant afternoon. Thank you Glenda.

Glenda in front of her viburnum setigerum

A close-up of the berries of vibunum setigerum

In preparation for my trip to Okinawa next month for the Ikebana International convention, I needed birds nest ferns with which to practice. Two very kind ladies provided me with this precious resourse - my student Shaneen Garbutt and colleague Lee Johnstone. With the leftovers I created this wall arrangement.

Bye for now and stand by for my next post. I have something special to share with you.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Good morning everyone,
I say "good morning" because I'm writing this at some ungodly hour, unable to sleep due to a pesky mosquito in my bedroom! So, if you find mistakes, please forgive me, It's due to sleep deprivation.

Those of you who follow Christopher James' blog would have seen recently a tree that he featured from the Botanical gardens called Castanospermum australe ,also known as Moreton Bay chestnut, Australian chestnut, Black bean or Lucky bean. At about the same time my cousin Nick dropped in carrying a potted plant of the same tree saying he thought it was unusual and that I would like it, so he bought it for me.

The fully grown tree from Christopher's blog. It
produces bicoloured red and yellow flowers. The fruit
is a cylindrical pod with chestnut-like seeds.

My potted plant. Notice the chestnut-like seeds
from which it was grown

Now, back to ikebana. My student, Aurelia is a scientist working in a research lab where they use a casing made of grey sponge to secure various vials. At her suggestion, we decided to use these casings in ikebana following the theme 'Fresh and Unconventional materials'. The photos below show what they look like in the lab.

And here's what we did with them.

The two photographs, below, are of Vicky's arrangements where she used only some of the removable parts of the casing. She used with them Bougainvillea and umbrella grass stems.

In the next two arrangements Lucy Papas used both the large pieces of spongy casings as well as some removable pieces.

Umbrella grass stems and roses

Umbrella grass stems

The arrangement below was made by Aurelia Dong and I debated whether to include it here because the photograph doesn't do it justice. Because the aspedistra leaf extends forward, it tends to look bigger that it is and obscures the container. But, I can assure you, it is a good arrangement.

The next two are mine. We really enjoyed this exercise with the only problem being where to stop. We had so many ideas but not enough time.

New Zealand flax and bull

I used bull rushes on a glass base that has two holes, through which I
put the stems. Under the glass base is a container with water.

My arrangement of 'Disassembling and Rearranging the Materials'.

Aurelia's arrangement of 'With Branches Only'. She used
smoke bush and walnut branches

My freestyle arrangement using bull rushes, dietes and crucifix
orchid. I was given plants of the orchid by Helen Novic and
also by Shaneen Garbutt
Bye for now,

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Hello all,

Well, classes resumed yesterday with renewed enthusiasm after the holiday break. For each of the senior students I provided one very big philodendron leaf on a long stem and asked them to make an arrangement in a container of their choice, with or without other material. Below are my three examples:

This simple looking arrangement took me over an hour to work out
mechanics that would prevent the leaf, which is separated from
the stalk, from falling backwards.

Balance was also an issue with this
heavy lleaf
I partially stripped the leaf and used crocosmia and
agapanthus though it

The two arrangements, below, are by Bredenia Raquel.

This next one is by Vicky Kalokathis.

It's hard to see against the white background but there is a large, round,
white container, around which the stripped leaf is draped
The next two are by Lucy Papas

A small part of the large leaf with Crocosmia

This large, heavy leaf is perfectly balanced in this
ceramic container. It looks to me like it's wearing
a stiletto!
Nicole MacDonald's two 'Simplified arrangements' are next. The containers were each a gift from classmates for Christmas.
Flax and green goddess lily

Stripped agapanthus and Crocosmia

This is my example of the same theme

Aurelia Dong's class theme was 'With Leaves Only' and she made the two arrangements below.

This is my example

You would be justified if this next arrangement caused  you confusion. You don't, normally, see wisteria flowering this time of year but these stems were brought to class last night by my new student, Guy Pascoe. I had to arrange them despite the fact that there is absolutely no place in the house to put another arrangement.

Bye for now,

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Agapanthus in abundance!

Hello everyone,
The photograph above is of my agapanthus bed, which covers approximately 20 sq. metres and is at its absolute best at the moment. Ok, I admit, this borders on 'showing off', but look at it - there are hundreds of flower heads and they're all mine! 'Agapanthus' comes from the Greek and it means 'Love flower'. And I absolutely love them.

Agapanthus praecox is a very common sight in Melbourne and a tough and versatile plant, often planted on roadsides and hostile environments, where other plants would not survive. The reason I had originally planted them in that position was because there were two large pine trees growing there and, after trying, unsuccessfully, to grow all sorts of plants under them, I gave up. Then my sister-in-law, Toula gave me some agapantthus plants, which survived and I kept planting more and more. About three years ago the pine trees died and had to be removed. Since then the agapanthus have been growing as if on steroids. Some of the flower heads are 25 cm in diameter and the stems are thick and strong.

In ikebana they are useful in all their different stages. I've used the leaves, which are lush and green all year round, the buds on their long and straight stems, the flowers, of course, and then, what I call 'the toilet brush' stage. And after they dry, I have sprayed them many different colours and used them with other fresh materials. They, also, allow me to manipulate them by bending the young flower buds so that their stems grow into delightfully twisted shapes. My friend, Parthena, calls this 'plant molestation' but she's a bit of a smarty pants.

Agapanthus buds with Alstroemeria in a large, Graham Wilke

Two arrangements featuring the twisted stems

They are perfect when massed
This is an old photograph of a Christmas arrangement featuring the dried and sprayed white
Below are a couple of examples of re-using materials.

You may remember the arrangement on the left, which I made using acacia aphylla and two Green Goddess lilies. When the acacia aphylla dried I sprayed it white and used it with the twisted agapanthus.

The Gymea leaves can last for many weeks and when I took down the Christmas arrangement, below, they were still a healthy green and I was loathe to discard them. I used one of them in the second arrangement, again, with agapanthus.

Bye for now,