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,

Friday, 5 January 2018

With our little cherubs - Hermione, Xavier, Aria and Althea on Christmas Eve
Hello all,

And a very happy New Year to each and every one of you. As New Year's Eve revelry goes, ours was quite tame in keeping with our age. We spent it with family and friends at my sister Vicky's where we ate to excess, played games and watched the fireworks on TV. As I said, quite tame!

We're all on holiday mode, spending as much time as we can with the children and introducing them to new experiences. We went cherry picking last week at the Red Hill Cherry Farm. We all enjoyed the day - the weather was perfect, the cherries large and sweet and plentiful  and the staff were particularly friendly and helpful. We collected as much as we wanted in the buckets provided, then paid for them and left to go to lunch. After a leisurely lunch we took the one hour drive home, with the little ones fast asleep in their seats.

Auntie Lucy showing Aria and Althea how to pick the cherries without breaking
the stems
And here they are with their harvest!
On Monday, New Year's Day, Sam and I took Xavier and Hermione to the Werribee Open Range Zoo. It was a long and tiring day. We were impressed that the children were keen to see all the animals until we realized that they had an ulterior motive. When we entered the zoo they were given a pamphlet with stickers. With each animal they saw, they were to place the sticker in the correct spot.

At lunch at the Meerkats Cafe, placing their stickers onto the corresponding animals
Nothing like an ice cream on a hot day
We might be on holidays from classes but ikebana is never far away. On our way back from Red Hill there are many pine trees - Pinus Radiata'. I found one that had been trimmed back from the road, thus creating interesting shapes. I brought some home and proceeded to arrange it. Pine is usually hard to arrange because of the way the branches grow from the trunk. They tend to droop downwards, so that when the stem is placed in a container it is tipped at an awkward angle with the pine needles facing downwards. The needles must always be facing up. It took some doing but I managed to place them correctly.

The stem is placed on the container horizontaly, using wire onto a horizontal fixture.
I keep the container filled to the brim with water so that the pine stem stays wet.
I used white agapanthus and pink hydrangeas.

This is a single stem of pine. I used with it blue hydrangeas
You would be aware by now that my garden is very important to me. I started gardening to feed my need for ikebana materials but it has grown from there, as has my knowledge and love of plants. I'm far from an authority in gardening but I often surprise myself at the things I have learnt. 

It has been predicted that tomorrow will be a scorcher of a day with temperatures reaching the low forties. I spent quite some time this afternoon preparing my garden to survive the extreme heat. I watered thoroughly, thanks to our rainwater tanks that are brimming after the rains we had. I cut away all the roses, as they will become crisp in the heat. At this time of year my hydrangeas are in full bloom but they are sensitive plants, so I go to some lengths to protect them. Whenever the temperature reaches past 35 degrees, after watering them well, I cover them will old sheets. This works a treat. During the day, I spray water over the sheets to keep them cool and hydrated.

This is how one of my hydrangeas looks at the moment. Mind you, I've cut at least
a dozen flowers from it already
Here she is under cover.
Another material I have in great abundance - agapanthus.

Bye for now and stay cool.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Hello all,

And welcome to the Christmas issue. You may well ask what am I doing writing the blog on Christmas morning but I worked so hard and ran around like a hairy goat leading up to today, I baked and gave away to friends and family hundreds of biscuits that, now, I'm relatively free. Of course, the fact that my niece and her husband are hosting Christmas lunch is the real reason that I'm free.

Our last class for the year always has the theme 'A celebratory Arrangement' and, those who attended, all chose to make a Christmas one.

The giant ball, above, measures 80 cm in diameter and took some doing to, firstly. get the materials inside it and secondly to hang in front of the stairs. But it was worth the effort s it is the first thing people see when entering our house.

Dianne, who just started lessons, used
Eucalyptus, Roses and hydrangea

Shaneen Used papyrus, cherries, pittosporum
and mizuhiki

Bredenia used pine, roses, agapanthus and gold beads

Vicky used a dried branch sprayed white with cyprus, Asiatic lilies and baubles 

Nicole used agapanthus, wisteria sprayed gold and baubles

Guy used holly, roses and agapanthus
Lei used dried material from the date palm, celosias, chrisanthemums
and Christmas lilies
Lucy used pine, hydrangeas, mizuhiki and beads
I used dogwod (cornus Norman Haddon), hydrangeas and mizuhiki
I leave you with these two, rather fun, arrangements in which I used garlic flowers. My beloved thought he had planted spring onions in the vege patch but they turned out to be garlic, so I let them go to seed and coaxed them to bend.

The flower here is a Crucifix orchid
Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating the day and happy holidays to al the rest. Catch up in the new year.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Coloured mulberry branch, strelitzia reginae and
New Zealand flax

Hello all,

You may remember the above mulberry branch from the exhibition piece I did for the Sogetsu annual exhibition in November. It was easier to create a new wall arrangement than to try and find a place to store such a large branch. So, here it is. And it has undergone a number of transformations with the replacement of flowers and leaves as they die. It is still on the wall with mauve hydrangeas for flowers.

Catching up on some of the work done in class, here are some of the arrangements with the theme - 'To be viewed from above'.

My arrangement using canna lily leaves, hiippeastrums and the stem of a palm leaf
that was lying around
Vicky used gymea leaves and roses

Aurelia used the leaves and flower from her banksia tree and hydrangeas

Bredenia used acacia aphylla, proteas and scabiosas
Lucy used large loquat leaves and green Goddess lily

And another couple of arrangements I did with materials that were lying around in my ikebana room and for which I could not be bothered finding storage.

This agave was used in a previous arrangement and had
partially dried. What was left, I could not throw away, so I created
this arrangement with ornithogalum
A showcase for my peones, which were quite prolific this year (finally!)
I, initially, was going to remove the petals that fell but I changed
my mind, as I thought they were quite charming.
Bye for now,

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Ornithogalum, acacia aphylla and mizuhiki

Hello all,

I made the arrangement, above, for our last Ikebana International meeting. Usually, the mizuhiki is used as a final accent on a celebratory arrangement. However, I wanted to make more of a feature of it, using it as an unconventional material. The glass vases are such a striking red colour that I only use them for Christmas arrangements. For more photographs of that meeting please go to

In my last post I wrote about the training for Book 5 and workshops in Sydney. Misei Ishikawa Sensei demonstrated the correct way to arrange Japanese iris (Hanashobu, Iris ensata) and explained that in Japan the leaves of this iris are more expensive to buy than the flowers. And now I know why. I have a number of pots with this iris growing very successfully and, when I returned from Sydney, they were in full bloom. One of my first tasks was to cut and arrange them but, when it came to cutting the leaves, I found that most of them grow curved sideways or are quite floppy. In my arrangement, below I wanted to create a pond-like arrangement using three kenzans and three different groups of iris with leaves. As you can see, the leaves are not standing as vertically as they should.

Last Tuesday, was the last meeting of our Sogetsu chapter, after which, I ran a workshop with the theme - 'Ikebana using Fabric.' I had suggested to the members to treat this as the theme 'Fresh and unconventional material' using the fabric as the unconventional material. It was a day of great weather extremes with the Bureau of Meteorology warning people to avoid unnecessary travel for fear of possible flooding. I was quite relieved to see the 13 members who braved the elements to attend. Once there, we had fun exploring this new material and the feedback I got was all positive.

I had set up the three arrangements, below, as examples and I demonstrated  the fourth. For more photographs of the workshop please go to our Sogetsu blog.

Thai silk, cymbidium orchids and alstroemeria leaves
In ceramic vase
Sculptural aluminium stand with two different
obi fabrics and one gymea leaf

Silk chiffon, strelitzzia nicolai and kiwi vine in two glass vases
Red silk velvet, gold pleated fabric and mahonia leaves in two ceramic suibans
Recently I agreed to make an arrangement for an exhibition by artist, Beau Emmett. His exhibition ran for five weeks and I was to maintain the arrangement for the duration. However, after replacing the original material in the first week, I felt it would be more interesting to make different arrangements each week.

'Xanadu, an installation by Beau Emmett, explores the idea of the home and the tensions implicit in the universal quest and desire for comfort and stability in amongst shifting, precarious and at times volatile circumstances.  Emmetts collection of found images, soundscapes and obsession with ghost houses and a particular volcano come together to reiterate the concept that the home is a psychic space where consideration must be given to spirit of all things—animate and inanimate.'

The exhibition space with the ikebana arrangement in front of the screen and the
foam sculpture representing volcano
Japanese maple, roses and ornithogalum. Of course, when in situ, the maple draped
over the edge of the pedestal, unlike in this photo, where it touches the floor

Nandina domestica and strelitzia reginae flowers in ceramic vase

Dogwood, hippeastrum flowers and red coloued wisteria vine in ceramic container

New Zealnd flax and strelitzia reginae flowers

I leave you with this fun arrangement made last night by my student, Guy Pascoe, who is only in Book one of the curriculum but, who has studied fine arts and works as a florist for a large hotel.

Stems from unknown succulent and my first gloriosa
lily with vividly coloured plastic.
Bye for now,