Monday, 21 October 2019

Hello all,

Each spring I like to play with arum lilies by bending their stems and creating interesting curves. The above arrangement was made with such curved stems in my self made container.

Last Saturday I ran a workshop for our Sogetsu group with the theme 'Tsubo vases' from Book 5. A tsubo vase is described in the book as being a vase which has a narrow opening and wider, round body. The book describes three different techniques for fastening  branch material in a tsubo vase without the use of a kenzan. I demonstrated the techniques and had three examples ready. In the first arrangement I used the Fixing by crossing' method but, since I only had one stem of the wisteria, I used a stick to cross with the wisteria stem and cut it short, thus hiding it in the vase. It held up the wisteria very securely. I fitted the rhododendron stems in between the split stems of the wisteria. The vase is a self made one.

In this next arrangement I used only two branches of the white lilac and fixed them together by the 'Fixing by crossing' method. The smell of lilacs transports me back to my childhood in a little village in Greece. Outside the front door of our very humble home was a lilac tree which flowered around Easter time. Mum knew how much I loved lilacs so went out and bought me one about 20 years ago.

The tsubo vase exercise lends itself best to naturalistic arrangements because branch materials are used that require splitting in some way. I challenged myself to find a way to make a more modern arrangement in a tsubo vase. Below is the result. I used the 'Fixing by crossing and nailing' method to hold the main stems of the Siberian dogwood with which I had created different sized triangles. I, then, fitted the smaller stems and the arum lily leaves in between. The solid blue coloured vase worked well for a modern arrangement.

Jenny Loo made the next arrangement. She used apple branches, strelitzia reginae flowers and marmalade bush (Streptosolen jamesonii) In a glass vase. Photographed at home.

Vicky's arrangement, below was very wide and difficult to photograph at the workshop, so she photographed it at home. She used Siberian dogwood and Asiatic lilies.

When I brought my arrangements home after the workshop I set them up again but did not have surfaces free for all of them. So I reworked the one with wisteria into a wall arrangement.

For class last week I set the advanced students the exercise of 'Only one kind of material' but in a nageire vase. I wanted them to revise the mechanics we use in nageire arrangements.

Jenny used just strelitzia reginae flowers and their stems in a beautiful Paul Davis vase.

Nicole used hawthorn branches in flower in a ceramic vase, a gift from Lucy.

I made three arrangements with this theme because, quite frankly, sometimes I don't know when to stop. The truth is that I have wonderful material and feel compelled to use it.

As I'm looking at the photographs of my arrangements, however, I realize that I have used self made vases in all three. This was not intentional.

Viburnum opulus

Having done two naturalistic arrangements, again I wanted to try something modern. I used umbrella grass stems only and not their flowers.  I had been quite strict with the students, insisting that they don't use leaves and flowers of the same plant but sticking to only one part of the plant. Naturally, I had to follow suit.

I leave you with this 'Vertical Arrangement' by Lei Wang, who has just started Book 3. She used bull rushes, Green Goddess lilies and arum lily leaves.

Bye for now,

Monday, 14 October 2019

Hello all,

Is there anything more unashamedly showy than a clematis? The large flower in the above arrangement measures 20 cm in diameter. It is a deciduous, climbing plant, whose stems are very thin and, in winter when it is bare of leaves, it can be mistaken for a dead vine. Then, in spring, it brings out these gorgeous, large flowers and leaves that curl to attach themselves onto anything they can find. And, finally, the seed heads are swirls of feathery, silky threads, delightful in their own way. Any wonder clematis are so popular?

I made the arrangement, below, nine weeks ago, when we did a workshop on kiwi vine. When the Green Goddess lilies died I had removed them but left the kiwi vine in the vase. In the mean time, nature did its thing and the vine that reached the water produced fresh vines with leaves. So, I added a cymbidium orchid, that I have been nurturing, to make a new arrangement. You may notice that the arrangement is now facing the opposite direction. That's because the leaves of the vine were growing facing the window.

It was Japanese day at our recent Ikebana International meeting and, as part of celebrating things Japanese, we had a demonstration on Wagashi (Japanese sweets). Our demonstrator was Minako Asai, the owner and creator of MinnieSweets. I found it quite fascinating to watch Minnie create these delightful sweets from bean paste and colouring. And the bonus was the tasting.

The members were asked to make arrangements with Wagashi or Chabana (Tea ceremony flowers) in mind. I made a chabana in a small lacquered container I bought in Japan. I used a twig from my Contorted Hazel (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'), which is just starting to bring leaves. I used a single Dutch iris to complete the chabana.

Actually, I had three chabana arrangements to choose from. Below are the two that were rejected. I had treated the bamboo by placing it in boiling, salted water before arranging. This has helped to keep them from curling up. Now, one week later, they still look fresh.

Please go to Ikebana International Melbourne for more photographs from the meeting.

Below are two views of a simplified arrangement which came about from the dismantling of a previous one. The strelitzia was still looking lovely when the rest of the material had died and I rested it on the vase until I could decide what to do with it next. The more I looked at it, the more I liked it. So, I left it alone.

I leave you with this simple wall arrangement. What makes it special for me is the yellow clivia, which has flowered for the first time. Also, the colours of the Siberian Dogwood. This time of year the stems are still quite red and contrast beautifully with the new, lime green leaves and white flowers.

A close-up of the coloured stems

Oh, and an update on the Gymea flowers. They're getting closer to opening fully.

Bye for now,

Monday, 7 October 2019

Hello all,

The above arrangement was done using strelitzia nicolai after all the petals had died and left this very strong and sculptural material. It took some doing to secure them in that position as they are very heavy and have a very short stem.

Below is a photograph of my poor, long suffering husband, Sam trying to cut the strelitzias through the upstairs bathroom window. The plant is more than two stories high and the flowers are always towards the top. I had removed the fly wire screen from the bathroom window, unscrewed the sash window winder and removed it in order to open the window fully. Then Sam tried using the extendable cutter to get the flowers. Alas, it din't work and all our efforts were for naught. We reverted to using the ladder and, with great effort on Sam's part, we got the flower. The things we do!

For last lesson I had set a combined theme for the senior students 'Seasonal Materials' and 'A Variety of Materials'. This is a difficult exercise but the students rose to the challenge. I, too made an arrangement using seven spring materials but forgot to photograph it.

Bredenia used white japonica, lilac and karume azalia
Nicole used wisteria, azalea, apple blossoms, Japanese iris and blue bells
Jenny used wisteria, jasmine, daisies, Japanese maple and cherry blossoms

Shaneen's lesson was 'Intertwining Plant Materials'.

Shaneen used bamboo, grasses, an almost black tulip
called "Queen of the Night' and arum lily leaves
I've been enjoying all the wonderful spring material in my garden but my favourite one is this white flag iris, which has produced four gorgeous stems. There are very specific rules for arranging iris which requires many leaves but I'm reluctant to cut too many because it will weaken the rhizome. So I cut one or two per plant. Every time I make this arrangement I remember Teresa Faile, who has, sadly passed away and who demonstrated this method for us every spring.

This is he front view
And this is the side view, showing how the leaves and flowers
are arranged

More beautiful spring material. Viburnum opulus and clivias

Bye for now,

Monday, 30 September 2019

Hello all,

Spring in Melbourne is glorious and walking around in my garden
is pure delight. Here are just two examples of new spring growth.
They are my two weeping Japanese Maples with their brand new leaves. Below is a recent photo of one of the flower heads of my doryanthes Palmeri, which I had first photographed a month ago. It is only a little bit closer to flowering.

I was sick in bed on the recent class day, so I asked Lucy, my most senior student to take the classes for me. Lucy is amply qualified to teach and I trust her completely with my students. And the students' comments about her teaching were resoundingly positive.

For the senior students I set the theme 'Triangles' and instructed them to interpret this one word theme whichever way they wanted. The only thing I required from them was to produce a good piece of ikebana in the end. I had prepared the arrangement, below on the previous day before I fell ill. I used umbrella grass stems and crucifix orchids. Below mine are arrangements by some of the students. Interestingly, we all used umbrella grass. It is such a versatile material.

Vicky used umbrella grass and Green
Goddess lily
Nicole used umbrella grass stems and flower heads, which
she cut into triangles

Janette used umbrella grass stems, clivia and red
Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter has just finished its annual exhibition, which was held at a retail space in The District Docklands Shopping Centre. All five schools of Ikebana were represented providing a variety of styles for the public to enjoy. Below are arrangements by two of my students and myself. Unfortunately, the lines on the screens behind the arrangements detract from the work. Keep an eye out for our blog, where photographs of all the arrangements will appear.

Jenny used gymea leaves and one arum lily
Lucy used dowels to create this sculptural piece and one
Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii' leaf

For my sculptural piece I used a sheet of perforated
metal, which I bent and had holes drilled into for the
stainless steel pole that went through it and held it up.
I used gymea leaves, which I bent through the structure.

And here is just another arrangement using a strelitzia nicolai flower. With it I used Siberian dogwood which is just sprouting leaves and flowers. I keep trying to find different ways of using this very strong and heavy material.

Bye for now,

Monday, 16 September 2019

Pussy willow (Salix caprea) and arum lilies in a ceramic vase, much prized
because it once belonged to my friend Gwen Delves
Hello all,

I've tried to keep this strictly an ikebana blog, keeping personal content to a minimum. However, I feel I can now share with you another passion of mine, which precedes ikebana. That's dressmaking.

I started making my own clothes as a teenager when the mini skirt was all the rage and my mother would not make my skirts short enough. To her credit, mum did not forbid me from wearing the scandalously short skirts that I made, thus encouraging me to keep trying and learning to sew. Needless to say, I look back at those early attempts and cringe but perseverance and determination paid off. I can say, without fear of sounding conceited that I'm now quite adept with the needle and thread. I have a large and well stocked sewing room where I like to spend my evenings making clothes for myself and members of my family. This is my time of rest, with the television on in the background, I can spend many happy hours.

Since the grandchildren have arrived I have loved nothing more than to create clothes for all four of them, including the boy. It's just like playing with dolls except that they are real. Oh, and they have opinions and tastes. Like all grandmothers, I'm totally besotted!

Below are the three recent garments I made for the girls.

A very 'Mod' Granddaughter No. 1
A cheeky Granddaughter No. 2

Granddaughter No. 3, who requested an 'Up' dress

A dress that goes up when she twirls

So, now back to Ikebana. Last week, for our Ikebana International meeting we had the great pleasure of visiting Ripponlea Estate. This is a heritage listed 19th century mansion under the care of The National Trust. Apart from enjoying walking through this magnificent building, we wandered around the 7 hectares of equally magnificent gardens and lake. And, as if that wasn't enough, we were, also, given permission to cut materials from said gardens to make arrangements in the ballroom. We, then, enjoyed a pleasant lunch sitting around the swimming pool.

Wendy used bamboo, the leaves of which
she caught together and two crucifix orchids

Nicole used lichen covered crab apple branches with rhododendron

Jenny used flowering crab apple branches and coleus

Lucy used bamboo and clusters of flowers from a shrub
that's unfamiliar to me

I used Fatsia Japonica berries and leaf and strelitzia juncea leaves

A close up of the black berries on creamy white stems.

In my first arrangement of the fatsia berries, the stem did not reach the water. So, at home I re-arranged it in a different container so that it would be in water. It is, now, nearly a week and both the berries and the leaves still look fresh. I'm so enamoured of this plant, that I went out and bought one on Saturday. I suspect it will be a while before I see berries but then all things come to those who wait. We, gardeners are used to waiting.

I like the berries in the black container. Unfortunately, the contrast of
the black berries against the white stems is not as obvious in the photo
I leave you with this little arrangement I made using berries I trimmed off the main stem.

Bye for now,