Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Hello everyone,

Lets start with iris -

My ensata iris (also known as Hanashobu or iris kaempferi) which
I grow in pots placed in a bucket of water since I don't have a
pond.I arranged it in the traditional way but the leaves are from 
Spuria iris, as i don't have enough of the ensata to sacrifice for 
one arrangement.
The glorious, vivid blue of these Siberian
iris makes up for the fact that they are
short lived. I used with them curculigo
leaves, a plant of which was given to me
by my colleague, Pat Hetrel

Here I used the ensata iris with begonia flowers and wisteria vine

I find myself apologizing, again, for my long absence but it's been an even busier time than normally, even for me. It's also been a particularly difficult year in terms of my health and I will be very happy to see the back of 2016.

Anyway, on to ikebana. I ran a three-hour demonstration and workshop at the Park Orchards Community Centre recently, which was attended by some keenly interested ladies. It was a great deal of work for me because, apart from preparing 8 arrangements, I also had to acquire containers, kenzans, branches and flowers for the attendees. Judging from the feedback, it was all worth it.

I'm including only one photo (below) from that workshop, as I was on my own and was unable to also act as photographer. Usually, I reset the arrangements at home and photograph them, however, as I mentioned before, I've been too busy.

A rather modern Christmas arrangement using umbrella grass stems
Nandina domestica flowers deep in the glass container that used to
belong to a beloved aunt.

As always, for our last lesson we made celebratory arrangements. Due to absences, we had fewer students taking part. However some made up for it by making more than one.

Vicky Kalokathis
Lucy Papas

Nicole McDonald 
Also, Nicole McDonald

Shaneen Garbut. I was very impressed by these
Hydrangea quercifolia

Aurelia Dong. These are young Banksia, which, in the photo, look
like they are dried but are, in fact, quite fresh

Aurelia Dong, again.

Aurelia, again
I made this modern wall arrangement using Gymea
leaves and hippeastrums that I grew.
I wish a very happy festive season to all of you, whichever way you are celebrating it and may 2017 bring you everything your hearts desire.

Bye for now,

Monday, 21 November 2016

An idyllic afternoon at Red Hill.

Last Saturday I had the honour of being one of the presenters at the Spring Garden Festival of the Red Hill Gardening Society. This was held at the Karrawingi Park, Moorooduc in the Mornington Peninsular.

The weather was superb, the gardens in their best Spring garb and my audience was welcoming, interested and engaged. All in all, a perfect afternoon.

My assistant was Lucy, who, as a project manager all her life, is very efficient. (She can also be a bit bossy, but we won't go there). Also, our friend, Parthena lent some very needed muscle with carrying boxes and buckets to and from the car.

I had prepared 11 arrangements but was only able to demonstrate 8 as I ran out of time and there was to be another presenter after me.

New Zealand Flax and a cheeky stelitzia
An exercise in pruning. I started with a large loquat stem and
reduced it to this two-leaf stem. The ornithogalum is meant
to be looking up at it.

I thought this material is a yucca but I was corrected
by a more knowledgeable member of the audience.
It is a cordyline

Pine, calistemon and oriental lilies

This acacia aphyla was planted last year and has rewarded me by growing sufficiently
to allow me to cut it. I am absolutely delighted with it. Here I used it inside and
out of the glass container creating a windswept look together with the green
goddess lilies

Palm spathe and oriental lilies in a container,
which was a gift from my niece, Sylvia

This aluminium art piece was a gift from Lucy many years ago. It can stand alone
but can also lend itself to ikebana. I used sansevieria (Mother-in-law's tongue),
orange cane and anthuriums

Lucy and I.
I ended with a Christmas arrangement using dried agapanthus,
roses and pine. I also added Christmas baubles and beads
As I mentioned before, I was not able to demonstrate all the arrangements I had prepared. The three bellow I set up when I got home.

Another Christmas arrangement using mitsumata, pine,
roses and gold mizuhiki in a tall vase.

OK, I can't resist agave!

The first of my dogwood flowers with iceberg roses in an antique basket.
We had a very enjoyable afternoon and would have loved to have stayed on and explored the gardens but we had a very pressing engagement to get to - My granddaughter's first ballet recital.

I want to thank The Red Hill Gardening Society for inviting me and Lucy and Parthena for their invaluable help.

Bye for now,

Thursday, 17 November 2016

'With Flowers only by Aurelia Dong'
A tribute to Gwen Delves.

Hello all,

Recently our friend and colleague, Gwen Delves, put up for sale many ikebana containers due to downsizing. Most of my students and I were lucky enough to buy her beautiful containers, which are also treasured keepsakes. Vicky had suggested and we all agreed to do a workshop of freestyle arrangements using only Gwen's containers. This also falls into two other categories-'Paying attention to the container' and 'The challenge of the new', a workshop I did in Tokyo, run by Iemoto, where we were required to use containers we had not used before.

Lucy Papas - Corky elm and geranium
Helen Novic - dried aspidistra and calla

Aurelia Dong- dried branch and hydrangeas

Vicky Kalokathis-Green goddess seed heads and
agapanthus leaves

Vicky, again - Umbrella grass and roses

And again - dietes leaf and roses

Robyn Unglik - dried wisteria, roses and alstroemeria leaves

Nicole McDonald - smoke bush and roses

This is mine - gymea leaf and roses.
The simplicity of this arrangement belies the difficulty involved. I had to employ
some serious mechanics to keep the heavy base of the leaf from falling.
Thank you, Gwen. We love the containers.
Bye for now,

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Hello all,

First of all, thank you to all of you who wrote to tell me about my mystery plant. It is called arum italica and the photograph, above, shows the very attractive leaves. The flower, if left on the plant, will develop into showy red berries. I wish I had known that before I cut the flower. Oh well, something to look forward to next year.

Last week's class theme for the senior students was, again, taken from the old book 4. It was lesson no 7 - 'Freestyle arrangement using student's hand-made container'.

For those of you who do not have it, here is the quote from that lesson - ' Making your own container enables you to develop your talents in Ikebana. When a container made by the one who arranges flowers is used success is guaranteed for he or she knows the container intimately. Any material may be used: clay, ceramic, tin cans, paper cartons, pumice stones. It is better to use your own ideas and be original than to copy a container seen previously. While making a container imagine how you are going to use it and how the materials will be arranged in it. This will lead to a more interesting and satisfying result.'

Over the years I've made many different types of container for this lesson. Below are the two I worked on this time.

Sheet of aluminium, with spuria iris and
nandina seed head

Ceramic container I made earlier this year at the Sogetsu kiln. With calla lily
and loquat stem

Helen Novic used pleated aluminium with
roses and wisteria vine

Robyn Unglik  also used aluminium with calla lilies

Vicky Kalokathis used 2 stainless steel pipes which
her clever husband welded to create this big and
impressive container. She used kiwi vine and roses.
Lucy Papas used cardboard, navy on one side and
white on the other, with umbrella grass and an
Let me share this little story about my cat, Lexi. She refuses to accept the fact that she is an indoor cat and tries to sneak out whenever doors are open. Over the 13 years we've had her, we have become paranoid about leaving doors open. When she does manage to escape she runs straight to the lawn to eat grass. The problem is that as soon as she eats it she vomits and, although we have timber floor boards, all too often she vomits on our rug by the front door.

Her favourite of all grasses, however, is umbrella grass. When she sees me coming in with it, she gets so excited that it's the equivalent of a cat happy dance. Any arrangement with umbrella grass has to be placed out of her reach. Lucy's arrangement, above, had to be done twice because the first one was eaten.

Please forgive me this little indulgence!

Freestyle arrangement by Aurelia Dong. The strange looking
looking material are banksias before they are fully developed

Nicole MacDonald's freestyle arrangement using vines.

My arrangement using vine. I'm disappointed
that my prized mollis azalea in pale yellow
 does not show up in the photo

And a little announcement - on Saturday, 3rd December I will be conducting an ikebana workshop at the Park Orchards Community Centre.

Bye for now,

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Spring arrangement using spuria iris, roses (altissimo) and euphorbia
Hello all,

Last week I had the most rewarding experience of my ikebana teaching career when I ran a workshop at the kindergarten that my grandchildren attend.

I prepared 28 plastic take away tubs by spraying them gold, then added soaked oasis for the children to use instead of kenzans and containers. For each child I cut branches the right size for the containers and put them together with flowers in a bunch held together by rubber bands.

At the kindergarten I was assisted by my sister Vicky, who, as some of you would know, is also one of my senior students. My daughter Madeline, whose son attends the kindergarten, was also there acting as photographer.

I started by demonstrating the Basic Upright in a proper suiban with kenzan. Then I demonstrated in the plastic take away tub so the children could see exactly what they had to do. As I began the demonstration the children were sitting on the floor watching but very quickly they all crowded around the table, on which I was demonstrating, their eager little faces very close to me.

Bending so low is not easy on an old lady's back
We then distributed the tubs and materials to all the children and helped them to put the arrangements together. Their questions and comments were both insightful and entertaining. Two little girls impressed me in particular because they tried to make their arrangement from behind, as they had seen  me do.

It took quite a lot of work and some cost for the workshop but it was all worth it when we saw how proud they all were with their arrangements, which they then took home. I can see why it is so important to our Iemoto to teach ikebana to children and I thought of her often during my preparations and afterwards. I would, definitely, like to do more with children myself.

I would have liked to have included photographs of the whole class but, without their parents' permission, I cannot. So, below, are photos of my two grandchildren.

With my very proud Hermione

And with my very proud Xavier

I have written much about my garden because it is so vital to my ikebana. Often so many plants flower at the same time that I feel pressured to arrange them all. I hate to let them die on the plant, then have to wait until the following year for them to flower again. Case in point, the arrangement below, had to be made because of this interesting stem on my rhododendron.

My prolific garden is also helpful with class, as I can dash out and cut what's needed when students who work have not been able to get materials for class, or brought the wrong materials. Many of my plants are precious mementos from friends and relatives, some of whom have passed away. In the spirit of sharing, I too, have given many plants and cuttings to students and others.

And, just when I think I know all there is in my garden, having planted everything myself, it goes and surprises me by producing something I haven't seen before. When first I saw the flower in the arrangement, below, I thought it was a piece of paper from the road. Then, on closer inspection, I was delighted to see it was a flower. If anyone knows the name of it, I would be very grateful if you would let me know.

Bye for now,