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,

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Hello all,

The arrangement above, with its combination of prunus blossoms and camellias in an antique basket  represents, for me, quintessential ikebana.

Last Monday’s Sogetsu workshop was run by Christopher James, for which he set the theme ‘An arrangement incorporating text’. Christopher added-'I invite your free interpretation of the theme. In this regard the theme is meant to be nothing less than springboard for your artistic imaginations’.

It was very interesting to see how each member interpreted this theme. Many used actual paper with some text on it in their arrangement. As for me, I thought I should find an excerpt from literature and reference it in my ikebana. After much consideration of the various books I read since childhood, I settled on one of my favourite modern writers – Douglas Adams and his series of books ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. I chose an excerpt which I felt is very relevant in today’s tumultuous political landscape. 

'“The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. 
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Here is my arrangement in reference to the above quote. The strelitzia representing the ruler governing the people who voted him into power.

For class last week, the senior girls were given the lesson 'A floor arrangement'. I apologize for the poor quality of the photographs but the arrangements are very difficult to capture when they are so tall and thin.

Bredenia - Siberian dogwood and magnolia x soulangana
Lucy  - Dried strelitzia Nicolai leaf, Alstroemeria
leaves and chrysanthemums

Emily - Palm spathe and alstroemeria leaves

Nicole's last arrangement of Book 4 - 'Me in Ikebana'
Calla lilies and wisteria


Aurelia - bananas, capsicums and egg plant

Emily - mushrooms and spring onions

Emily- fennel and chili

I leave you with this next arrangement, which came about because I was given  this citrus fruit called 'Buddha's hand' (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) by my colleague Lara Telford. When I first received it, I was very excited. However, after struggling for some time trying to find a way to arrange such a heavy fruit my excitement began to wane. That's when my stubbornness kicked in and I persevered until I managed to balance it in this brightly coloured tsubo vase. I like the contrast of the blue against the yellow.

Before I leave you, I'd like to let you know that there is, currently, an exhibition by Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter in the lobby of Sofitel Melbourne on Collins. It will continue until Wednesday 30th.

Also, I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. If you would like to email me, please don't send it through the blog. Google doesn't seem to work, so most emails don't come through to me. Please use my email address - and be assured that I reply to all emails. If you haven't received a reply from me it's because I have not received your communication.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Siberian dogwood bare branch, camellias and conifer

Hello all,

At our Ikebana International meeting last month, we had the pleasure of meeting the new patrons of the Melbourne Chapter, The Consul General of Japan, Mr Matsunaga and Mrs Matsunaga.

Also, Christopher James conducted a workshop with the theme 'Working with bare branches'. The photograph, above, is of my arrangement. I used a container by Graham Wilke, which has a small opening and required some serious mechanics to secure the branch above the container. For photographs of arrangements by all members and, especially, Christopher's, please go to our blog -

Our group met again this morning for our AGM, when we welcomed the new committee, headed by Patricia Ward as President. Afterwards, there was a demonstration by the Heads of five schools. Arrangements below -

Christopher James - Sogetsu
Yukako Braun - Ikenobo

Aiko Nakada - Ohara

Chieko Yazaki - Shogetsudokoryu
Eliasha Zhang - Ichiyo

We also had a number of arrangements by members, mine below, fits two themes - 'Shape of the container' and 'Colour of the container'. It is difficult to see the latter in the photo but the interior of the container has a dull mauve hue which is picked up by the hellebores. And on the subject of hellebores, I found that one day after they were cut and arranged, they wilted and looked quite sad. I plunged them in a bucket of water for a couple of hours, which seemed to revive them beautifully. They lasted for about two days before drooping again, when I repeated the plunging exercise with the same results.

For class last week the senior students were set the theme 'Jika Dome' - Direct Fixing, which is in Book 5. This seemingly simple fixing method can be quite challenging, especially with heavy branches, as it requires bending and balancing. In my arrangement, below, I struggled a little to balance the ginger seed heads facing inwards when gravity kept insisting on pulling them downwards.

Ginger seed heads, cordelines and hydrangeas

Vicky Kalokathis - magnolia branch and oriental

Bredenia Raquel - geranium and leucadendron salignum

The arrangement, below, has the theme 'Specific Scenes, Occasions or Spaces'. I chose to celebrate my husband's Name Day, a Greek tradition that we use as an excuse to get the family together and which falls on the 6th August (last Sunday). The dry material I used came from my bamboo, which sheds them as it grows. (If anyone knows what they're called, please let me know). These jonquils are the earliest to flower in my garden and I chose them for this arrangement because they are Sam's favourite flowers. He has fond memories of collecting wild jonquils when he was a boy in a little village in Greece and selling them to passing motorists for pocket money. While they're in season, I keep a little vase of jonquils always on his office desk.

Aurelia Dong - 'Disassembling and Rearranging the Materials
Lilly pilly

The black pine in this next arrangement was donated by some kind member of II a month ago and which looks every bit as fresh today as it did then. The kamo hon ami camellia, however, has to be replaced every few days but it's well worth the effort.

Bye for now,

Sunday, 23 July 2017

A spring oasis in a cold and dreary winter.

Hello all,
Judging from the photograph above, you can be forgiven for thinking that spring has arrived in Melbourne. Not quite. This was taken during the winter solstice but the material is Prunus mume, Japanese flowering apricot, which blooms in early winter. The large pink peones were brought to class by my student, Guy, who very generously, brought enough for all the class to share.

Our most recent Sogetsu workshop was run by Lara Telford, who had set the theme of 'Wabi Sabi and ikebana'. This is a difficult concept to describe, but Lara, after much research and, despite the restriction of only 20 minutes of explanation, managed to help us understand this Japanese aesthetic a little better. We also learnt a lot by watching her excellent critique and correction. I recommend you visit our website -, where you'll see some very interesting work by our members.

This is the corrected version of my arrangement. I, originally, had more garrya elliptica
and hydrangeas, which Lara, quite rightly, suggested I remove.
Very often our ikebana is opportunistic. I have been doing some pruning in the garden and decided to reduce the size of my persimmon tree so that I may be able to cover it with a net to prevent possums, bats and birds from eating all the fruit. I should say here that I really don't mind sharing our fruit with the local fauna, but they don't feel the same. They have been known to strip the trees overnight, so drastic measures have to be taken. Anyway, back to ikebana. Not wanting to waste the cuttings, I gave each of the senior students a branch from the persimmon tree that they had not seen before and asked them to make an arrangement with it. They had carte blanche as to how they would use it.

For my arrangement I challenged myself by using one of the branches that grew vertically, with very little character.

Persimmon branch, oranges and cotoneaster berries
Vicky - Glass vase with chrysanthemums 

Bredenia - Caprosma caro red and hellebores 

Lucy - Tulips

The two 'Simplified Arrangements' below are mine.
Garrya eliptica and snow drop

The next two are by Aurelia

Camellia and jonquil

One of the most challenging themes in our curriculum is 'In a Suiban without Kenzan', which is near the end of Book 4. Some fixing techniques are usually required but they must be discrete and the structure should stand alone without relying on resting against the sides of the container.  This is Nicole's arrangement.

Corky elm and calla lilies
In my arrangement I used hawthorn with dark coloured berries
and New Zealand flax. Initially I tried using flowers with the
structure but it became too fussy, hence the flax.
Along with the peones that Guy brought to class, he also brought the roses that I used in the arrangement below. I also used gyamea and dietes leaves.

Below are the first of my Green Goddess lilies, that had to be picked and arranged.

Bye for now,

Monday, 10 July 2017


At Iemoto's Hana So Exhibition in April, apart from the spectacle of the 'mirror ivy leaves' and large arrangements in the stone garden, there were, also, cabinets with miniature arrangements. Photographing them was difficult as they were behind glass. I found the tiny hand made vases exquisite and when used with plant materials to create arrangements, they were an absolute delight.

Miniature ikebana is now part of the Sogetsu curriculum as a lesson in the new Book 5. It was first introduced as a style by Kasumi Teshigahara, the second Iemoto. Several tiny arrangements are usually placed on some sort of display board or base.

In class, as we are continuing to work through Book 5, we found making miniature arrangements enjoyable but, not necessarily, easy. Because of their size, the viewer is forced to look at them very closely, thus noticing every imperfection. So, great attention needs to be given to every detail and principle of ikebana.

I enlarged this photograph of my arrangements so that the tiny details can be better seen.
Lucy Papas

Vicky Kalokathis
Bredenia Raquel
A couple of lessons ago, Vicky brought me this large and quite heavy Fan Aloe (Aloe Plicatilis) and said she couldn't wait to see what I was going to do with it. Quite frankly, I'd never used this material before, so I had no idea what to do with it.

Its weight was the first difficulty to overcome and, after trying a number of large and heavy containers, I settled on one I made many years ago. The wings or buttresses help to support the aloe when placed with the weight distributed over the buttresses. In fact, it became quite stable.
Fan Aloe, cane begonia, amaranthus and hydrangeas
Two lessons later, I had set the theme from Book 5 'Glass Containers'. Although the rest of the materials in the above arrangement had died, the aloe was still very green and fresh looking, so I decided to use it in a different way. I separated the two fans and placed them in one large and one smaller glass container. Then I thought they could, also, be displayed together. I tried placing a flower in the arrangement but it looked too much like decoration, so I left it out.

Unfortunately, I could not capture in the photographs the silvery patina that appears on the leaves when they are submerged under water.

The two arrangements, below are Vicky's and, it's obvious, she had the same idea with the aloe.

Fan Aloe and Oriental lily bud

Aspidistra and rose hips

The two arrangements, below, are by Bredenia.
Strelitzia juncea leaves and contorted
hazel branch

Gymea leaf and a very early flowering japonica

Lucy showed versatility by going very modern and very naturalistic.

Strelitzia nicolai  leaf and camellias

Strelitzia stem and beefsteak begonia leaf.
Aurelia worked very hard with the mechanics needed to support the very heavy orange and lemon branches in this arrangement with the theme 'Fruit Bearing Branches'. She, very wisely, chose a heavy ceramic vase with a thick lip. The result was quite delightful.

Nicole, who is nearing the end of book 4, did this 'Arrangement with Plants on a Wall' and hung it next to the woodblock print.
Contorted willow, New Zealand flax and flowers from a succulent
Bye for now,