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
container







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
agapanthus.
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,
Emily



















Monday, 2 January 2017


Hello everyone and a very happy new year to you all. I wish you good health, above all else and, then, happy 'Ikebanaring'!



The Christmas arrangement above is the work of my sister-in-law Toula Karanikolopoulos and is in the entry of her home. She and her husband, Con, not only provided a veritable feast for the whole extended family on Christmas day but the house was decorated with a variety of stunning arrangements. I've included two more below but I have to apologize for the poor quality of my photos, as they were taken on my mobile.

You might be interested to know that the solid
white material is wax




























Sam and I spent the period between Christmas and New Year in a little-known place called Kims Beachside Retreat, on the central NSW coast. It dates back to 1886 and has undergone a number of transformations since then. It's a place for pure indulgence and perfect for short breaks. The three meals per day are pure decadence and the reason for the considerable weight gain by both of us. This was our fourth visit and, I hope, it won't be the last.

Kims is a cluster of 34 timber bungalows and spa villas on the beach or immersed in rain forest shaded by an avenue of enormous, ancient Norfolk Island pines. Beneath the pines the mostly-foliage vegetation is green and lush. There are palm trees, bamboos, philodendrons, aspidistras, New Zealand flax, hydrangeas and many, many more.

The little skink, below, was often on our doorstep and would scurry away as we approached but I managed to sneak up on him, snapping this photo.



The slow pace and lack of any activity was great for a couple of days but, by the third day, I was getting restless. Finally, I gave in to the temptation that was the vegetation around me and asked the manager if I could make an arrangement for their foyer. She, very kindly, indulged me and handed me a vase, a pair of scissors and a stapler. I had to use some ingenuity with regards to mechanics but I managed to get my materials to sit where I wanted them to. As there are not many flowers in the gardens, I had intended to make an arrangement 'With leaves only' but, then, I found the berries and they fitted in very well with the colour of the flax.  



The arrangement was much admired by the staff, who had never heard the word 'ikebana'. So, all in all, a worthwhile exercise. And, I got my fix!


Back home and the holiday is quickly forgotten as the garden beckons. The warm weather, then torrential rain caused all sorts of problems. I did so much pruning today that I filled my wheelbarrow to overflowing but I find gardening therapeutic and never a chore. My only problem is finding enough time for a high maintenance garden.

My strelitzia Nicolai is in full flower. Only trouble is, the flowers are too high. For the arrangement, below I'm indebted to my window cleaner, Luke, who, whilst on his ladder cleaning the windows, cut the two flowers for me. I used a large gymea leaf, which was given to me by my friend Olga. The container is one I made many years ago.


Below is an arrangement I made to showcase my dogwood 'Cornus Norman Haddon', which is now large enough to cut. The basket-like, much prized, ceramic container is one I brought back from Japan in 2014.


I had a lot of fun with the leek flowers, below, both in training them to shape and in arranging them.


Bye for now,
Emily