Wednesday, 31 January 2018

My gloriosa lilies in a made to order, hand blown vase by
Gordon Studio Glassblowers in Red Hill.
Hello all,

In this relatively quiet time of year and with the extreme heat forcing me indoors, I've been able to tackle some projects that I have put off for too long. One of these was the hanging on the wall of these three Washi paper scrolls. I bought them in Tokyo last year when my friend Emiko took me to an establishment that makes and sells washi paper in all forms. Some of them are so exquisite as to be of museum quality. Of course, I could not afford them but I did buy these three. I brought them home all rolled up and had to devise a method of hanging them. It took some doing but I'm happy with the end result. They hang above the couch in my bedroom.

Another, rather pressing project, was to replace the fabric on four throw cushions on my bed. I had made these cushions years ago using obi brocade materials which were showing real signs of wear and (literally) tear. I had bought obis in 2016 in Tokyo when my friend Haruko Hiratsuka took me to several shops selling kimonos, intending to make new covers but other projects always took priority. For an experienced seamstress like me, making cushion covers is child's play. However, these exquisite, Japanese textiles can be difficult to work with. First of all, they fray very easily. Then they are very stiff, some have metalic threads or metalic paint and are so dense that I had difficulty pushing a needle or pins through them. This meant that I could do no hand sewing and had to rely solely on the machine. But, they are done! Tick!

With the cool weather finally here, I was able to walk around my garden and observe, not only the damage, but also the growth, not to mention all the weeds! One very surprising change was to my Japanese maple. It has new and vibrant growth at the tips of the branches, quite uncharacteristic for this time of year. Normally, the leaves are brown at the tips from the excessive heat and this is the case now but only with the old leaves. The new leaves are larger than the rest and quite vibrant. I'm baffled as to why this has happened.

My mature Japanese maple with bright, lime green, new growth.
In this wall arrangement the old leaves are small and dark as compared with the new.

A couple of days ago I picked some Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera) from a tree that is growing by the side of the road near by. The fruit are an attractive lime green colour but are very heavy, often falling from the stem when trying to arrange them. I had some fun making the following three arrangements.

Osage oranges with variegated Japanese Iris
leaves in glass vase
Osage oranges and hydrangeas in resin vase

In this next arrangement, I used blue echinops from my garden, Osage oranges and yellow knophofia, for which I would like to thank Glenda Nielsen, who gave me the plant that produced them. I spayed the dried strelitzia leaf lightly with yellow to take away the dull grey colour. The vase is one I made long ago.

I was, recently, asked to set up an arrangement for an Aikido club, who were having an international seminar and wanted an ikebana arrangement next to the Shomen. As the time was approaching, I was keeping an eye on the weather forecast and became quite concerned when I realized that the four day seminar would fall right smack in the middle of the heat wave. And to make things worse, the gymnasium, in which the seminar was to be held, has no air conditioning. So, I abandoned my original, carefully made plans and decided to use my trusty, blue, mulberry branch. I chose the most robust materials I could find - pine branches, nandina domestica and 18 stems of blue and white agapanthus. These proved an excellent choice, as they survived the heat very well. In fact I was able to reuse some of the materials.

And, speaking of my trusty agapanthus, I leave you with this rather fun arrangement.

Bye for now,

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.