Sunday, 13 January 2019

Gloriosa superba 

Hello all,

I've been growing gloriosa superba lilies for many years now. I bought my first 2 rhizomes at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show and they have been multiplying ever since. I grow them against a North facing wall, where they are well protected as they don't like frosts. I gave away dozens of rhizomes to students and friends, all of whom have been delighted with this exotic flower. My friend, Bo, who lives in NSW has just sent me a photo of her plant thanking me for it. However, she pointed out that in NSW it is considered a noxious weed. This is very concerning and I will have to be extra careful not to allow any parts of it to leave my property.

I have a pot of horse tail (Equisetum Hyemale), which is, also considered an aggressively spreading weed. I've had no trouble with it spreading so far because I'm very careful with how I dispose of any cuttings. I have an old casserole in the storeroom into which I put my cuttings and pour boiling water to kill them before putting them in the compost. I will be doing the same with the gloriosas.

As I have them in abundance at the moment, I've made several arrangements with them. The only down side is that the stem of each individual flower is quite short (12 - 18 cm). If I were to cut a long stem, I'd have to sacrifice many buds and I'm loathe to do that.

Gloriosas submerged in glass vases plus kiwi vine
Small arrangement in glass vase with squiggly grass

With garlic flower

With umbrella grass stems
The garden has been quite prolific this year. We enjoyed the loquats first, then came the strawberries and raspberries. (I have to say here, that there's nothing more pleasing for a gardener than to see the grandchildren run to the back of the garden to pick raspberries and eat them directly from the canes.) Now the nectarines are almost ready to pick, their red colours looking very enticing on the tree. The birds and possums have not been too much of a problem so far. However, our persimmon tree has not fared as well. A little before Christmas it was laden with fruit, still very small. One morning I discovered a great many leaves fallen on the ground, a sure sign that something had been in the tree and, upon inspection, I noticed that most of the fruit was gone. I had to do something to protect what was left because I would hate to disappoint my grandson, who is constantly asking when will the persimmons be ready. So, I covered them with plastic bags, as per the photo below, and am keeping fingers crossed that some will survive.

In my previous post I wrote about my summer calla lilies, which produce, apart from the normal flowers and leaves, some distortions. The photograph, below, is of an arrangement that I made using distorted leaves and a flower. Next to it I put a normal leaf for comparison and the photo after that is of a close up of the distorted flower.

I leave you with this next arrangement of one of my favourite materials (agapanthus) in one of my favourite containers.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

The lilies were a Christmas offering from my sister-in-law, Betty The branch is sprayed

Hello and a very happy and safe New Year to you all!

Unfortunately, I started the day (and the year) with a very unladylike expletive when I lifted my head off the pillow and my nose started dripping like a tap with a bad washer. It appears I have succumbed to whatever bug has been going through the family and had landed my mother in hospital. Definitely not the best way to start the year.

On a brighter note, Christmas was a big production but quite successful, judging by the feedback we got. The weather was perfect, huge quantities of food was prepared, consumed and left overs taken away in plastic containers. The traditional lamb on the spit was delicious and the drinks ran freely. There was, also, the traditional cricket game on the lawn. Even I was dragged into batting. Apparently, I did not disgrace myself too much because, according to my grandson, I was not as bad as he thought I would be.

This view is from the balcony, where the less energetic of us sat and watched the game below
and cheered.
The shade of the trees at the top of the garden was a popular spot for some

Memo and Peter - Masterchefs in action

A week before Christmas Sam and I took the two older grandchildren to a Christmas tree farm to select and cut our own tree. It was quite a distance to travel (close to an hour) and we had to take two cars - one for the children in their car seats and one to bring back the tree. It was a very well organised operation at the Dandenong Christmas Tree Farm. Once chosen, the tree would be cut and an optional cover, much like a stocking, was put over the tree to make it easier and cleaner to transport. They even had a Santa on a sleigh for the little ones. It was an experience enjoyed by all and we will be doing it again. There's nothing like the smell of pine in the house to feel like Christmas.

Poor Santa, he was sweltering in his suit on that hot Summer's day

Xavier and Hermione with the 'tree cutter' and his pole to
measure the height of each tree. We chose the one in the
photo - 8'
The four of them in front of the decorated tree.
Granddaughter No.1 was not in the Christmas spirit!

Today we spent the afternoon at Lucy's where we cut the traditional 'Vassilopita', Greek New Year's cake, which has a coin in it. The lucky person to get the coin is supposed to have good luck all year long.

I came home feeling quite ordinary and wanting nothing more than to lie down. But I couldn't give into it and, instead, went for a stroll around the garden. I found materials and inspiration for ikebana and got stuck into it. An hour later, I was feeling better psychologically, if not physically, and I had three new arrangements.

The agapanthus are putting on their usual show and the creamy white calla lilies teamed well with them. I found an old kiwi vine in the store room to complete the arrangement.

The calla lilies are quite lovely and their speckled leaves are very attractive in the garden. The colour of the flowers starts off creamy white and gradually changes to green on the outside with a yellow centre. But, also, they produce some strange mutations, both in the flowers and the leaves. The arrangement, below, is a case in point.

As I was watering this morning I was delighted to see that the crocosmia that have naturalized in the front rockery, are full of flower stems in bud. I noticed one with an interesting curve and had to cut and use it. I curled its leaves and added the garlic flower, which, also, has an interesting curve.

Here's to a happy 2019!

Bye for now,

Monday, 24 December 2018

Hello all,

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring , not even a mouse;

Not so in this house! There has been a hive of activity for days, if not weeks. We are hosting Christmas again this year and the guest list is even bigger than previous years. We estimate more than 50 people to come through, either for lunch or afternoon tea. We've entertained on a big scale many times before and have become quite good at it but that doesn't minimize the amount of work and planning required. Of course, we couldn't possibly do it without the help of family.

You may ask what I'm doing writing this blog when I still have a great many chores to do before I go to bed but I wanted the opportunity to wish all of my readers a happy and safe holiday season and a very merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it.

For our last lesson for the year I, traditionally, set the theme 'A Christmas Arrangement' for all the students, including beginners.

Bredenia Raquel
Shaneen Garbutt

Dianne Longley

Nicole McDonald
Jeannine Hendy
Also Nicole McDonald

Vicky Kalokathis
Lucy Papas (Her container is reflective stainless steal, not glass as it
appears to be in the photo)
Below are some of the arrangements I made for the tables for Christmas. I chose glass containers so as not to obstruct the guests' view of each other. My garlic bed has been quite prolific and I have an abundance of flowers to play around with.

Using only one kind of material. The vase is new - a gift from my sister, Vicky

The versatility of Agave.

I made the first arrangement, below, using two pieces of agave on 9th November. When the strelitzia died, I reworked the agave into the second arrangement. Two days later, after gravity had its way with it, it had changed shape - third arrangement. And, finally, I reworked the agave again into the fourth arrangement. It's nearly seven weeks since I cut the agave and it is still very much alive and, if I wasn't tired of it, I could do even more with it. I love using this material and have found that it last very well even without water.

With gold bauble

With Jacobean lilies

Bye for now and, again, Merry Christmas

Friday, 14 December 2018

Hello all,

The photograph, above, is of my favourite iris, Iris ensata ((Japanese water iris), which I grow in pots submerged half way in water. They have flowered quite prolifically this year as is shown by this pot outside the office entry. Teamed with the electric coloured lobelia it makes quite a show.

And here it is arranged in a rather unusual container

At our last Sogetsu meeting, Lucy Papas ran a workshop on 'Relief'. She had prepared three different examples of the theme and spoke about them and how she had created them. This theme does not lend itself to demonstration. Lucy's biggest problem was in keeping to only three examples and deciding which, of all that she had prepared, to leave out. Her examples are blow:

White cardboard
Egg shells and wisteria vine
Inspired by Kandinsky
Lucy's critique of the members' work was thorough and insightful and often focused on elements of the work that we may not have thought of. It was quite instructive to listen to her comments and the suggestions that she offered.

Having done this exercise many times in my classes, I have used all sorts of materials, both modern and naturalistic in the past and I was now looking for something different. I thought I would try making my relief going to the back as well as coming forward. This meant that it could not be done on a board that would be hung on the wall, thus necessitating the construction of a free standing frame.

Different coloured cardboard and coloured wisteria vine
Nicole used dried yucca leaves and dried allium 
Vicky used polystyrene, an umbrella grass stem and dried agapanthus 
There was some very interesting work done by the members and, for more photos, please click on Sogetsu Ikebana Victoria, then go to Recent Workshops.

My student Shaneen Garbutt often comes to class with many enviable materials from her garden, none more so than her smoke bush. She, very generously, has supplied all of us with gorgeous long stems of this wonderful material. I used mine in this self made container with strelitzias and copper pipe.

My strelitzia nicolai has, also, been prolific this year. But, more importantly, she has produced some flowers low enough to be reached with a normal ladder. So I've had fun playing with these stunning flowers and learning to handle their weight. This container, because of the 'buttresses', lends itself well for supporting the very heavy flowers. Also, their short stems are quite restrictive in how they may be arranged.

And, below, I have placed it in a wall container, whose colour seems to have been made for this particular flower. I used portions of its very large leaves and a stainless steel strip to complete the arrangement.

And, when the flower petals have died, It makes an interesting modern arrangement. Here, I used a glass container, which is black on the outside and white on the inside and was given to me by my student Nicole.

On her last lesson my student, Mary, brought me a bunch of magnificent, pink peonies. This is a rare treat and I looked around in my garden to find accompanying material worthy of their beauty. Enter the dogwood (cornus Norman Haddon), which is in full flower at the moment but was only partially open at the time.

Bye for now,