Last week I began my post with some photos showing the sculptural qualities of the Sydney Opera House. I have realised there is a connection with ikebana, and Sogetsu Ikebana in particular. 

Ikebana is quite distinctive because of the sculptural quality of the forms we create. It is interesting that old black and white photos of ikebana still look attractive, whereas traditional western floral art in black and white tends to look a little bland. This is because of the emphasis on line, mass and space, in ikebana compared to the primary emphasis on colour in traditional western floral art.

Last week, in my teacher Elizabeth's class, we were set a decidedly sculptural exercise: of making a work from non-botanical materials only. These are usually man-made materials and the exercise has been included in the new Book five of the Sogetsu curriculum. 

The exercise becomes an exploration: encouraging us to create a form using materials with properties that are not to be found in botanical materials. I decided to use A3-sized sheets of card, choosing colours that I thought would be harmonious . 

I began by cutting the red and purple sheets into thirds. The blue sheet I cut further, making thin strips as well. I wanted to utilise the flexibility of the card to make some twisting curves, like in the red sheet on the right and the purple on the left.

The card did not have enough strength when arched, so (plan B) I created a blue cylinder as a support to increase the height of the sculpture. I think I need to repeat the exercise to find ways to increase the strength of the structure.

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The local shire council in Torquay held its annual 'Arts Trail' last weekend. In this event local artists open their studios to the general public. Two of my students from my U3A class and I participated again this year. 

This 'basic upright' arrangement was made by Frances.

Val created a dramatic freestyle using strelitzia leaves from her garden and snapdragons.

I broke a vase while working with this material; so 'plan B' turned out to be a freestyle work using two black plastic suibans. The materials are Japanese Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles and an apricot branch.


Today Roadside Ikebana comes to you from a different location.

Here is the location-identifying photo. Half of the iconic bridge.

I photographed these two ferries through the upper foyer window...

                   ...of this iconic building.

The Sydney Opera House is a building with the most wonderful sculptural qualities. 

From the plaza, the Botanic Gardens are glimpsed between the Opera House and on the right, the Benelong Restaurant.

The vault of the sails over the staircases remind me of a Wells Cathedral.


The interior of the concert hall where we attended a performance of Wagner's Parsifal.

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A couple of weeks ago I gave a workshop on using bare branches and was particularly attracted by the twisting lines of the branch shown below. 

I subsequently refined the line further at home.

On Tuesday the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter held its Annual General Meeting. The Heads of the Ikebana Schools in Melbourne each demonstrated ikebana which can be seen on the above link.

Greeting from Christopher
13th August 2017


This afternoon, while walking along the path among the sand dunes, I noticed another sign of late winter. The first flowers for this season of the native, clematis microphylla. The plant seeds prolifically and it has become more abundant in this area compared to when I was a child.

Here it is growing in sand over some dead branches.

We have planted it on our back and side fences as an effective natural screen that allows glimpses of the view beyond.

This close-up is of one of the flowers in the previous photo.

At the class I give in Melbourne my student Kyoko has commenced Book Three of the Sogetsu curriculum. This is her second exercise, 'A horizontal arrangement'. She has used seasonal flowers, pink Japanese Flowering Quince and Hyacinth, which go so well with the grey of the vase. The single green leaf on the right hand side gives a little 'zing' of contrasting colour. Note the asymmetry, so important in ikebana, achieved by the two sides being of different lengths.

I attended a class with my teacher while in Melbourne. Our exercise was to create an ikebana arrangement incorporating any form of narcissus.

I bought a bunch of Narcissus papyraceus and teamed it with some Kiwifruit vine, Actinidia deliciosa, that my sister-in-law had given me. It was interesting to contrast the tall column of the flowers with the curving lines of the vine in this Japanese compote-shaped vase. 

When I came home I re-worked the arrangement in a ceramic bowl by the Bendigo ceramicist Phil Elson.

Greetings from Christopher
5th August 2017


Three weeks ago the Cootamundra Wattle Acacia Baileyana started to open. I first noticed it from the bathroom window and went into the garden to take this photo.

The small bright yellow blossom was at the tip of a branch and lit up by the sunlight.

This is how the whole tree looked then.

This week the tree is a mass of yellow with almost all of the blossom open. It is slightly past its prime as we had some rain a couple of days earlier. 

On the 1st of July I posted this photo of buds on a new chaenomeles japonica called 'apple blossom' that a friend bought for me when she was on a spree in a nursery.

This is the first open flower. Thank you Shirley, it is beautiful.

In this week's ikebana I have combined red 'Japonica' and the acacia baileyana. I find them both emblematic of winter and to me they suggest two different feelings. The stark beauty of the 'Japonica's' blossom on bare branches remind me of the coldness of winter. Meanwhile, the abundant gold of the acacia is glorious and lifts the spirits in a different way, reminding me of the coming Spring.

The ceramic vase is by a young Japanese ceramic artist, Arikawa Makoto.

Greetings from Christopher
30th July 2017


Today we had a late afternoon walk and were delighted to see a flock of Galahs on the power-lines.


Their warm pink feathers contrast beautifully with the pale grey of their body and upper wings and seemed more intense in the afternoon light.

We have just come back to Torquay after spending nine nights in Melbourne. On Saturday last weekend I gave a workshop for members of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter, which we also opened to visitors. Our intention with weekend workshops is particularly to provide an opportunity for members who are working or otherwise unable to attend our regular meetings. 

The theme of the workshop was 'Bare Branches'. Being winter, it is a seasonally relevant subject. I had prepared two examples and demonstrated a third. 

The intention of my first example was to capture the feeling of the wind, which has sculptured this branch of Leptospermum laevigatum. I added a small sprig of camellia leaves to give the arrangement a feeling of life.

The branches for my second example (Leucopogon paviflorus) were chosen because of the effect of lichen on their surface texture and colour. All the branches were relatively straight so I cut the thickest one to make a sculptural form from short lengths, then added one finer branch and two blue iris flowers for a contrasting highlight.

My third example was a 'no kenzan' arrangement of branches from our apricot tree expressing the stark lines of their wintery state. I have added three orange tulips as a focal highlight.

Further images can be seen at Ikebana International Winter Workshop.

Greetings from Christopher
21st July 2017


This week, as we were out walking, the distinctive cry of a Gang-gang Cockatoo caught our attention. The call of this bird is like the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle; or like a squeaky door hinge. 

This particular bird was happily feeding on the nectar of a street tree, a cream-flowered eucalyptus. 

It was only a couple of metres above our heads and appeared quite unperturbed by our presence. This was a male bird, identifiable by the red feathers on its head.

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Last weekend I attended a Sogetsu Branch workshop lead by Lara Telford. Her theme was 'Wabi-sabi in Ikebana'. I would like to recommend the excellent article on this concept, which arises from Buddhist philosophy, in Wikipedia Wabi-sabi

As the weather has become colder I have been watching my hydrangea flowers pass from their early autumn greenness to being mottled with dark pink-red spots. This, I thought, would make a suitable subject for the workshop where we would be paying attention to that beauty which is to be found in imperfection. I posted the photo below in 2014...

...this shows a paler version of this year's colouring of the hydrangea. In the workshop I arranged this year's large, richly coloured flowerhead on a long arching stem with only a couple of leaves.

Lara correctly pointed out that it was too beautiful (!) for the exercise. I hope you can imagine my pain when I recognised that she was right. So the large beautiful flower had to go. I bravely cut the flower off, leaving only a single fading leaf on the stem and a smaller flower with a group of leaves at the opening on the vase.

I re-set the arrangement when I got home against a grey background.

This photo shows just how right Lara was in her critique. The focus of the arrangement has become the leaf with its final autumn colouring before it falls. The feeling is one of loneliness.

Greetings from Christopher
15th July 2017

The vase is by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery.


Last week I commented on the cold weather and said that ' by the sea we rarely suffer frosts...', hmmm, talk about famous last words. The very next morning...

...a patina of light grey covered the ground.


This leaf outlined with frost must have fallen from the apricot tree only the day before.

The birdbath was frozen solid.

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A couple of weeks ago, my teacher set us an exercise from the new Book 5 of the Sogetsu curriculum: An arrangement set on the Table. Among the points of consideration are whether the arrangement will be seen from all angles, that its height does not interfere with the guests' line of sight, and that it is in harmony with other aspects of the table setting.

Below are my fellow students' creations from that class:

Dianne used a 'finger citron' and two variegated leaves in this stylish modern arrangement.

Toula used four matching vases in which she arranged camellias and cotoneaster branches. She removed all the leaves from the branches to emphasise the berries and branch lines.

Marilyn used two complementary shallow vessels. She arranged her camellia branches to arch between them creating a long narrow arrangement.

Swan used a long narrow vessel in which she arranged 'spinning gum' branches and a line of yellow chrysanthemums.

In thinking about this exercise beforehand, I decided to use three matching cup-shaped vases by the Bendigo potter Ray Pearce. Their external appearance reminds me of heavily appliqu├ęd patchwork fabric. The glaze is an olive coloured celadon. Initially I thought to use my cotoneaster branches in a naturalistic manner. However, the branches looked too fussy against the vases, which I found to be unexpectedly visually strong. 

I then decided a strong contemporary design was needed. Using some short lengths of sedge leaves braced across the vases, I removed the berries from the branches and floated them on the surface of the water in crescent shapes that I had created. This massing of the berries significantly increased the impact of their red colour.

Here are the vases re-set on the dining table at home.

Greetings from Christopher
9th july 2017


Japanese flowering quince has to be one of my favourite plants at this time of year, especially to use in ikebana.

This year in our garden the Japanese flowering quince, chaenomeles japonica, seems to have started flowering earlier than last year and more prolifically. I think it may be a result of the removal of a tree in our neighbour's garden that was sheltering the plant. Now it is exposed to the prevailing winds.

I took these photos this morning when it was sunny, 'though only 6 Celsius. Mild by some standards, but cool enough. The temperature may get down to 0 Celsius overnight during the next couple of months. However, living by the sea we rarely suffer frosts. 

On a different bush, given to me by my ikebana friend Joan, this white flower is the first for the season.

These buds are on yet another bush. This one is called Apple Blossom and the petals are soft pink and white. It was only planted last autumn and seems to have settled in well.

Ten days ago was Winter Solstice and I was interested in trying to capture the idea of the longest night and shortest day in an ikebana arrangement. The quince blossom seemed an ideal material, particularly as it allowed me to reduce the colours to red, black and white.


I have set the arrangement in a white bottle-shaped vessel, with a black design, against a dark background 

In this version of the arrangement, which I have had to reverse, I have created a background with a large dark area and a smaller white area to represent the different lengths of day and night at the solstice. 

Here is the arrangement against a plain white background.

And this is how it looked a week later in the niche in the living room. You can see that the blossoms that were fully opened have retained their colour and the more recently opened blossoms are pale.

The bottle-shaped vessel is by the ceramic artist Tadao Akutsu from Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture Japan. 

Greetings from Christopher
1st July 2017