I was amused to note that, in her blog last week, my colleague Emily Karanikolopoulos also reported about strategies for preserving hydrangeas through the blistering 41 Celsius heat. As I mentioned in last weeks posting, we were fortunate that we only had one isolated hot day. 

Since then the last two days have brought an unexpectedly good steady rainfall. This has occurred because the weather pattern in the south east of Australia has dragged warm moist air from a tropical cyclone in the north west of the continent. A blessing for us. The same storm system is now bringing good rainfall further south in Western Australia.

Enough of the weather report. This week I noticed that the casuarinas which had to be lopped 18 months ago are really growing strongly again.

I posted this photograph last January when I first noticed the trees re-sprouting. They had been in poor health having been infected by boring beetles. I am hoping that they do not get re-infected.

Elsewhere in the garden the scabiosa atropurpurea is becoming very leggy so I have cut off a lot of the old seed heads.

This is how it looked a few seasons ago when it went wild and began to look like a meadow.

Scabiosa works beautifully as a full, but quite open, arrangement expressing the abundance of the late Spring early Summer season. The chun glazed ceramic bowl is by Graeme Wilkie.

These are the hydrangea flowers, still on the bush, that I managed to salvage from last week's heat. It will be interesting to see if I can nurse them through to the autumn.

Here is an arrangement I created with some I had picked before the heat struck. The double line is in fact a single New Zealand flax leaf that I partially split. The large wood fired vessel is also by Graeme Wilkie.

Greetings from Christopher
14th January 2018


Wishing you a happy New Year in this my first post for 2018.

Two days ago the maximum temperature in Torquay was about 28 Celsius. Yesterday it was about 41C with hot dry winds from the north. This morning it is cool and still below 20C. A single very hot day is unusual, but much better than several in succession. It points out the folly of growing plants that are not really suited to the climate. 

I can only grow hydrangeas in pots, where they can be placed in semi-shade. The lack of shelter from hot north winds and the dry soil in our garden makes this an unsuitable environment even for a more skilled gardener than I am. The photo above was taken on 22nd December 2016.

I watered the pots three times yesterday but was not able to prevent the sun/heat damage.

Fortunately we knew the hot day was coming, so on the previous evening I picked a number of the better blooms in advance of the heat. Later today I will remove the damaged flowers and hope that there may be some more flowers produced by Autumn.

This morning when we walked down to the beach we passed this Corymbia Ficifolia which, being a native of Western Australia, was unscathed by yesterday's heat.

In fact I think a few more flowers blossomed yesterday, but there is no sign of heat stress.


My attention was caught by the noisy twittering of a number of Rainbow Lorikeets that were feeding on the nectar of the flowers.


I made today's ikebana using two hydrangea flower-heads and the stems of Strelitzia Juncea. I used the stems to create a design with strong lines to harmonise with the lines in the vase. The ceramic vase was made by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery in Lorne.

Greetings from Christopher
7th January 2018


The radio news reported extra cold weather in Canada and the internet says that in Ottawa it is minus 23C, but feels like minus 28C! Our friends from the UK have had snow but are not quite so cold. They wrote to us remembering a warm Christmas in Australia 3 years ago. A couple of days ago here on the 'surf coast' the temperature got up to 33 Celsius.

The day before that, Boxing Day, the temperature was in the high 20's and we went for a long walk in Iron Bark Basin, which sits above Point Addis beach.  

Many people were enjoying the summer weather on the beach and in the water. Other people were enjoying a birds-eye view.


The trees in the foreground are causurinas, which are mostly found on the cliff edge. 

This photo is taken further away from the cliffs  and shows the characteristic nature of the bushland of the nature reserve, where the understory has become dominated by the local Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoeas) since the terrible bush fires of 1983. I really like the way there is no visible horizon, just mass of grey tree trunks that recede into the distance.

I was pleased to see this pink ground orchid, Dipodium roseum...

and this delightful...

...very small Fringed Lily Thysanotua tuberosus.

On an earlier walk I had photographed this cluster of dainty Centaurium erythraea. For many years I had thought this to be a native plant. However, some years ago now, my friend Fermi informed me that it was an introduced species that had naturalised.

My big surprise about two weeks ago was to see this gecko one night outside on a glass door. I took the photo without a flash so it is somewhat blurred. I had thought geckos were tropical lizards. A friend of Rosemary and David's identified it as Christinus Marmoratus, which is widely distributed across southern Australia. We live and learn.

This year we had Christmas lunch with my brother and his family in their new house and I offered to create a 'welcoming ikebana' for the entrance.

This provided some interesting challenges. Firstly I set the arrangement against a mirror on a long narrow, hall table. This meant I had to ensure that the back of the arrangement looked attractive as it showed in the mirror. Because the table was about two metres long I was able to extend the width of the arrangement by using a pair of matching vases and and connecting them with Gymea leaves. The flowers were hydrangeas from our garden. The mirror made it difficult to photograph because of the busy reflected room beyond.

This year I made a 'Christmas Tree' from the stripped branches of a poplar tree. 

The tree was effectively floating, being suspended from the ceiling and decorated with star-like spinifex sericeus seed-heads, and with gold and silver baubles. I then filled a large ceramic bowl with an abundance of baubles. The inspiration for the last idea I owe to my student Helen, see last week's blog.

Wishing you happiness and peace in the New Year. Greetings from,
31st December 2017


I could not resist this cartoon.

It is by the much loved Michael Leunig and featured on the back page of yesterday's 'The Age' newspaper. 

*          *          *          *          *

Three weeks ago I showed a photo of some Xanthorrhoea plants growing along the clifftop path toward Bell's Beach. 

They have been kindly identified by Freya Headlam who volunteers with the Friends of Dandenong Valley Parklands. She suggested they '...could well be Xanthorrhoea minor, or Small Grass Tree, which grows in SA and NSW as well as Victoria.'  

Interestingly, the Dandenong Valley group of linked parklands includes Jells Park where there is a plaque beside a tree that was planted by the late Norman Sparnon. 


These photos were sent to me by Greg Schofield, the son of Doreen Schofield who is one of the Senior members of Ikebana International Melbourne and the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.

Returning to the theme of my last two blog postings, below are photos from the final 2017 class of my Geelong-based students. This class was held at the home of Maureen and her husband John. The students brought seasonal materials for a Christmas celebration and were allocated a location that suited the nature of the materials. As it is Summer here in Australia, one of the most conspicuous plants in flower at the present is agapanthus, from southern Africa, which has naturalised and become an environmental weed in Victoria. (Gardeners are encouraged to remove the flower heads before seeds ripen and are spread by birds.)

This first arrangement was created by Alana. She has used one of Maureen's vases so that the ikebana could be left in place after the class. Alana emphasised the vertical lines of the agapanthus and contrasted them with the curving lines of a spray of dancing lady orchids.

Maureen created an ikebana arrangement with strong vertical lines. Her principal material was dried agapanthus which she had sprayed silver to match the vase. The blue and green of her secondary material, fresh agapanthus, provided a striking contrast.

Tess also used agapanthus as her principal material. She found these quirky-shaped buds in her garden and sprayed most of them silver. The secondary material, pine needles, were cut short and arranged in an upright mass. Her ceramic vase is a 'tear-drop' shaped vase from Japan that echoed the shape of the agapanthus buds.

Helen created a Christmas table-centre arrangement in a glass bowl. She has floated golden baubles and contrasted them with two strikingly bicoloured roses.

Ellie used pine, white roses and red berries. Her arrangement with sweeping lines was strongly asymmetric in an irregular ceramic vase.

Christine made an arrangement on a kitchen bench, 'to be viewed from all angles'. She used feathery grass-heads, casaurina and red and green flowers. The vessels are made from plastic icecream containers.

Two days ago was the Summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. I made this arrangement for a friend's birthday and felt the upward reach of the sky-blue agapanthus flowers represented the longest day of the year. I enjoyed using the subtly curving lines to make interesting spaces for the central mass of large flower-heads.

Greetings and best wishes from Christopher on Christmas Eve 2017

I think this cartoon sent by Amos (thank you) will particularly appeal to ikebanists.


In the garden about a month ago I was lamenting the lack of flowers on the New Zealand flax this year, after it was damaged by a falling tree last year.

However much to my surprise, following some exceptionally heavy rain, a single flower spike appeared. I was delighted when it grew a full metre in the next week. 

Also this year the Grevillea Robusta has flowered again for only the second time. There are more flowers which are larger and seem more dense than last year.


The strelitzia juncea is also doing well this year. 

*           *           *           *           *

The last class for my Thursday morning U3A students was held at my house in Torquay. The class started at lunchtime, later than usual, and I allocated locations around the house for the students to create their ikebana.

I had prepared this welcoming ikebana in the entrance using a hanging vase I had bought in Seto City, Aichi Prefecture in 2006. I do not often use this location for ikebana as I worry that it could be easily knocked.

This arrangement is by Helen using two strelitzia leaves and some green Kangaroo Paw flowers.

Val made this arrangement as an interpretation of a nativity scene. The three lilies represent the Holy Family and the leaves behind them represent the shepherds.

Leonie made a table arrangement using driftwood and pink lilies.

Frances' arrangement was a two kenzan (kabuwake style) work using molecculla laevis, poppy seedheads and Delphinium.

Rhonda arranged Grevillia and Kangaroo paw in a suiban in the house entrance.

Kim arranged two Pine branches in a new celadon vase. It looked so formal that he wisely decided that flowers would be superfluous.

The students discussed their arrangements during my critique and then we enjoyed a social meal of shared food. 

Greetings from Christopher
16th December 2017