Newsletter February 2023

Happy Lunar New Year!


SECNA Meetup #5: Social Justice, Surry Hills, Thu 2nd Feb 2023, 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm AEDT | Humanitix

Sat 11 Feb – Sustainable Alternatives for Valentine’s Day Pop-Up Stall outside Little Giant Roaster Cafe (9 am to 3 pm) Succulent Terrariums, Succulents in fishbowls, DIY Kits (Succulent Terrariums and Colour-Sand Glass).  

Lunar New Year Celebrations by Willoughby City Council (WCC) – Year of Rabbit begins on Sun 22 Jan. 2023.  WCC has put together a series of activities from 18 Jan to 12 Feb for people of all ages and all cultural backgrounds to celebrate this occasion: Chatswood Year of the Rabbit Festival

Sat 25 Feb – FAME (Floral Arrangements Made Easy) Workshop at Chatswood Youth Centre

Bush Poetry Recital and Music at Henry Lawson Cave, Willoughby

Bushwalk of the Month – Community Flower Studio

Reflections on past events!

Proud of creating a unique flower crown!

The 3rd Flower Crown Workshop was sold out 2 weeks before it was held on the eve of Lunar New Year (21/1)! The youngest participant just turned 10 yr. and the most senior one was over 65 yr. It was one of the most multicultural mix of ethnic background – Australian, British, Canadian, Hongkonger-Chinese, Korean, Singaporean and Thai. CFS is in a special position to offer creative workshops that attract people of all ages and backgrounds. From the evaluation forms collected, participants enjoyed selecting their own materials (from a huge range) to create their unique flower crowns. Some participants also talked about being so proud of the final products and being able to take them home. From the photos taken during the workshop, participants were ‘ totally absorbed’ into the task as if they forgot about the passage of time. They were ‘in the zone’! The biggest give away of their positive experience was the smiles on their faces in the group photo!  

That very morning of the workshop, I was asked how the CFS creative workshops differed from other craft and painting classes (by other providers)! I said you could join one to find out! I think I may have offered the answer here.      


If you would like to order a DIY Succulent Terrarium, Colour-Sand Glass or Flower Crown Kitsfor Lunar New Year, check out the CFS online Shop.

The Petal-it-Forward Campaign is proudly sponsored by generous donations from our members and supporters. Donations to CFS are tax deductible. Donate – Community Flower Studio

There are many ways to support CFS: become a member or contribute to the columns here. I’m always looking for a great recipe passed down from generation to generation. If you have a story to share, either write a short piece around 250 words or shoot us some photos. If there is a book or a movie you want to write a review, the CFS e-Newsletter will be happy to share with our e-Newsletter subscribers.  Contact Bibi on

If you would like to purchase a DIY Succulent Terrarium Kit for a loved one or a friend as a present, order online here !

This is a ‘Succulents in Colour-Sand Glass’ DIY Kit which comes with a youth-approved instruction sheet and a QR code to the YouTube clip of previous workshops. Available here.

Here is a new DIY kit – Flower Crown

Flower Crown DIY Kit

Flower of the Month

By Dr Bibiana Chan

Calla Lilies

I first came across this beautiful bloom many years ago as a single bloom printed on the box of a famous bakery in Hong Kong. It made a first impression in my mind – the flower of elegance.

 ‘Calla’ is a Greek word for ‘beauty’.  In Greek mythology, when the goddess Hera was breastfeeding her son Heracles, some milk spilt and formed the Milky Way Galaxy. Calla Lilies bloomed everywhere the milk landed on Earth. It is the national flower of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people consider white calla lilies to be a symbol of peace. This plant also symbolizes good luck in some cultures, especially for wedding ceremonies. They’re traditionally used in Easter arrangements and funeral services, where they symbolize purity, resurrection, and rebirth.

It usually reaches a height of 30 – 90 cm and a width of 20 – 60 cm. Indirect light will be ideal, but full sun to partial shade is alright too. However, loose, well-draining soil is the secret to a healthy growing Calla Lilies. It is a semi-evergreen perennial grown from rhizomes. Flowers are trumpet-shaped with pointed tips with a long, finger-like spadix at the centre. The spadix produces a faint, sweet fragrance. Blooms come in colours of white, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, green, or black. Some leaves are solid green and some are speckled with white spots.

A note of caution to the pet owners: Calla lilies are dangerous to pets and humans if any part of the plant is ingested. Sap may cause skin or eye irritation. Wear gloves and handle plants carefully.

Calla Lilies is reasonably easy to grow and care for. I have some bearing pink and yellow blooms and each summer, beautiful flowers shoot up to greet me. For a description of how to care for Calla Lilies both outdoor and indoor, check out this article.

For the keen gardeners, calla lilies can be propagated by divisions. It is best to use a sharp tool to separate a rhizome from the plant’s root ball. Then, you just wait a week for the cut to cure, and then plant the rhizome in a well-draining soil mix. I also learnt how to collect seeds from the matured spadix and use a paper towel to assist the germination process.  

Seeds are growing in the spadix.

If you would like to give it a go, drop me a line to request some Calla Lily seeds. In the meantime, watch this YouTube clip: How to Grow Growing Calla Lilies Lily from Seed- From Collected Saved Calla Lily Seeds


Plant of the month

by Dr Bibiana Chan

Silver Coin Gum

Silver Dollar Gum is one of the most sought-after greeneries in floristry. The silver bluish green leaves hold the scented oil that gives the tree its lovely fragrance. The oil naturally repels insects, mosquitoes and fleas. Gardeners around the world adore this plant native to the western slopes and tablelands of New South Wales and extending to Eastern Victoria, Australia.

The Silver Dollar Gum (Eucalyptus cinerea) is fast-growing, drought and heat tolerant. It can grow up to 10 -15 m tall but will stay smaller in small spaces like a pot. It has reddish-brown to greyish-brown, fibrous stringybark on the lower trunk and larger branches. The juvenile foliage is silvery-blue and round but adult foliage is lanceolate (6-11cm long). Conical flower buds open to small cream to yellow blooms from Spring through to Summer.

It is adaptable to a range of soil types and tolerant of seasonal waterlogging but prefers a sunny position.

Eucalyptus seeds germinate readily and are generally considered one of the easiest natives to grow.  Since the juvenile leaves are much used in the cut flower industry by lopping to keep the juvenile leaves in production. 

Show a plant which was pruned 3 weeks ago, and new shoots re-emerged. Read more here: Australian Seed

Here in Sydney, eucalyptus trees are seen everywhere, we can take things for granted. You may watch the first 4 minutes of this video to appreciate an American gardener in Maryland sharing his joy of spotting a beautiful eucalyptus silver dollar in his neighbourhood. Beautiful Eucalyptus cinerea in Montgomery County, Maryland 

Lucia from Germany also put together a YouTube clip to show you all about ‘Eucalyptus plant care’ if you would like to grow it in a unit.  

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Recipe of the Month

Meal’s End by Alexander Borland


2 cups of strawberries (hulled and rinsed)         

Sugar (to your taste)

1 cup of double cream

2 cups of Greek yogurt or créme fraiche                         

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract    

1 cup of vanilla meringues (coarsely crumbled)


1. Coarsely chop the strawberries.

2. Mix the strawberries in a bowl with an amount of sugar to your taste.                         

3. Beat cream until it is lightly whipped.  

4. Add one tablespoon of sugar to the cream

5. Fold in yogurt and vanilla extract

6. Fold in strawberries and the crumbled meringues

Note: Xander (Alexander) is only 13 years old and enjoys cooking with his mum and his twin brother.

Book Review

by Kim Wilkins



The author is a successful novelist from Northern Ireland who has written a number of critically acclaimed novels.  In Instructions for a Heatwave we explore an Irish family living in England where an elderly husband and wife raise three very different children. It was published in 2013 and is about 340 easy to read pages

The story begins with the husband disappearing during a heatwave which draws together the 3 adult children in the search for their father.  While this is the basis of the plot, the novel is really about the three children, Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife.

 It is trite to say the Irish have a good sense of humour, but the way these characters see the world and the exploration of their own life through their own eyes, I found very amusing and entertaining. I also liked the detailed description of the struggle the youngest child, Aoife, has with her undiagnosed dyslexia and her efforts to read.

There is a message of sorts about the importance of family and some exploration of the problems of marriage, the problems of raising children and the issues the Irish have living in England but I found that the main attraction of this novel to be the entertaining style of the author in the exploration of this family.

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From the Desk of Bibi

Have you ever been a rebel?

Have you ever been a rebel?’ This was a question thrown at me some 10 years ago! Perhaps my public image has always been someone nice and hardworking! My friends couldn’t imagine Bibi ever being a brat? My answer was “do you count the decision I made when I was just 12 years old – to do the ‘exact’ opposite of what my parents wanted me to do in terms of future career?

“No, I’m not going to study medicine! I want to be a social worker!’ This was stuck in my mind even though I didn’t say it out loud to my parents. Regardless of whether this represented the ‘rebel’ in young Bibi or just a young person desperately wanting to look for her own path in life rather than simply trying to please her parents. Ironically, I actually was very keen to follow my mum’s footsteps to become a social worker. I witnessed so much social injustice growing up in Hong Kong, I thought a social worker could play a part in empowering the ‘have nots’.

Perhaps this idea stuck with me ever since. At my first work appraisal meeting (as the research manager at UNSW) with my boss, he commented that ‘Bibi, you have a strong sense of social justice!’ This pretty much drives me to want to make the world a better place for everyone! Wouldn’t it be great if Australia truly embraces cultural diversity (compared to just lip service)? Would it be wonderful if Indigenous Australians are acknowledged as the true custodians of countries (not just reading out a script on Welcome to Country)?    

The seed of ‘rebel’ must have been growing slowly in my heart. When I was a first year student studying Social Work in Hong Kong, I jumped on the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to study Speech Pathology in Sydney after watching a 23-minutes report on TV about their work. That was 1983!  ‘Look/Think before you Leap!’ is a well-known Western saying. There is an equivalent Chinese idiom 三思而後行 Sānsī érhòu xíng ‘Think thrice before taking actions! Yet teenage Bibi did the exact opposite to conventional wisdom!  

I recently came across a book entitled “Daring & Disruptive – unleashing the entrepreneur” by Lisa Messenger! She is a self-confessed rebel. She told the stories of being removed from the classroom for asking too many questions and for challenging the authorities.  At the age of 30, she started her own business. She reviewed her ambitions to do something bigger than a girl from country NSW in an interview on ‘One Plus One’ (a program on ABC). After being fired, she had a month’s salary ($AUD$4000). She launched her own company to be her former employer’s competitor! Her motto is ‘to succeed in anything in life – you must have unwavering, insatiable, tenacious self-belief. You have to be able to back yourself; to harbour that kind of unbridled passion for winning that will stop at nothing until you reach your goals!’     

She also found it ironic that her so-called ‘rebellious’ behaviour (in her teenage years) were not too different from what have been praised as ‘disruptive’ ideas to secure her a spot as an innovative successful social entrepreneur! Watch this recent interview of Lisa to find out her reflections in life.    

When I founded the Community Flower Studio (CFS) as a Not-for-Profit Social Enterprise in August 2019, once again I leaped into it with no experience of running any business, let alone a social enterprise! I didn’t have much self-belief either. All I had then were some dear friends who believed in me and willing to put their hands up as members of the CFS committee to formalize the registration process.   

However, as every ‘new’ entrepreneur, you have to look for the ‘niche’ market. In the first few iterations of the CFS Business Plan, there is a statement bold and clear – making purchasing fresh flowers more affordable.  After 3 1/2 years in business and survived 2 COVID-19 lockdowns, CFS has slowly found its business model – hosting a monthly pop-up stall with net proceeds to fund our free ‘Creative Workshops by Young People for Young People’. The stalls also tie with a mental health theme (e.g. RUOK Day and Mental Health Month). When CFS launched the ‘Petal-it-Forward Campaign’ (customers are given a free petal-it-forward bunch to pass onto a friend or even a stranger) in Nov 2021 to celebrate the 2nd COVID-19 lockdown, it was planned to be a one-off event. Now, it is a permanent feature of our pop-up stalls. Lisa Messager’s described the reasons behind disruptors’ success,

 ‘…they’re willing to start before they have all of the information at hand and they’re happy to learn as you go. As long as you have business smarts, industry-specific naivety can be great because you don’t know what ‘can’t be done’ and you are not constrained by industry norms.’      

I certainly am naïve about running a business and CFS is far from success! Many small businesses were hit hard by the pandemic in the past 3 years. CFS survived only because it was awarded a few small community grants to run programs for promoting mental health in youth and the wider community. CFS became a registered charity (with Deductible Gift Recipient endorsement), since April 2022, our fundraising team will be looking into hosting some fundraising events this year.

If I were asked the same question again, ‘Have you ever been a rebel?’ I will answer with no hesitation, ‘Yes, I’m a rebel at heart!’

For those of you who are interested to find out whether you have some hidden rebel talents, here is a test developed by a Harvard Professor Francesca Gino.   

“Francesca has a very personal and self-aware approach to bridging the gap between the social norms that glue us together, and the acts of challenging those norms. The rebellious approach has led to great advances, and it also has led to abuse.  She pushes us to allow for people who challenge what we do, but with a grounding in thinking about the use of power and status in our businesses and in our lives.”

— Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios


Business for Good

By McKayla Tan

On 8 December 2022, Community Flower Studio attended SECNA’s Business4Good Event. SECNA (Social Enterprise Council for NSW and ACT). The main role of SECNA is to provide community and advocacy for social enterprises in NSW and ACT, led by all types of social enterprises from both states. Community Flower Studio is proudly a part of this, and I was privileged enough to participate with Bibi on behalf of the CFS Youth Subcommittee.

While having delicious food catered by social enterprise Free to Feed, we social enterprises held discussions amongst ourselves where we could relate to each other’s triumphs and struggles.

After hearing inspiring speeches about social enterprises and the future of SECNA, we were able to brainstorm what we wanted out of SECNA. Some popular ideas were to have a self-sustaining model, use SECNA as a hub for collaborations, and share resources amongst each other.

SECNA’s Business4Good event was an open, friendly community where we all felt able to communicate with one another, whether that was to give advice or share success stories. From the bubbly atmosphere, CFS could tell that this was only the start of something wonderful and new.

This is a definition of ‘social enterprise’ on the SECNA website.

SECNA launched a marketing campaign ‘Switch2Good’ in Oct 2022. CFS was part of it.

Social Enterprise Australia also ran a campaign to present the social impact of social enterprise: Business For Good: The size and contribution of social enterprise to Australia

If you are interested to attend the next SECNA Meetup, here is the link to registration the Feb meeting.

SECNA Meetup #5: Social Justice, Surry Hills, Thu 2nd Feb 2023, 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm AEDT | Humanitix

Community Flower Studio Logo Explained

Community: CFS is a community to support young people facing mental health challenges.

Creative: CFS hosts events to unleash young people s creative talents.

Resource: CFS provides members with resources to enhance their wellbeing.  

Support: CFS  offers support to members to develop their potential.

Growth: CFS fosters a growth mindset which is helpful in dealing with challenges.

Recovery: CFS sees recovery as achievable and a journey to cherish.



Website: Mobile: 0412 613 073

Like us on Facebook:Community Flower Studio Inc. Instagram: communityflowerstudio

Address: 10-12 Clanwilliam St., Willoughby, 2068, NSW, Australia.