Newsletter January 2023

Happy New Year!

Fleurs de Villes Christmas & New Year Celebration in Vancouver


Sat 21 Jan – Flower Crown Workshop at Chatswood Youth Centre.

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 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).  

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

Floral Trends for 2023 from Marginpar – it is a proud member of the FSI initiative. FSI stands for Floriculture Sustainability Initiative. Its goal is to achieve a sustainable production of 100% for all plants and flowers.

Reflections on past events!

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst!

The Community Flower Studio hosted two Christmas Pop-up Stalls on 10th and 17th Dec. 2022. Sales were slow on both days. Wet and windy conditions on 17th gave me no choice but to pack up after just 2 hours of operation. This was no surprise to me under the current financial climate (7 consecutive rise in interest rates in 2022). Throughout the year, three pop-up stalls had either been canceled or cut short due to unfavourable weather. Extreme weather events occur more frequently these days, we may have to think of alternatives to our current outdoor arrangement.   

The Chinese word-units for crisis are ‘Crisis-Opportunity’ (危機; wéijī). My counselling training taught me to think of the best and the worst scenarios. Hopefully something in between will happen in real life. I also learnt not to set too high an expectation on the outcomes but always work hard to achieve the best. Even in anticipation of a reduced sale, Team CFS still offered our ‘Petal-it-Forward’ Christmas bunches to brighten up someone’s day! One customer bought a rose bouquet. I told her to pick a ‘Petal-it-Forward’ bunch. She asked me whether I really would like her to do so! I said,

‘Yes, please give it to someone who may need a bit of TLC (Tender Loving Care)!’

If Christmas is a time for spreading joy, New Year is definitely a time to share hope! Wishing you all a great year ahead!  


With COVID-19 under much better control, the annual Christmas Light Show in the Willoughby Neighbourhood returned in Dec 2022. Thanks to the passion and generosity of the residents around The Avenues, many neighbours were able to enjoy the spectacular display.

Christmas Ligh Show in Willoughby, NSW, Australia
North Pole Express – Christmas Light Show in Willoughby

In Vancouver, Fleurs de Villes surprised us with these beautiful floral arrangements! Lucky, they escaped the Arctic Storm.

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


Hydrangeas at the Flemington Flower Market, Sydney.

The most common type of Hydrangeas is Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla). Its nickname is ‘mophead’ as it displays large globes of flowers. The leaves are shiny and crisp, as well as heart-shaped with coarsely toothed edges. They are approximately 10 – 15 cm long and 7 – 12 cm wide. Hydrangeas usually flower from early spring to late autumn. Hydrangeas are deciduous shrubs growing to around 1-2m. Hydrangea’s name is made up of the Greek word ‘hydra – literally meaning water. You would assume that these plants need a lot of water.  In summer, it will be best to water deeply two to three times a week. The recent wet days in Sydney brought on the most beautiful display of Hydrangea hedges.

Hydrangea is a genus of over 75 species native to Asia and the Americas. There are many different species in eastern China, Korea, and Japan. You may like to read more about Types of Hydrangeas.

If you would like to try something new for 2023, you may like to learn ‘How to propagate hydrangea’. At 4:30 min. you will see roots formed near the nodes in just 1-2 weeks. I did some cuttings too. Contact me if you would like take home a cutting.

Hydrangea cuttings inserted into a pot of vermiculites.

I came across this very unusual way to propagate plant, I might give it a go. How to propagate hydrangea flower from cuttings using tissue paper.

Fun Facts about Hydrangeas:

By Greta Frost – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
An elegant landscape garden with blue hydrangeas.
  1. Hydrangea flower colour changes based on the pH in soil. As the graph depicts, soil with a pH of 5.5 or lower will sprout blue hydrangeas, a pH of 6.5 or higher will produce pink hydrangeas, and soil in between 5.5 and 6.5 will have purple hydrangeas. White hydrangeas cannot be manipulated by soil pH, they will always be white because they do not contain pigment for colour. (Note: To get blue flowers, lower soil pH by adding sulfur or peat moss to the soil. Add additional aluminum sulfate to the soil during the growing season. Pink and red flowers bloom when ground limestone is added. Avoid pH levels above 7.5 to prevent damage to the plant).
  2. Hydrangeas loves soil rich in material. Good drainage is very important because it can’t tolerate waterlogged, soggy soil. You may add Perlite or Vermiculite to the potting mix to improve soil drainage.  
  3. Hydrangeas are super easy to grow from cuttings taken during Spring or Summer. Just cut 10 – 12 cm off the tip of a non-flower-bearing stem. Make the cut just below a pair of leaves. To preserve energy to root-growth, remove the bottom leaves, then cut the remaining leaves in half. Insert the cuttings into pots filled with propagating mix. I use equal portions of potting mix, vermiculite and sand and place the cuttings in a shady spot. To reduce evaporation, you may consider covering the pot with a zip-log bag in the first 2 weeks.
  4. Meaning & Symbolism

It is very interesting to learn that different cultures have different meanings to different colours of hydrangeas. In Japan, blue hydrangea symbolises ‘Apology’ based on the legend of the emperor expressing this sentiment to his girlfriend. General speaking, the blue hydrangea symbolizes gratitude and understanding for someone else and is always a thoughtful way of saying sorry.

A tall floral arrangement featuring blue hydrangeas.

The white hydrangea symbolises arrogance, vanity or boasting. In the Victorian era, men gifted white hydrangeas to prospects they desired.

This beauty is from my garden!
The recent rainfall encouraged the growth of these beautiful blooms.

Pink hydrangea symbolises true feelings and the meaning of love. It will be great fit for spring and summer wedding bouquets. Purple Hydrangea symbolises the desire for deep understanding.

This hydrangea bush bears blooms of different colours.

The purple colour is often associated with pride, royalty and gratefulness across many cultures. Purple hydrangea is chosen for gifts around the fourth wedding anniversary. In some Japanese temples (e.g. Hakusan Shrine, Tokyo), thousands of hydrangeas are planted. 繡球 (Xiù qiú) literally meaning embroidered + ball. The flower language of hydrangea is hope, loyalty, eternity, happiness, reunion, etc. Sending hydrangea represents a very good blessing.


Plant of the month

by Dr Bibiana Chan


Magnolia – Teddy Bear

Magnolia is a large genus of about 210-340 flowering plant species in the family Magnoliaceae. It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol. Magnolia is an ancient genus, appearing before bees evolved. The flowers are adapted to encourage pollination by beetles.

The protective layer of the flower bud cracked open.
The petals are very strong to withstand the visit by beetles.
A Magnolia seedpod. often used in floral arrangements

The genus was divided into the two subgenera Magnolia (containingthe American evergreen species M. grandiflora and M. virginiana in the US) and Yulania (contains several deciduous Asiatic species, such as M. denudata and M. Kobus). Flowers bloom before the leaves. 

In floristry, Magnolia Teddy Bear and Magnolia Little Gem are the most common species used in floral arrangements for their glossy deep green leaves. The brown underside gives a great contrast to the green leaf.     

The glossy green Magnolia leaves complemented the Cally Lilies.

Fun Facts about Magnolia:

1. Both M. Teddy Bear and M. Little Gem plants have large white blooms with strong fragrance appearing in spring and summer. The clusters of small red berries are not edible. Teddy Bear is denser and suitable as a screening hedge. They are both evergreen and can reach 3 m. n width. Magnolia Teddy Bear will grow to about 4 m. tall, whereas the Magnolia Little Gem can reach 6 m.

Magnolia Little Gem

2. Magnolias will grow happily in sunny or part-shade well-draining soil that has plenty of organic matter added. They prefer a soil pH of around 5 to 6 which is slightly acidic. They can tolerate a range of soil types including loamy, clay, and sandy soil. Gypsum may be added to improve the structure and drainage of the soil.

A Magnolia bloom at the front yard of the Willoughby neighbourhood.

3. Both Magnolia Little Gem and Magnolia Teddy Bear are hardy plants and fairly drought tolerant. They can handle dry conditions well and even light frosts, but both dislike temperatures below zero for extended periods of time.

Check out this short video clip about this beautiful plant: About Magnolia Teddy Bear

If you are serious about adding Magnolia to your garden or courtyard, pick up some tips from this clip. I’ve planted one 3 years ago!

This Litte Gem is planted 3 years ago at my front yard.

How to Grow Magnolias

Mulch is very important to keep the trees and shrubs happy especially in hot dry summer. I’m a big fan of Gardening Australia (by the ABC, Australia Broadcast Corporation). This footage narrated by Mark Krause – the Team Leader of Dandenong Ranges Botanical Garden is a must see: The ‘Caring and Planting Magnolias’:  

The deciduous version bears flowers in Spring before leaves appear.

A white & green floral arrangement featuring Magnolia leaves!

Green is the new pink! A floral arrangement with Magnolia leaves.

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Recipe of the Month

Viennese Crescents by David Robertson


225gm        Butter

.½      Cup             Castor sugar

2         Cups           Plain Flour

1         Cup            Ground Almond Meal

1         tsp              Vanilla essence


Cream butter and sugar then add the rest of the ingredients.

Roll the dough into 3-centimetre balls, then shape into crescents.

Pre-heat oven to 200 º C. Bake for 35 mins in the oven (200º ).

Keep an eye on the baking crescents as temperatures in various ovens may cause unintended burning.  When cooled and just before use – sprinkle crescents with icing sugar.

If you would like to watch how to shape the dough into little crescents, here is a YouTube clip to give you some idea.

Book Review

by Kim Wilkins

The Secret River – by KATE GRENVILLE

Well known Australian author Kate Grenville  published The Secret River in 2005 and, like all her novels, it was a best seller.

It tells the life of William Thornhill from growing up in poverty in London to his conviction and deportation to Sydney as a convict, his convict life and his life as a farmer on the Hawkesberry river.

The author is superb at seeing life through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century eyes of the main character and all 335 pages provide an enjoyable read.  In my view it is probably the best fictional account of convict life and settler life in early Sydney.

The most contentious part of the book is Thornhill’s view of the First Nation Peoples on whose land he is settling. We must remember we are looking at it through the eyes of white people at the time who regarded them as savages.  Even then, Thornhill shows some jealousy of their lifestyle. He and his family work all day growing corn while the “natives” can spear a couple of kangaroos and dance and “party” for the next few days.

It is an entertaining book and a must for those interested in the history of early Sydney.

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From the Desk of Bibi

Intergenerational Exchanges – fostering community spirit, respect and sharing of knowledge and experience!
Laughter yoga Program

Intergenerational Programs are gaining momentum around the world in recent years. They may involve arts and crafts, sports or mentorships depending on participants’ age. One important aspect of these programs is encouraging everyone to use and share their strengths. In the last 3 years of managing COVID-19 Pandemic, the senior citizens and teenagers seem to have experienced many challenges. Will Intergenerational Programs be a key to reduce loneliness among these two groups?
Professor Christina Victor, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University London said when the senior citizens and teenagers were brought together,

‘… and they can find something in common then you have a chance to build a relationship that’s meaningful to both parties and that’s what cures or solves loneliness.’

The Community Flower Studio (CFS) is a youth-focused charity, but we are also ‘inclusive’ in welcoming people from all ages and all ethnic backgrounds to participate in our creative workshops. Young people (aged 11 – 25 yr.) enjoy free services while anyone 26 yr. or over just pay a small fee to cover the cost of materials. I often hand out CFS brand story cards at the Pop-up Stalls to passers-by and customers to invite them to attend our creative workshops.
‘It is said “It takes a Village to Raise a Child”. We believe it takes a community to Support Youth Facing Mental Health Challenges.” (CFS brand story card)
In Febuary, 2023, the CFS returned to Chatswood Youth Centre to offer in-person Creative Workshops by Young People for Young People. We offered a few new ones sharing new skills – Mindfulness Origami, Colour-Sand Glass and Flower Crown Workshops. All of these workshops were attended by participants of a wide age range. The ‘Sharing Your Experience’ session is intended for participants and facilitators to reflect on the mental health benefits of the creative process. We listened and learnt from each other; we were bonded by the common interest of a particular craft activity. The conversation and discussion were meaningful to everyone. The young co-facilitators also gained confidence in leading the discussion.

Members of the CFS Youth Action Group talked to Laughter Yoga participants

During the school holiday in September, 3 members (Willoughby Girls High School students) accompanied me to co-host a Laughter Yoga session for the Eastwood Chinese Senior Citizens Club. This program was funded by a community grant by the City of Ryde Council. They helped with set-up, interviewed members of ECSCC and conducted a review meeting after the session. They made suggestions on how to improve future sessions. One observation I made was these young members gained a sense of empathy towards the senior citizens through the program.
The success of this intergenerational activity (e.g., bringing the CFS Floral Arrangements Workshop to Senior Week) will definitely lead to more similar events in 2023.

A member attended the Floral Arrangements Made Easy Workshop with her grandma.

If you are interested to find out more about intergenerational activities in Australia and other parts of the world, you can check out the more articles and YouTube clips here.


Reflections on Racial Discrimination

Brian in Vancouver wrote,

“Are these your studio’s activities? Very nice. It is sad that discrimination of Aboriginal groups is still so prevalent in Australia and Canada even today. It’s a tragic by-product of colonialism that hasn’t disappeared. You may be interested in this documentary. I was on the board of an Asian lawyer society that produced this.

He asked whether similar discrimination were faced by Asian lawyers, I sent a few messages to find out. Here is the answer from a CFS member in the law profession:  

“Court appointment is obvious. In the whole NSW, there is only one judge from Asian background. The same for Victoria.”

Julian in London wrote:

“In my district, as there are a lot of races, we do not feel any discrimination, but live in a community respecting one another. We have a feeling that we live amongst the nations. In here the white English are mostly ashamed of their colonial history and feel shameful about that. “

Shawn in Sydney shared a link of the National Anti-Racism Framework Scoping Report by Australian Human Rights Commission:

Here is the highlight:

 From March 2021 to April 2022, the Commission consulted with the public, peak and community organisations, experts, service providers, human rights agencies, and government at all levels on the scope and vision for a Framework.  

The Commission undertook more than 100 consultations in 48 locations around the nation.  164 public submissions were received nationwide, including a significant portion from individuals.  

Scan the QR code to read my comment for the ‘We Bleed the Same’ Exhibition

As the culmination of these consultations and submissions, the scoping report identifies key considerations for the principles that should underpin a framework, three cross-cutting themes consistently raised by participants, and three sector-specific priority areas to guide this work moving forward.   

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

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