Newsletter Sept 2022

CFS’s photo booth at the ShoreShocked 22 Music Festival on Sat 6 August
The CFS members dancing at the festival wearing their home-made flower crowns!


Reflections on events in August – prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

August was a busy month for the Community Flower Studio (CFS). We took part in the ShoreShocked 22 Music Festival for the first time on Sat 6th August. A young member and I did a risk assessment a few days before the event. We also prepared a check-list of all the things to bring. I had never felt so ‘ready’ before! On the day, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the CFS stall was moved 3 times and created much stress and anxiety for me. The day before, I even drew a floor plan, I felt so confident that we would be able to set up the stall according to plans (literally). The ‘risk’ of the original space allocated for the CFS stall being not available was not discussed. All a sudden, I felt helpless. I didn’t prepare for this ‘worst’ scenario! After some negotiations, I let go of my strong desire to stick to the original plan and agreed to a Plan B!      

The first Flower Crown Workshop was a great hit at ShoreShocked 22 Music Festival

The following Saturday, we launched another ‘PAY-IT-FORWARD’ campaign for the Daffodil Pop-up store. A total of 16 Daffodil Bunches were given to our customers to pay-it forward to someone impacted by cancer.  The feedback received was very encouraging. We will wrap up some RUOK? Bouquet for customers to reach out to a friend, a neighbour at our RUOK? Pop-up Stall on Sat 10th Sept.  

Beautiful Daffodil Bunches ready for the pay-it-forward campaign

After postponing for 12 months, I finally facilitated the Climate Action Mixed-Media Art Workshop for the Balgowlah Scouts on Thursday 25/8. At the end, these young scouts, boys and girls aged 11 – 13 yr took turns to summarise their workshop experience in a sentence. Many of them said it was a lot of fun! One young person said,

“I feel empowered!’ This is the best outcome I could have hoped for!  

Climate Action Mixed-Media Art Workshop at Balgowlah Scout Hall
These masterpiece will be display at the Climate Action Art Exhibition at Balgowlah Stockland Shopping Centre

Just a few weeks from the next FAME (Floral Arrangements Made Easy) workshop. It is part of the EMERGE FESTIVAL organised by Willoughby City Council. Bring a friend an double the FUN! Bibi will reveal the trade secrets to you. Shhhhh! Check out this video clip:

There are quite a few events lined up for the rest of 2022:  

24th Sept – FAME (Floral Arrangements Made Easy) Workshop at Chatswood

8-9th Oct – Climate Action Art Exhibition at Balgowlah Stockland Shopping Centre

22nd Oct – Succulents in Coloured Sand Glass Workshop

26th Nov – Flower Crown for Christmas Parties

Online registrations for some of these workshops are open. Check out the links or pencil in the date for a workshop and event of your interest! Send your suggestions, reflections or photos to Bibi to be published in the next issue.

RUOK? Pop-up Stall on Sat 10th Sept at 9 am till 3pm or when fresh flowers sold out! Our popular ‘Petal-it-Forward’ Campaign is RUNNING AGAIN! Grab an RUOK? Bouquet to petal it forward! Find us outside Little Giant Roaster Cafe (525 Willoughby Rd, Willoughby)!

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 !

Here is a new ‘Succulents in Colour-Sand Glass’ DIY Kit. Available here.

Flower of the Month

By Dr Bibiana Chan

Canna Lilies in Montreal, Canada

Canna Lilies

Canna or canna lily is not true Lilies. It is the only genus of flowering plants in the family Cannaceae, consisting of 10 species. Its closest relatives include gingers, bananas, and birds of paradiseCanna displays spectacular flowers with paddle-shaped leaves wrapped in ruffles around stems. There is a variety of eye-catching colours: red, orange, yellow, and pink from late spring or early summer to first frost. Canna Lilies thrive even in summer heat.

A rare beauty – apricot Canna Lily, in Montreal, Canada

Cannas multiply beneath the soil from a rhizome, an underground stem. The leaves are often heavily veined, adding even more beauty.  It is perfect for the garden or pots. They have ruffled spikes that taper to refined buds. They need lots of sunshine, fertile, moist soil and a good supply of water. Stake when necessary, and deadhead when blooms fade in order to promote continued flowering.

When researching Canna Lilies, I learnt a new word in a gardener’s vocabulary. ‘Overwintering’ – protecting plants from the cold winter in a sheltered place. Here is an informative video clip on ‘How to Increase Your Blooms and Storing Canna Lily During Winter Months’

This gardener in Melbourne also shares some hot tips on “Growing Canna Lilies in Melbourne’.

Fun facts about Canna Lilies:

Rhizomes of Canna lilies
Canna Lily seeds
  1. You can divide canna plants by splitting the rhizomes into sections and replanting them. Each section should have two to three “eyes” or growing points.
  2. The seeds are used as beads in jewellery.
  3. The seeds are  also used as the mobile elements of the kayamb, a musical instrument from Réunion, as well as the hosho, gourd rattle from Zimbabwe, where the seeds are known as hota seeds.
  4. Scarification is a method to encourage canna seed germination. By rubbing off a bit of the seed coat before planting using a file or sandpaper. You can keep rubbing until the whiteness of the endosperm becomes visible.
  5. Canna lily is a monocot, with just one seed leaf emerging first. When the seedlings are over 15 cm in height, they can be transferred into pots.
A flower box in Montreal, Canada featuring Canna Lilies.

Earlier in May when I was travelling in Montreal, I saw so many beautiful Canna Lilies blooming in the front yards of many local residents. I couldn’t help but take plenty of photos. I also grow them in my garden. Now I’ve picked up a few hot tips on how to take care of them. 

Plant of the month

by Dr Bibiana Chan

Philodendron – Birkin

Philodendron is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae. Birkin has green leaves with variegated white line markings. The non-variegated version is Rojo Congo and has the property of purifying the air.  Philodendron is the second-largest member of the family Araceae, after the genus Anthurium. The name derives from the Greek words philo- or “love, affection” and dendron or “tree”.

Philodendron – Birkin

Philodendrons make great houseplants. The No. 1 tip to keep your plant healthy is to mimic its natural tropical environment. To create the perfect conditions for Birkin, simply:

1.     Provide plenty of warmth and moisture near a sunny window. In hot summer, you need to put philodendron outdoor in a shady spot to get some fresh air and natural light occasionally.

2.     Keep your plant’s leaves functioning their best, you can regularly wipe off the dust with a damp cloth.

Birkin at CFS’ Nursery

3.     Use Sphagnum peat moss-based soil. Peat moss has a coarse and an airy texture and retains water well and yet allows good aeration. This will prevent excess water which will cause rotten roots.

4.     Place your plant by a window that gets bright, indirect light. Too little light can result in leggy growth with lots of space in between the leaves. But too much light can cause many of the leaves to turn yellow at the same time. In nature, they would naturally receive dappled light under a tropical canopy.

Rojo Congo at CFS’ Nursery

If you are keen to beautify your home and purify the air quality, Philodendron Birkin is a good choice. Once you have established your plant, you may like to learn how to cut off nodes from a mother plant to make cuttings to give to friends. I’m sure they will be very impressed! 

This YouTube clip show how the cuttings’ progress after 7 weeks: 

Botanical drawing of Philodendron
The desk of an artist specialised in botanical drawing
One leaf of this Birkin plant turned white
The non-variated Rojo Congo Plant in a pot

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Recipe of the Month

Zucchini Fritters by Justin Coit

Made with less than ten ingredients, these crispy Zucchini Fritters are so simple but delicious. Golden on the outside but tender on the inside, these fritters are going to be your new favorite way of enjoying zucchini. Serve them as a snack or as part of an overall meal.


  • 1 lb zucchini
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ¼ cup scallions chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for cooking
  • optional: sour cream garnish


  1. Grate zucchini with a grater and wrap in a paper towel. Squeeze the zucchini with your hands to remove the excess liquid and place it in a mixing bowl. Discard the used paper towel.
  2. Add in the eggs and all other ingredients (minus olive oil) and mix in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and pour in enough olive oil to almost cover the pan’s surface. Once the oil is hot, add large heaping spoonful of zucchini mixture (approx. ¼ cups) into the pan and flatten with a spatula. Cook for approximately 3 minutes on each side (until golden brown).
  4. Once done cooking and removing from pan, place fritters on a paper towel to absorb excess oil and cool a bit before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with sour cream optional.

Can I make this gluten-free?

You can make these into gluten-free zucchini fritters by swapping the all-purpose flour for almond flour. You could also use gluten-free flour as well. I like the one-to-one gluten-free flour, so you don’t have to adjust the amount used. 

Book Review

by Kim Wilkins

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

This is one of the classics of Australian literature.  First published in 1901 and written by a 19 year old, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, published with the help of Henry Lawson, it is brilliantly written and is very “modern” in its feminism and Australian nationalism.

This version has a 36 page introduction by Bruce Martin, an American English Professor, and was published in 2008 in Canada.  He provides a 35 page introduction which helpfully explains the Australian context in the 1890s when there was a feminist struggle for the vote, a nationalist push for federation and also an economic depression and a prolonged drought producing a great deal of rural poverty.

The book  goes on to faithfully publish the original version, with interesting footnotes for the many words which have fallen into disuse.  Set in the rural highlands of  southern New South Wales, the central character, Sybylla, struggles to find her true self and reject the conservative pressures to domesticate and marry.

One of several controversies was whether the book was autobiographical or not. The central character, like the author, was a rural teenager and the book is not kind to her parents. It was first published overseas in England.  The film version, starring Judy Davis and Sam Neill, itself played a role in the emerging Australian feminism of the late 1970s.

For those interested in Australian literature, Australian history or simply a good read, I highly recommend this important work.

Miles Franklin featured in the Feurs de Villes at the Calyx, Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney.
Miles Franklin

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From the Desk of Bibi

How to Speak up for yourself at the Workplace!

This was the title of my presentation at a Youth Employment Expo last month at Chatswood public library. I belong to the Youth Employment Working Group, facilitated by the Willoughby City Council. There were other speakers sharing information on apprenticeship, business basics, interviewing skills and building confidence. When I arrived at the venue, the previous speaker from TAFE greeted me as Dr… Before he finished, I told him to call me Bibi. He said,

‘You are going to talk about speaking up for yourself! I think many young people these days are already pretty good at that!’

I felt like someone was telling me – you are not needed here! I kept smiling and said,

‘Perhaps young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background may be interested in this topic!’

He then grinned diplomatically and said something to the effect of, ‘Yeah, I know I do enjoy some white privilege!’

I praised him for acknowledging his white privilege,

‘Sure, awareness is the first step!’

The term ‘white privilege’ is used in discussions focused on the mostly hidden benefits that white people possess in a society where racism is prevalent and whiteness is considered normal, rather than on the detriments to people who are the objects of racism.

Our conversation then shifted to a ‘glass ceiling’ for women and a ‘bamboo ceiling’ for Asians in the workplace. Of course, there are women who broke through the invisible glass ceiling to land on the top jobs. Dr. Monique Ryan, the newly elected MP of Kooyang, Victoria is a great example. She unseated the former Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the May 2022 election. She used to be the Director, Department of Neurology at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

When she was interjected by MPs from the Coalition benches after she asked the health minister, Mark Butler, about how the government planned to manage the looming burden of long COVID. She paused her question and pointed at the opposition benches and said “put your masks on!” You can watch her in action on this YouTube clip, which has gone viral within 24 hours.

Dr. Ryan is a great example of standing up on what you believe is the right thing to do. She later shared on social media that she did not appreciate the interruptions “while speaking on serious risks of repeated COVID infections”.

“I particularly don’t appreciate being interrupted by shouting LNP MPs who refuse to wear masks. We all have a duty to look after each other,” she twitted. Young girls and women can look up to Dr Ryan as their role model.

In societies, the topic of ‘glass ceiling’ is not new. What about ‘bamboo ceiling’? I first came across this term a few years ago on an ABC current affairs program ‘The Drum’ a few years ago.   This is a metaphor referring to a “multitude of cultural factors impeding the rise of Asian Australians to the upper levels of the professional world”.

According to an Australian Human Rights Commission report last year, less than 5% of Australians of Asian heritage make it to senior executive levels — only 1.6% become CEOs. Ms Tuanh Ngugen, was born in a refugee camp in Indonesia, to Vietnamese parents. The family were granted asylum in Australia when she was 6 months old.  Ms Nguyen has now risen through the professional ranks to become the legal director of PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Australia. Asian-Australians account for only 3.1% of partners in law firms, 1.6% of barristers and 0.8% of the judiciary. Ms Ngugen’s rise to the top is not without challenges.

Citing data from the 2019 leadership report by Diversity Council Australia, “61% of Asian-Australians feel pressure to conform to the Western — or ‘Anglo’ — style of leadership that values self-promotion and assertive direct communication and often misinterprets the quieter, reserved, humbleness and respect for seniority to be lack of confidence.”

Monica Tan, teacher, and published author, Greens candidate in the last federal election, is another Asian-Australian who has been fed the ‘Us Vs Them’ dish at a recent party in Sydney, where she met a famous writer.

“His first question was – ‘Which part of China do you come from?’, which sort of made me feel like an outsider,” Monica says.

Check out this YouTube clip to hear Monica’s tale.

Returning to the dialogue with my fellow speaker at the Youth Employment Expo, I am confident that he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings when he honestly expressed his opinion about the topic speaking up for yourself at the workplace. I didn’t feel hurt at all because I am mature enough to detach other’s opinions from my ‘self’! I have by-passed the ‘neuro’ pathway of viewing this opinion as a criticism aiming at me. The conversation exchange led to an intellectual discussion of unconscious bias (or covert discrimination) at different levels in societies. I felt good that I had spoken up for myself at the workplace!

I leave this TED-Talk by Valerie Alexander on ‘How to outsmart your own unconscious bias?’ for you to enjoy. Try the brain exercise at the beginning and the end of the video.  Valerie is demonstrating ‘how I consciously turn the unexpected into the expected!’ 


I belong anywhere and nowhere…this is freedom to belong!

By Dr. Elsa Licumba

I came to Australia to study and eventually stayed. I struggled to feel at home. My skin colour and my accent was a challenge. I did not fit in here. Thus, with much anticipation, I packed my bags and went home to Mozambique. I was looking forward to going back home – where I belong. I thought that I belonged there because the people looked like me. But surprisingly when I returned home, people would say things such as, 

“you are acting differently, we don’t do that here, that so white”. 

I realized I had been in Australia for too long. Australia was already in me. Where do I belong? I began to question myself. In Australia, I didn’t belong. Here back home, they were questioning my identity. I thought I belonged here. Didn’t I ? I was neither Australian enough and in some regard less African.

After a while I came across this quote by Maya Angelou 

“You are only free when you realize you belong anywhere and nowhere. The price is high, but the reward is great!”

 That’s when I discovered that belonging is not about a place. It’s a mindset. I belong anywhere and nowhere. No one should put me in a box,  nor decide for me where I belong. I belong anywhere and nowhere…this is freedom to belong!

Fleurs de Villes – photos supplied by C. Ma.

The Calyx, Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney

High Tea at the Calyx with family
Ash Barty at Fleurs de Villes Flower Show
Margaret Flockton – Winner of the People’s Choice
Dr Evelyn Scott – key figure in the advancement of Indigenous Rights.
Edith Cowan – the first Australian female MP
Carla Zampatti – Australian-Italian fashion designer

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.



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