The Art of Kokedama

My heart swells when I’m in my woodlot and I feel at ease. I could stay for hours just drinking in the sounds, smells and textures of all that is around me. There is something about moist moss that I am drawn to. The bright green patchwork gently compels my spirit to reach down and touch it as if it were calling my name. The Art of Kokedama allows a small piece of this essence to come away with me to my dwelling place.

It is a form of Japanese garden art that is centuries old and tied to the practice of bonsai.

What you will need:

  • Soil-a mixture of Akadama soil (clay), sand and potting soil/peat moss; you can purchase Akadama soil.
  • Plants
  • Moss; go out and find some or purchase living sheet moss.
  • Scissors
  • String, jute, wire
  • A spray bottle
  • Gloves
  • A bucket for mixing the soil
  • Newspaper, tarp or cardboard to protect your work surfaces
  • Small clay pots; I use these because I wanted to hang mine up

Kokedama is a style of Japanese bonsai, where a plant’s root system is simply wrapped in moss and bound with string, transforming it into a sculptural art form. Loosely translated, ‘koke’ means moss and ‘dama’ means ball.

1.The first thing to do is collect everything that is needed. I spent an hour or so out in my wood collecting the greenery, clay soil and sand. I like using the plants from my own woods. I do this because the plants growing there are accustomed to the native soils, which I also use.

Some plants to consider:

  • wintergreen
  • woodland ferns
  • mondo grass
  • vinca vines
  • Ivys
  • Pine seedlings
  • partridge berry
  • violets

2. Mixing the soil is not hard. I used a 5 gallon bucket. The end result that is needed is that the soil keeps its shape, yet has enough sand and potting soil/peat moss in it to retain moisture. If the consistency of the clay is too loose, it will break when it’s watered. A formal soil formula is main soil 50%; sand type soil 15% and akadama soil 35% (clay type soil).

SAMSUNG CSC
SAMSUNG CSC

Example ball shapes

  • square
  • round
  • triangle
  • tear shape
  • star

3. Remove the dirt from around the roots of each plant and place them into the center of the ball of earth being careful not to crush the foliage. Add the moss to the outside of the ball. Use twine or thread to hold the moss in place. I used a small clay pot in the center of mine with wire attached to make a strong hanging loop. Remove string, filaments or wire once the moss is actively growing and secure to the dirt ball.

Hydrate the Kokedama by placing all the ball, up to the plant, into fresh water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Mist the Kokedama with water every few days. Enjoy!

Cost of project:  I purchased the jute, wire and three clay pots from dollar tree. I spent a total of $3.00. Everything else I foraged from the wild or already owned.

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