Potting with pizzaz

Most of the time, we’re going to cast about for a ceramic pot when looking to repot a tree. But keep an open mind. 

I was recently at an estate sale here in Portland, Oregon, and after wandering through the house ended up out on the deck where there were fewer people and several forlorn looking plants in various containers. I looked down at one I had nearly stepped on, and discovered an old leather shoe that someone had unlaced, thrown some soil in, and, probably as a joke, stuck a rosette of succulent. Well, I laughed. I picked it up and asked if they would sell it, and for two dollars was grinning like a complete idiot as I walked back to my car, dangling a rotting old shoe with a bit of joke plant trailing out of it. Those who were carrying out hundreds of dollars worth of antique furniture slowed down a bit when they saw me, and their own smiles faltered a bit when the saw the family heirloom I was carrying.

Well. You probably are not going to go out of your way to find old shoes to pot up with, and I’m not suggesting you do. (Unless you have one with two eyelets missing as this one did, that’s another story.) 98 percent of the time we’re well off using what works well, what the tradition suggests is good, ceramically speaking. But think beyond the pot, too. How about kokedama (moss-ball)? This is the mound of soil, covered in moss, with accent plant sprouting from it. No pot. It might be placed on a board, or a ceramic disk, or nothing at all. Just on the bench, if it’s small enough. Broaden that to bonsai. We often see forests or groups on slabs with a large kokedama mass of roots and moss. A moderate sized one might not even need a slab.

Here’s a kusamono (accent plant) kokedama:

This is one of the most famous examples of forest spruce, on a slab, by the late Mr. Kato, and is another version of the same idea:

Kato book cover.jpg (34379 bytes)

Kokedama is only one option, sort of the anti-pot. Look around you. What else is possible?

Enjoy this season, it’s so darn exciting—


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  1. Janet Roth says:

    Hi Michael – I can just hear you laughing in glee with that old shoe!

    It reminds me of when I lived in Berkeley years ago. Someone had turned their car – a convertible – into a giant flower pot. Whoever it was moved it around from time to time, so you never knew exactly where it would be parked.

    It was always such a delight to come across it.

  2. Xina says:

    Bonjour Michael

    Je cherche de l’information sur la fabrication d’un kokedama, étape par étape 🙂 pourriez-vous m’aider à trouver cette information.

    Merci pour l’info et pour votre blog

    NB; je dois vous lire avec mon dictionnaire….ce qui ne m”empêche pas d’apprécier votre blog mais c’est pourquoi je vous écris en français


    • crataegus says:

      How wonderful…
      We have a multi-language blog here; I might be able to make a stab at a reply in German or Japanese, but French is out of my depth!

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