Photographic Timeline of Kusamono

Today I thought it’d be fun to show how several kusamono—large accents usually displayed without a bonsai—have changed through the last decade or so in my garden. How kusamono morph with age is often striking. Often the plant / root mass / pot balance shifts to favor the root mass.

Some of the kusamono shown here haven’t been repotted in 12 years. (‘Don’t like repotting? Try accents!’ How’s that for a commercial?)

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2013, Vetch and Aster…

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…and same composition in 2020, with a tuft of grass now. Notice the root mounding, beginning to spill over the edges.

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2013, a pot of Juncus…

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…and in 2020, again with the mounded roots and moss enveloping the pot. 

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2013, Sedge and Giant Helleborine…

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…and in 2019. In the previous photo a major part of the composition was the pot. Now root and moss growth have minimized the pot, but they’ve unified the design, too.

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And then seasonal changes can bring opportunities. This Maidenhair Fern and Juncus is a shitakusa (‘small or low weed’) that is small enough to be used in bonsai display. Here it is in late spring…

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…and here it is in early spring, same accent. The Juncus was trimmed off for a minimal, fern-only hairstyle. A scissors is a powerful tool with kusamono and shitakusa, often completely transforming their feel. And, the cut off plant usually comes back, so such decisions are not permanent in many cases. We might make this decision for one show and retain the same opportunities for the next show.

If you’re curious about kusamono and want to see more, try Auer Othmar’s work on Instagram. One of my favorite artists in Europe, or anywhere for that matter.

Bulletin Board August 2021: 

  • Bonsai Heresy merch! We’ve been eagerly awaiting this reveal: The great Sergio Cuan has put his popular images from our book onto shirts, hats, mugs, tote bags, and even into a calendar. (The total images from Heresy weirdly fit the number of calendar illustrations perfectly: 12, with the 13th on the cover. We didn’t plan that…) Find all these on Sergio’s website, M5BONSAIWORKS.

5 Comments

  1. Ruth Anderson says:

    Thanks! That is fun…Have you tried sisyrinchium species?

  2. jonas says:

    Lovely little plants! Do you have any tips, or mind sharing your setup, for keeping them nice and healthy, day-to-day? I find it can be difficult to strike the balance between to little and too much water. Keeping them in a water tray with pebbles helps, but can also get too wet very quickly.

    • crataegus says:

      Hi Jonas, most kusamono seem to like being kept moist, but it’s true they can stay too wet and then get liverwort and such. I keep mine under 50% shade cloth, and most get water twice a day in the warm months. Larger kusamono are definitely easier to take care of, with the smaller ones maybe needing an extra watering. I also use some organic in the soil mix for them, keeps them moister and with more nutrition, which supports the flowering.

  3. Antonio Rodriguez says:

    Thank you so much. For me progression pictures are the ones that help the most.

    On Fri, Aug 27, 2021 at 7:02 AM Michael Hagedorn wrote:

    > crataegus posted: “Today I thought it’d be fun to show how several > kusamono—large accents usually displayed without a bonsai—have changed > through the last decade or so in my garden. How kusamono morph with age is > often striking. Often the plant / root mass / pot balance” >

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