kokedama for slackers


If you keep up with just a few design blogs, there’s probably no need to explain kokedama, or Japanese mossed bonsai strung up like plant puppets, which I posted about here. Those expert creations involve carefully calibrating a plant’s light and soil needs, not to mention expert wrapping, packing, and tying skills. (Design Sponge has provided a good tutorial.) The ethereal effect of tightly wound, dangling orbs bursting with plants is so compelling that I might actually get around to trying it one day.


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But if, like me, you have no tolerance, time, or the requisite fine motor skills for the expert stuff, or if your attention span this busy spring is in tatters, may I suggest joining me in an experimental alternative: Grab a small bromeliad, wrap some green moss around the roots including some of the coarse growing medium it came potted in, tie with raffia, and take advantage of the nooks of trees to wedge in the bastardized kokedama. From conception to wedging, it took me about 15 minutes since I had the green moss and raffia ribbon on hand. Being plant savvy, we know that bromeliads don’t really need a ball of soil to thrive and always appreciate the dappled light shade under a tree and the humid proximity of other growing things. This is basically how many bromeliads grow in the wild anyway, epiphytic, in the crotch of trees. The pittosporum shrub I limbed up (meaning removed its lower branches so it graduated from shrub to small tree) has become the perfect armature for hanging Spanish moss and other tillandsias, and now the little bromeliad kokedama. And the spring plant shows are the best hunting ground for small, affordable bromeliads. The trick is to know when to stop. A gaudy, Southern Gothic effect can take over really fast. Not that that’s a bad thing.

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Where bromeliads have to stay indoors for winter, this would be a nice summer vacation home. The raffia ribbon works fine for bromeliads that will be wedged into branches. Twine or cotton thread might be a better choice for strength if it is to hang. My bromeliad is Neoregelia ‘Punctatissima Rubra’ x ‘Tigrina,’ grown more for its leaves than flowers. I’ll be misting the moss when I mist the tillandsias, about once a week, and will make sure that the bromeliad’s central cups stay filled with water. If mossing a dwarf olive tree seems out of reach, try practicing kokedama on tough, forgiving bromeliads.

it’s show time

Last week I planted out in the garden the remaining plants I brought home from last summer’s travels. All winter I eyed these purchases nervously, as though they were exhibits in a trial of my weak character. I knew they were impulse buys of wonderful plants I had no business bringing home, since there wasn’t a jot of garden space available to them. And the long rainless season of daily watering of pots is almost here, and what if I missed a few days and these lovelies died on my watch? They needed to get their roots into the garden before summer or there’d be no doubt left that I sacrifice beautiful plants on the altar of thoughtless acquisition. Then the clouds parted, a huge clump of wayward blue lyme grass was removed from the front garden and the Cassinia X ozothamnus from Far Reaches Farm was planted in its place. Suddenly, I had very few plants in pots to care for and my conscience was clear. And just in time for the season of plant sales. How about that for timing!

This weekend is the Orange County Cactus and Succulent Society’s Spring Show and Sale. I had a couple free hours yesterday, the opening day. You can’t get into too much trouble at a succulent sale if you stick to the small stuff.

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Echeveria multicaulis

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But within seconds of entering the sale room, I saw a couple of the tree-like Euphorbia ammak. I grabbed one quick and placed it securely in the temporary holding area. The big specimens at local nurseries are out of my price range. About a foot and a half high for $10 was exactly what I’ve been looking for.

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And so the internal logic of plant sales takes over. I need this because…and then the next morning, when the fog of plant sale mania has lifted, you’re faced with a box filled with a very odd assortment of plants. And it’s nearly as much fun as the sale going over them again, checking out this unlikely group of plants all now sharing space in a cardboard box because of some whim of taste.

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I leaned heavily toward bromeliads this year and found a lot to like at this table, bromeliads new to me like hechtias and pitcairnias.
The tall green one on the left, a Neoregelia ‘Devroe’ came home with me.

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Neoregelia ‘Punctatissima Rubra’ x ‘Tigrina’

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A grassy-ish bromeliad, a species pitcairnia, which I was told wants constant moisture, so regular potting soil will be OK.

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Hechtia epigyna, a small bromeliad from Mexico

Two more days of this nice little show left. As I was leaving with my cardboard boxes filled, another attendee and I wondered if there would be different plants, maybe better plants on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe they held back the best for the weekend?

Yes, it’s definitely show time.