Companion or Accent Plants - Kusamano
     When bonsai are being displayed in a show, they are commonly accompanied by “companion” or accent “ plants.  These plants are not “bonsai” but are present to enhance the display of the bonsai.  The Japanese name for these plants is shitakusa, which is translated from the Japanese shita, below or under, and  kusa, grass.  The plant should be something that might grow under the tree.  More recently, kusamono have become popular.  Kusamono is derived from the Japanese kusa, grass, and mono, thing.  Kusamono are arrangements of several different wild grasses and flowers in unique pots or trays.  Some compositions are designed to include plants that will look good in several seasons. It is important that the plant be appropriate to the bonsai on display.  Thus the seasonality of the plant and the natural locality of the plant should match the bonsai.  Companion plants should suggest a specific natural habitat--such as a wetland, meadow, woodland or timberline.  Alpine plants would be appropriate with a contorted juniper or pine while lowland bog plants might be appropriate with winterberries or larch.  A well-designed companion planting also reflects the season in which it is displayed. Lush green palntings from a greenhouse are not appropriate in the middle of winter.  Dry grasses are not appropriate in the middle of summer even if it is a very dry summer.   The companion plant should also be appropriate to the bonsai in size.  While blood grass and some other grasses can look quite nice, they are generally of a scale that goes only with the very largest bonsai.  It is important that the planting look nice as a stand- alone planting.  The planting should appear quite healthy.  Usually, there should not be any soil showing in the pot though there are occasions where the soil might become an important feature.  The planting should appear to be wild, but not untidy.  Immediately prior to showing, clean out dead  or damaged foliage.    The pots can be quite rustic and are often free- form.  Glazed or showy pots are not the best choice since they tend to overpower the display.  The same thing is true for clumps of flowering plants in a planting.  If flowers are present there should only be a few and they should be small and interspersed with less showy types of plants.  There are three basic styles of planting: moss- ball, slab, or container.  A moss-ball is much as it sounds.  A ball of clay and peetmoss is compacted into a ball and carefullt coverted with moss.  There is generally no more than one plant growing out of the ball and the ball is placed on a small round splate that bearly shows from under the ball.  In the slab planting, the irregular slab is more visible and contributeds to the overall composition.  Finally, in a container planting, the pot is quite apparent. 
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Summer meeting of the Brandywine Bonsai Society devoted to kusamono  planting.  It was led by Pat Morris (standing in the striped shirt).  Dorie  Froning is shown working on her planting.
Brandywine Bonsai Society is an educational organization and as a result, the material in this site may be copied for educational purposes.  If large portions are copied, we would appreciate attribution.  We welcome links to this site. 
Companion or Accent Plants - Kusamano
     When bonsai are being displayed in a show, they are commonly accompanied by “companion” or accent “ plants.  These plants are not “bonsai” but are present to enhance the display of the bonsai.  The Japanese name for these plants is shitakusa, which is translated from the Japanese shita, below or under, and  kusa, grass.  The plant should be something that might grow under the tree.  More recently, kusamono have become popular.  Kusamono is derived from the Japanese kusa, grass, and mono, thing.  Kusamono are arrangements of several different wild grasses and flowers in unique pots or trays.  Some compositions are designed to include plants that will look good in several seasons. It is important that the plant be appropriate to the bonsai on display.  Thus the seasonality of the plant and the natural locality of the plant should match the bonsai.  Companion plants should suggest a specific natural habitat--such as a wetland, meadow, woodland or timberline.  Alpine plants would be appropriate with a contorted juniper or pine while lowland bog plants might be appropriate with winterberries or larch.  A well-designed companion planting also reflects the season in which it is displayed. Lush green palntings from a greenhouse are not appropriate in the middle of winter.  Dry grasses are not appropriate in the middle of summer even if it is a very dry summer.   The companion plant should also be appropriate to the bonsai in size.  While blood grass and some other grasses can look quite nice, they are generally of a scale that goes only with the very largest bonsai.  It is important that the planting look nice as a stand-alone planting.  The planting should appear quite healthy.  Usually, there should not be any soil showing in the pot though there are occasions where the soil might become an important feature.  The planting should appear to be wild, but not untidy.  Immediately prior to showing, clean out dead  or damaged foliage.    The pots can be quite rustic and are often free- form.  Glazed or showy pots are not the best choice since they tend to overpower the display.  The same thing is true for clumps of flowering plants in a planting.  If flowers are present there should only be a few and they should be small and interspersed with less showy types of plants.  There are three basic styles of planting: moss-ball, slab, or container.  A moss-ball is much as it sounds.  A ball of clay and peetmoss is compacted into a ball and carefullt coverted with moss.  There is generally no more than one plant growing out of the ball and the ball is placed on a small round splate that bearly shows from under the ball.  In the slab planting, the irregular slab is more visible and contributeds to the overall composition.  Finally, in a container planting, the pot is quite apparent. 
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Summer meeting of the Brandywine Bonsai Society devoted to kusamono  planting.  It was led by Pat Morris (standing in the striped shirt).  Dorie  Froning is shown working on her planting.
Brandywine Bonsai Society is an educational organization and as a result, the material in this site may be copied for educational purposes.  If large portions are copied, we would appreciate attribution.  We welcome links to this site.