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.
Froning is shown working on her planting.
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