opuntia

a tea house in a glasshouse
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Kokedamas

 

The Reputation of a Thousand Years May Be Determined by the Conduct of One Hour  

                                                                       - Japanese Proverb

 

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Kokedamas is an ancient Japanese method that formed along side of Bonsai in the 16th century. Literally translating to “moss ball”, Kokedamas were made by compacting plants roots, allowing them to form into a tight ball.  Then the roots were packed in clay and then wrapped in moss and wrapped again with string for hanging. This process of compacting roots took many years and when the bound plant was finally wrapped in moss and string, it could last its lifespan in this form.  Some were displayed on clay plates in teahouses, maybe as the one significant form to contemplate during a sacred tea ceremony- representing struggle and beauty as one expression. 

 

 These forms, translated into modern times,  have taken on many new manifestations.  With advances in moisture retaining potting soil and new methods of rooting plants, one could form a Kokedamas in about a half an hour!  Present day variations  include wrapping with neon twine and even displaying the moss ball upside down with branches spilling out of the bottom. Rather than native Japanese flora,  today’s Kokedamas are often displayed with South African succulents and Madagascar palms, spilling vines and even cacti.  I once witnessed a preserved moss and dried grass Kokedamas toting the slogan - “absolutely no maintenance required!” This couldn't be more distant from the original Kokedamas creations.  

 

Living in Santa Fe where the high desert can see months without rain,  reminders of soaking and simply the color of moss alone can be very helpful. Twice a week I fill a large pot full of filtered water and I soak my orchids and air plants.  Next, I submerge my Kokadames in the same water for 15 minutes and then allow the moss balls to drain into the sink. This water can now be used for the rest of our houseplants and no water is wasted! Its a calming habit that keeps me focused on caring for something beautiful and I can’t help but wonder if this was the original intention of the tradition centuries ago. 

 

 Inspired to try making one yourself? Opuntia will be holding a Kokedamas building class Saturday, February 10th at 3:00 in our buildings conference room - 922 Shoofly st  

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plantgirl@opuntia.cafe