Esprit Bonsai International – August 2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1
#101 EspritBonsaiInternational - 73

compositions with two or three plants, or
even more, in a single pot.
Clearly the size of a shitakusa is nothing
like that of a kusamono. It is important to
respect a proportion between the size of
the accent plant and that of the bonsai
that it accompanies.
Equally, the height of the plant cannot
exceed that of the bonsai’s stand, the only
exception being for a flower or stem that
punctuates the space between the tree
and the accent plant.

The star of the show
There is no limit on a kusamono’s size,
because kusamono are displayed separa-
tely: this is their main characteristic. The
expression “grass bonsai”, often used to
give it a more understandable meaning

A pretty springtime shitakusa: Ajuga reptans is
reminiscent of fresh meadows. Pot by Milan Klika.

To go with a shohin, an extra-small
shitakusa is needed, such as this one
made of a saxifrage (Saxifraga stolonifera)
with tiny leaves. Pot by Walsall Studio.

Another lovely example of saxifrage
with foliage suitable for small bonsai:
Saxifraga paniculata. It is a species
symbolic of the mountains where it grows
between rocks. Pot by Milan Klika.

In this shitakusa,
the distinctive
foliage of
cooperi is
brought out by
the blue of a pot
made by Horst

for bonsai lovers in the West, throws some
light on the importance that kusamono
has acquired today: it has almost become
a category of bonsai.
It is no longer merely a plant, or a com-
panion, but has become the star of the
show that is being performed in the toko-
noma. In a way, a kusamono is simply a
shitakusa that has triumphed.
Technically, most of the time it is a
composition of several plants that have
identical or very similar physiological
requirements but whose flowers bloom or
leaves change colour at staggered stages.
Sometimes a kusamono consists of only
one species of plant.
The key point is to have a seasonal
accent for at least one of the plants in the
composition. At least one plant is selected
as star of the season, and the other plants
in the composition are there to support it.
The advantage of a composition with
several plants that have points of interest
spread out over the year is that once the
first plant’s season has passed, another
plant takes over to attract attention and
highlight the now-current season.

As a general rule, kusamono are simpler
to compose. In the case of a shitakusa,
its small size often means that the plant
needs to have gone through some length
of time in cultivation to be miniaturised,
before it can be put in an attractive pot
suitable for display. �

The term “shitakusamono” is used to
designate all accent plant compositions,
whether their aim is to accompany a
bonsai or to be displayed alone.
This is a rapidly developing art, in both
Japan and the rest of the world. Accent
plants displayed in exhibitions in Europe
are more and more highly developed,
refined and mature.
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