The name kokedama means moss ball or moss pot. A practice taken from Japan and used in bonsai. Shrinking down the essence and spirit of nature. It’s a beautiful way to display seasonal plants of the moment, and after a surge in popularity has been adapted for the home to display house plants. Singular snowdrops work well growing, as they do, up and through a mossy floor, but iris and early Spring bulbs are just as beautiful.
Sustainable sourced ingredients
Essentially, it’s a botanical cupped and wrapped in soil and moss. Ingredients that are relatively easy to come by, but still it’s worth considering the sustainability of the mix you’re gathering together. Rather than taking up huge clumps of moss en masse, head gardener Joshua Sparkes stripped small sections off lime trees rather than taking it all in one go. Mindful of the mossy environment it came from, and allowing for it to grow back and re-establish.
Sphagnum moss is often the go-to for creative projects like this, but it’s important to ensure it has been sustainably sourced. Also, when choosing a thread, ensure it’s a cotton thread that will break down and compost.
Cotton thread or twine (hemp or jute)
Josh starts with a pile of potting mix. Ours were enriched with piles taken from levelled mole hills in the garden, a good source for creating the right sort of consistency for kokedamas. In much the same way as making a dough mix, scoop out a well or crater in the middle of your pile, and fill it with water. It’s then slowly working the soil into the centre to create a thick muddy mix that can be formed and shaped with the hands to encase the root bulb. Too much moisture, and you can add more soil into the mix, and also more water if it’s not coming together properly.
Harking back the days of making mud pies, you’re looking for a mix that’s wet and sticky and easy to shape.
Preparing your botanical
Snowdrops are delicate by nature, so you have to be careful when taking them out of their pots that you don’t snap their stem. Cup your finger between the stems, up end the pot, catch it and bang off any excess soil from the roots to make it roughly roundish in shape.
Mould the sticky mixture into the cup of your hands. Take the snowdrop and start sticking the soil around the base – making the ball with your hands. Use the tips of your fingers to firm it in and form the ball. It’s all by eye, but the general theory is to look at it and work out roughly whether the sphere of the ball looks in keeping with the size of the plant. It’s a matter of taste, so be guided by what aesthetic you’re going for.
Adding a layer of moss
With a strip of moss, like with the first layer of soil, gently mould it into place, cupping it in your hand and wrapping it around the soil. You’re aiming for one layer ideally, so you’ll end up with a rounder kokedama. Remember to put some moss around the top of ball to ensure there’s no soil showing.
Wrapping with cotton thread or twine
Once your ball of moss is together, take your thread. You want to keep it short on the roll as it’ll be easier to manage. Take the thread and tuck it under your thumb, and use the thread to keep the moss on the ball – wrapping it up and around the shape to hold it all together. Make sure you get it tight and around all your areas of moss. A little bit may fall off, but patch it back in place with a few wraps of thread.
Now that it’s held together you can gently squeeze it into shape – honing your sphere with your hands.
If you’re using twine, the wrapping will be more visible and part of your display, so make sure the gaps are equally spaced. Again, it’s all by eye and slowing building up a considered effect.
Moss gathered from the garden or in pieces can sometimes fall apart. To help with this, Joshua Sparkes laid gathered bits of moss in crates over sheets of newspaper and gently misted them over the course of a couple of weeks. The dampened newspaper slowly adhered to the moss and helps to create a mat like underlay of ‘strips’ of moss that won’t fall to pieces in your hands.
Watch Joshua Sparkes in action:
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