Kokedama, which means moss ball, is a style of Japanese bonsai that takes presentational aesthetics outside the box—literally. Kokedama are made by transferring your plant out of its pot and into a ball of soil held together with moss and string.
String gardens take this tradition a step further by suspending these little green worlds in the air. They're a great way to bring the outdoors inside of your—dare I say—teeny, tiny apartment, where surfaces are reserved for your collection of Jerzy Kosinski novels and your laptop, but definitely not more plants.
String gardens are simple, fun to make, and really…tie the room together. Last week as part of the Last Weekend festival held in upstate New York, Wilder Quarterly's Taylor Patterson, who runs the floral and garden design studio Fox Fodder Farm, led a workshop on how to create these unique plant sculptures. She's shared these same steps with us, below.
WHAT YOU NEED
1. Plants! Preferably shade-loving ones with small root bases. Ferns, begonias, and even orchids are ideal for string gardens, but most plants should happily thrive provided there's enough sunlight.
2. A 7:3 ratio peat moss and bonsai soil (Akedama). Mix the peat moss and the bonsai soil together, adding water when necessary, until it is a clay-like consistency.
3. Sphagnum moss soaked in water. Sphagnum moss is important because it holds water like a sponge and guarantees that the roots of your little Kokedama will stay moist.
4. Cotton thread.
5. Sheet moss. You are welcome to forage for your own, but I recommend buying bags of pre-picked sheet moss where available. Moss takes ages to grow, so it's best to leave it in its natural habitat, on those rocks by the river.
6. Twine or string (natural and biodegradable).
Knock the soil from the roots. It's easier to do this when the soil is a bit dry—not rock hard, just dry. Be careful not to disturb the roots too much, as you might have to tug them apart if they have wrapped around themselves in the pot. If so, just gently scrunch them like you would when replanting and slowly massage the soil until it begins to loosen up.
Once you've managed to free the roots from the majority of the soil, give them a quick dip in room-temperature water.
Take your sphagnum moss, enough to wrap around the roots, and squeeze out the excess water. Wrap the moss around the roots and tie together with cotton thread. The thread will eventually disintegrate and the roots will spread through the moss and into the soil.
Take your bonsai and peat moss mixture and shape it into a ball about the size of a grapefruit. Small grapefruit for smaller plants and a larger grapefruit for larger plants. Don't be afraid to use your better judgement when it comes to this step since it can be a bit tricky.
Once you've shaped the soil mixture into the appropriate sized ball, break it in half and sandwich the roots between the two halves, reshaping the sphere around the roots. (If the soil doesn't want to hold shape, just add more to bind it.)
Cover the ball with your sheep moss. Be sure to have your twine or string nearby. As you wrap the sheet moss, secure it with the twine to keep it all from falling apart. Continue to wrap with the string or twine until the ball feels secure. Don't forget to consider the string that your garden will be hanging from when wrapping!
Pick a spot and hang it.
To keep these guys alive, soak them for 10-15 minutes in water once a week (ferns twice). Fill a bucket with about 2 cups of water, place the string garden in the bucket and wait for it to absorb all of the water. Let the garden drain in a sink until water stops dripping before changing.