How to Make Your Own Kokedama Ball Designs
Flower Duet and an Art Installation
By Casey Schwartz
Flower Duet created this set of Kokedama balls for a special event. Photo by Casey Schwartz
Kokedama translates simply from Japanese to English as Moss Ball and is also adapted from the better-known Japanese planting technique, Bonsai.
Kyoto Kokedama Display (Source: Wikipedia)
Late last year, Flower Duet was contacted to assist in creating an event showcase to celebrate Denim Art for a Turkish Denim company’s 30 year anniversary.
Since the event was going to be in Los Angeles, Flower Duet was requested to help the Kokedama designer who would be traveling from Italy along with her crew from Turkey. We were originally going to only help source the Kokedama materials in Los Angeles, but travel plans changed and so we were again requested to help even further to recreate the designer’s vision for her and then install it for the event.
Early Introduction to Japanese Culture
We have long admired the ancient botanical practices of Bonsai & Ikebana. After all, our parents were married in Japan, our brother was born in Japan and so we feel an affection and connection to this culture. We wondered to ourselves, “Could we make an Arty-Mossy Japanese Ball whose origins dated back to the early 1600s?” Our response was, “You Bet.” Or to put it into Google Translate for Japanese: あなたは賭ける (Anata-wa-kakeru).
Our parents pictured with our big brother in Japan in the backyard garden of their house in Iwakuni circa 1964. Our brother was born in Japan and our family shares a deep connection to the people and its culture. Photo: Family Archive
Traditional Kokedama is made with a combination of soils including something called “Akadama.” The Akadama is clay which has pores to hold water, but also promotes drainage so there is no root rot. It also helps to keep the plant hydrated longer since it is usually suspended to create a hanging garden.
Our display for the denim company event was serving a short life of only one day, so we did not add the Akadama to the 20 Kokedama. Our challenge was to build these orbs in a manner that would hold the soil, not drip water, and allow us to weave long strips of frayed denim on to the outside.
Trial, Error & Success
Decorative Aluminum Wire Spheres — We used these for the smaller Kokedama plant but were not able to purchase the large ones we needed for the custom sizes.
After finding a very expensive pre-made Kokedama Kit at our local plant nursery and then brainstorming with Kit on how to execute it on a more economical scale, Kit had suggested we use wired decorative spheres made for the floral industry which were perfect for stuffing in moss and then inserting a small plant. It was an automatic ball shape that we simply covered with moss and then secured with the twine.
But we also needed ten larger versions that were custom sized and we could not purchase any pre-made wire balls. We needed to invent frame that would hold up.
First, we tried to make a few wire balls in a larger size, but this proved to take too long.
Back at the drawing board, I pulled a memory of when I was in Girl Scouts in elementary school and made string balls with water-thinned glue over an inflated balloon. I knew that once we let it the glue-soaked string dry and then popped the balloon, the string ball would stay in a round shape.
So, we set to work with this plan to make our remaining ten Kokedama frames from twine, glue, and balloons!
Our first attempt ended up with the wrong twine, not enough drying time. Photo by Casey Schwartz
We had just two attempts that didn’t work due to not enough glue, and using the wrong type of twine which did not absorb the glue mix properly.
Our 2nd attempt was not enough glue to water mix. Photo by Casey Schwartz
We arrived at the correct ratio of glue to absorbing twine and let it set for 24 hours on the test balloon. Success!!!
Our 3rd attempt was the charm of a perfect glue ratio, twine choice and drying time! Photo by Casey Schwartz
Here the finished frames for our Kokedama! Photo by Casey Schwartz
After our twine-ball Kokedama frames were dry and ready, we added some dry Sphagnum moss to the frames — filling the interior walls and leaving space in the middle for the plant’s roots and a bit of soil.
We then pulled the plants we procured for our local wholesale nursery from their pots and left a little dirt on the roots. We wrapped dampened moss around the plants. and inserted them into the prepared twine spheres which already had moss in them.
With this technique, we did not even need to add any additional twine on the outside. The gaps we left when wrapping were perfect to weave in the denim strips. We were set. All twenty were completed in no time!
Here is the structure provided by the event team. We had hung about half of the Kokedama at this stage. Photo by Casey Schwartz.
The ceilings were high which helped make this installation quite dramatic. Photo by Casey Schwartz
Casey’s husband Randy helped with the hanging of the finished spheres. Photo by Casey Schwartz
Here is the final product: “Blue Levitation” as executed by Flower Duet’s team. Photo by Casey Schwartz
All we had left to do was head to a warehouse-sized penthouse of a downtown venue overlooking the Staples Center in Los Angeles and hang them from a height of 10 feet…..with a variety of lengths with fishing line. Our installation took a mere three hours and the designer from Italy gave us her happy approval.
Final look at the event.
We are so pleased to have this wonderful and ancient, yet modernized technique in our design portfolio and delighted to share that we are going to be creating more Kokedama in the near future for a new event. Stay tuned!
How to Make Traditional Kokedama
Our first version we sent to the designer for approval before making the additional spheres. You can make these too! Photo by Casey Schwartz
- Sheet Moss (living sheet moss is more authentic; if you don’t have it, you can use Sphagnum Moss)
- Sphagnum Moss
- Peat Moss
- Akadama (Bonsai Potting Soil Mix)
- Weed Barrier Cloth (Optional: not traditional)
- Cotton Twine
While they are normally used as hanging gardens, Kokedama make a fun display on a tray, too. Photo by Casey Schwartz
Steps to a Lovely Kokedama
1 — Choose a plant that will work well! It must work well in the environment where it will be displayed for example. Shade-tolerant plants like ferns, ivy or pothos are a good choice to start.
2 — Use the right soil mix. Use a 7:3 ratio of peat moss and the Akadama (bonsai soil). Mix and then add water slowly to make a paste-like mud which can be shaped into a ball. If you have the right combination, it’s almost like clay. Set aside the mud ball.
3 — Soak your moss, then wring it out so its damp but not dripping.
4 — Pull the plant out of its pot and expose some of the roots while removing a bit of soil. Wrap a little moss around the exposed roots of the plant. Secure with a little cotton twine, this will eventually biodegrade. Set aside this moss ball/plant and go back to your mud ball.
5 — Carefully create an indent in the top of the mud ball to allow your plant’s newly wrapped roots to fit inside. (OR — if the root ball is quite large, try breaking the mud ball in half, place the root ball on one half and then replace the other half of the ball and shape.) Place the plant’s roots/moss into the indentation of the mud ball. If you are struggling to keep the ball intact, you could cut a small square of weed barrier cloth to hold the entire ball together. Bind the cloth with a bit of twine at the base of the plant and trim the loose ends of the weed barrier (NOTE: Using the weed barrier is not traditional.)
6 — Select large sections of the damp sheet moss and press them around the ball of your plant. Cover the dirt fully. Start by wrapping the twine around the moss ball once and tie in a knot to secure it in place. Continue to wrap around the ball up and down until it looks nice and feels secure. Set it on a display tray or tie 3–4 lengths of twine to hang it from a hook or fence.
7 — To maintain your ball, mist daily and soak the entire ball weekly.
8 — As the plant grows, you’ll need to take it apart to “re-pot” it into a new Kokedama!
Here is a pretty tutorial from the ladies of BLOOM.
Or… watch the steps in a video by Better Homes and Gardens on How to Keep your Kokedamas alive.
Flower Duet’s Online Flower Arranging Classes Feature Lilacs, Orchids & Tulips this Month!
Students Are Signing Up for Our New Online Courses
Kit is the instructor for this week’s Flower Arranging Friday class on Lilacs! These can be tricky flowers to work with.…watch the free preview to learn why!
We are Kit and Casey, the sister design team and founders of Flower Duet in Los Angeles. Welcome!
Because Flower Duet is a floral design studio specializing in custom wedding and event flowers in Los Angeles AND we’ve taught flower arranging to thousands of students over the past 18 years, we HAVE the floral chops to show you just how it’s done.
We’ve built our own ceremony structures, floral animals, designed a field-to-vase dinner on a working flower farm and more. We custom pick our flowers by walking the flower markets, talking to the local growers and by ordering fantastic floral products from our wonderful vendors from around the world.
A selection of the classes we’ve uploaded for our online courses!
We perform every task in our floral business from marketing to sales pitches to cleaning water buckets, to designing and you can benefit from our expertise and unmatched experience. We’ve launched hundreds of floral careers and we can help you to launch yours!
We post new classes every week! Sign up today for your monthly subscription!
Slow Flowers Summit 2018: Flower Duet Tapped to Speak at 2nd Annual Event
Event to Coincide with AIFD Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
What is the Slow Flowers Summit?
Called a “TED Talk for Flower Lovers,” the SUMMIT is a one-day lecture series for creative professionals, thought leaders and pioneering voices in the progressive American-grown floral community. Designed to stimulate curiosity, examine conventional assumptions and explore conscious and ethical practices in the floral industry, the Summit agenda asks speakers and audience members alike to inquire, inform, include, instigate and inspire.
Debra Prinzing developed the SUMMIT as a new “live” component to the American Flowers Week campaign (June 28-July 4). AFW devotes a week of activity via events and social media platforms to promote domestic flowers, raise consumer awareness and unite America’s flower farmers with the U.S. floral industry.
Kit attended last year’s inaugural summit in Seattle and wrote a lengthy article about all the wonderful presenters. It was a priceless day of connecting with like-minded floral designers and flower farmers.
JOIN SLOW FLOWERS DOERS AND THINKERS FOR A DAY OF PROGRESSIVE IDEAS AND INSPIRATION
JUNE 29, 2018
8 AM-5 PM
Marriott Wardman Park
Washington, D.C 20008
We are delighted to be involved this year with another fantastic group of designers and farmers! Here is a snapshot of who is presenting at The Summit
We will be speaking about our business model and how we blend providing floral education and designing event florals. Here is a full list of the day’s schedule:
In 2017, Debra Prinzing developed the SUMMIT as a new “live” component to the American Flowers Week campaign (June 28-July 4). This week devotes a variety of events and activity on social media platforms to promote domestic flowers, raise consumer awareness and unite America’s flower farmers with the U.S. floral industry.
READ MORE: Behind the Scenes at the Slow Flowers Summit 2017
The 2018 Slow Flowers SUMMIT is partnering with the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD), to co-locate and offer the Summit as a bonus program taking place the day prior to the start of AIFD’s Symposium. Reserve your space!
American Flowers Week — June 28 — July 4, 2018
What is American Flowers Week?
Launched in 2015, AFW is a week-long celebration of domestic flowers to raise consumer awareness and unite America’s flower farmers with the U.S. floral industry. The dates coincide with Independence Day (June 28-July 4, 2018).
What is the purpose?
The goal of American Flowers Week is to engage the public, policymakers and the media in a conversation about the origins of their flowers. As an advocacy effort, the campaign is timed to coincide with America’s Independence Day on July 4th, providing florists, retailers, wholesalers and flower farmers a patriotic opportunity to promote American grown flowers.
Who can participate?
Anyone who grows, designs, markets, sells or just enjoys flowers can get involved to highlight domestic, local American-grown flowers. Participation ranges from individual floral designers and flower shops to wholesalers and retailers. We are eager to document involvement through social media and participants are encouraged to use the hashtag “#americanflowersweek” on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Stay tuned to our Facebook and Instagram profiles to learn more about what we’ll be presenting at this year’s Slow Flowers Summit!
You can purchase tickets now from Eventbrite! Reserve your space!
Field to Vase Dinner Tour Dates and Farms Announced for 2018
The table from the tour we designed at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California in 2016.
The American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour has just launched its 2018 tour dates! We loved being a part of this incredible tour and highly recommend that you experience this award-winning floral-focused dinner event for yourself. Don’t wait. Take advantage of special tour launch pricing now!
It’s a new year for the lovely and scrumptious American Grown Flowers annual Field to Vase Dinner Tour across the nation! They’ve announced their initial set of farms for the year and it’s time to mark your appointment calendar for the best dinner party you could ever attend!
We’ve been the floral designers for one of these lovely events and we’ve been guests at another and can tell you these are not to be missed!
This dinner is not to be missed…great food…great scenery…great flowers! Here is a photo of the dinner we designed for in Carlsbad in 2016. This farm is featured for the 4th time on the tour this year!
First Date is April at a Protea Farm in San Diego County!
You can be a designer for this dinner! Rene Van Rems will host a two-day workshop where you get to help make the designs for this dinner and then install it on the farm!
When: April 6 & 7, 2018
Where: Resendiz Flower Farm
What: Be hands-on for a flower workshop for the dinner tour! And enjoy a tour of the Protea farm, too!
Cost: $275 plus sales tax per person
Learn more: Send an email to email@example.com
Flower Books: How to Make Kokedama Books!
Hanging Kokedama: Creating Potless Plants for the Home
Release Date: Mar 15, 2018
by Coraleigh Parker
This book is not yet available for sale (release date is March 15, 2018), so we are writing about it without seeing it first.
The publisher says: “Learn all about the Japanese art of creating potless plants, known as Kokedama, from botanical extraordinaire, Coraleigh Parker.
In Hanging Kokedama, Coraleigh’s breath-taking moss ball creations, featuring ferns, succulents, herbs, orchids and even small trees, are suspended in mid-air and supported by nothing more than a series of strings or fishing lines, intricately wrapped around a root ball.”
Kokedama: How To Create Stunning Kokedama Japanese Moss Ball Bonsai Plants
Here is an intriguing book about the technique and again, we have not seen it in person, but it is the right price and looks like it can give you some wonderful ideas on how to complete this look successfully!
From the publisher:
“Kokedama For Beginners! Learn How To Create Stunning Kokedama Japanese Moss Ball Bonsai Plants Are You Ready To Learn ALL About Japanese Kokedama Plants? If So You’ve Come To The Right Place… No experience with Kokedamas or any form of gardening for that matter? No worries! This book is suited to the absolute beginner that’s looking to get started with Kokedamas, whether this is for your own enjoyment and a sense of self-accomplishment or perhaps even to make some extra cash as a side business… the choice is yours!”
You can skip all the glue and twine and just buy a kit to make a lovely Kokedama! We purchased one of these kits to see how it was put together which helped us create our own version to make over and over again!
- Build your own perfect Kokedama!
- Includes: 6″ Kokedama, twine, soil, & mosses!
- Long-lasting Preserved Moss
- Fun to make & easy to maintain
- Suspend from a string or Place in a dish!
Where to Purchase: Amazon.com or Armstrong Garden Centers