This is a project born out of Chie-san's kusamono classes; in April she put together a Satsuki azalea in a kusamono moss ball and the result has always intrigued me.
At this point I feel I should clarify terms: I tend to use kusamono as a catch-all for anything and everything that isn't a bonsai tree but not what I intend to use as an accent plant. I suppose technically I should be calling this a kokedama, but what the heck. On with the show.
Another thing I should clarify is that I don't really want to go into a step-by-step 'how to' of creating this. Partly because it's a dead bore to write and also because it's so easy to miss things /get it wrong / leave things open to misinterpretation.
So my best advice is, if you're dead set on making something like this and are in the UK, either contact Chie-san or Windybank Bonsai about classes. If you are not in the UK, please feel free to start headbanging here. :o)
I got this satsuki from Windybank at the Capel Manor show, unfortunately the variety is unknown. If anyone recognises it, please drop me a line.
So ignoring the crappy pot, this is what I had to start with:
No root pruning was done; the actual root ball once I took the plant out of the pot was really rather small. I also had to wet it quite a lot, otherwise the keto mix wouldn't stick to the kanuma. Sticking the keto on was a total pain in the neck.
Here is the finished product, as seen slightly from behind. Sticking the moss on to the keto was just as big a pain in the neck, as the slightest pressure on the keto tended to create fissures. Another problem was the weight distribution. Until the bottom of the sphere flattens out, the planting tends to tip over. If you look closely, you can see the little black ceramic disk I use to prop the kusamono up. Here then is the detail of the moss ball from the rear:
As well as needing to stand the moss ball up on its own, I also had to tip the whole thing over without damaging the satsuki, in order to moss up the bottom of the sphere. The most expedient way being to grab the whole thing by the trunk and work one-handed. Wear clean gloves when you do this, is my advice.
This is the view of the planting from the right hand side:
At the moment, my idea of the front is going to be roughly about here, showing just a bit of the trunk and the downward curve of the cascade:
And just in case this will assist in identifying the variety, here is the flower detail (colours leaning more to the vermilion rather than the pinks):
Despite what I've read elsewhere, there are still loads of bonsai traders in the UK who are selling satsuki azaleas that are way more developed than mere cuttings, and at very affordable prices. Links to some of these guys are above.
Another thing - IMO, the flower size of this satsuki is way disproportionate to the actual size of the trunk; were this a bonsai tree, we'd probably all be looking for ways to fix this. But with satsukis, all sorts of shortcomings get excused because of the flamboyance of their flowers. Several people have told me that in Japan, it is because of this flamboyance that satsukis are not held in particularly high esteem by pure bonsai connoisseurs. Whatever. I knows what I likes and I don't cares.