'Kokedama'is a passion for Prince Kumbookadan, a resident of Vettoor near Pathanamthitta. It is a Japanese style of gardening which is also called 'hanging garden' or 'moss ball'.
Prince conducted an exhibition of his kodedama collection recently which attracted numerous visitors who were eager to know more about the art.
In kokedama, plants are grown not in pots but hung from nylon threads. Prince explains, 'Many people wonder whether soil is not used. But in kokedama, soil is only packed around the roots of the plnat. The roots and earth are made into a ball and covered with moss. This is the reason for the gardnening method receiving the name moss ball.'
Moss is abundant in the humid climate of Japan and kokedama is very popular in that country.
Use of coir
In Japan, soil and moss are packed around the roots carefully and made into ball without damaging the roots. However, in Kerala, Prince found that moss was not easily available. He found an alternative. It is the coir pith. This material is discarded while making coir.
Prince says any plant of moderate size which is not very sensitive can be grown using kokedama. Ideal would be plants which can tolerate water and not easily prone to fungus attack. Prince’s garden has various ferns, orchids, anthuriums and varieties of ixora.
How to set kokedama
The materials Prince uses for his version of the Japanese gardening technique are soil, coir pith and cow dung. Coir is made into a ball or square shape and filled with one or two handfuls of soil-cow dung mixture.
A sapling is planted on it and covered with coir pith. Nylon thread is used to cover the coir pith and made into a ball shape. Nylon is selected is considering its strength. But to prevent the nylon thread from coming off, the ball is again covered with ordinary stitching thread.
Moss is packed around this ball and it is again covered with thread.
Now the kokedama is ready. The ball is immersed in a bucket of water and is hung or kept on a stand. Water content remains in the ball for several days as it is filled with coir pith.
Drying up of moss suggests that the kokedama needs water. The ball can then be immersed in water again. To add nutrition, water-soluble fertilizers can be added to this water.
'Spraying of leaves with water in which fertilizer has been dissolved and pruning also need to be done,' adds Prince.
Shortage of moss
Prince says his biggest challenge is finding the required quantity of moss to cover the kokedama. He collects it from compound walls and trees. He says coloured thread can also be used instead of moss to make the garden beautiful.
'Wherever I go, I will be searching for moss,' he says.
After a few years, the roots may grow outside the kokedama. If they add to attractiveness of the plant, the roots can be retained.
Kokedama is also an ideal eco-friendly gift for family members and friends.
Prince, who is now planning new experiments in kokedama, is supported in his venture by wife Sonia and children.