Two Great Locations, One Organization

By Jayden Earl

The Nature Academy is focused on training a new generation of environmental leaders in sustainability, conservation, and ecological restoration. As part of the Nature Academy program, each intern writes a blog post and develops a project. The project provides an opportunity to take on responsibility in an area of interest, contribute to the goals of their team, and develop a skill or area of knowledge that can be added to the intern’s portfolio. The post may reflect the project or be a nature-related topic of personal interest to the intern.

Kusamono is a Japanese art form that is fashioned by planting arrangements of wildflowers and grasses. (The two Japanese characters for kusamono represent “grass” and “thing.”) Originally, these plantings were made as a subset of the art of bonsai, used only as accents for the trees. However, kusamono has now developed into its own art form. There are three basic styles for a kusamono: moss-ball (1), out-of-pot (2), and in-container (3).


Moss-ball kusamono style.


Out-of-pot kusamono style.

Kusamono with lily of the valley

In-container kusamono style.

A kusamono should reflect the season in which it is displayed, though it is common for people to select plants that will look good in multiple seasons. If a kusamono is to be displayed with a tree, then the plants selected should be representative of the natural habitat of that particular tree. For example, a rocky mountain juniper probably shouldn’t have golden alexanders in an accompanying kusamono, but dotted saxifrage and dwarf clover would work well.

Pink flowers-geometric platter
Red flowers
Winter kusamono
How to make your own kusamono 

You will need:

  • Plants of your choosing (odd numbers look best)
  • Muck (we used pond muck, but there are numerous options, such as creating your own)
  • Soil (we used orchid soil, but most soil will work)
  • Moss
  • Bonsai drain screen




  • Wire
  • Small pot 
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers 
  • Spray bottle of water
Bottom of kusamonon pot

Step 1: Start by wiring the drain screen
to the bottom of the pot (wire drain
screen on all holes, not just the ones
to which you’ll wire plants).

Soil in kusamono pot

Step 3: Place a layer of your soil
in the pot until your plants will
rest at the height you desire.
Keep in mind most kusamono
have a mounded look, so plants
near the center will have more
soil to compete with.

Nearly finished kusamono

Step 5: Use your muck to create a
wall around all sides of the pot.
This will not only help keep the
soil in, but will also help keep
moisture. Then fill the pot to the
top with soil, creating a mounded look.

Wires in kusamono pot

Step 2: Cut and place long wires through
the bottom of the drain screen. Make
sure there are as many wires as plants.
Remember, as growth occurs, the plants
will fill in. Don’t crowd them!

Plant in kusamono pot

Step 4: To wire plants in place,
create a loop on the lowest part
of the stem possible. Twist wire
with the pliers so it’s secure 
but not choking the plant.

Finished kusamono

Step 6: Once plants, soil, and muck are
in place, cover the soil and muck with moss.
This will give  a clean, finished look. Make
sure to spray the moss with water. 
Your kusamono is ready to display!

Jayden Earl, from Holland, Mich.,is a rising senior majoring in sociology at the University of Michigan. Her hobbies/interests include baking, kayaking, and adventuring with her two border collies.

Jayden Earl