Susquehanna Bonsai Club

The premiere bonsai club of south-central Pennsylvania


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Owen Reich – Susquehanna Bonsai Club

The Susquehanna Bonsai Club was given the pleasure to have Owen Reich as a guest speaker. Owen has vast knowledge about bonsai and kusamono, a lot of which he gained while doing an apprenticeship at bonsai nursery Kouka-en which is owned by famous bonsai master Keiichi Fujikawa. 

Owen’s “twofer” presentation gave us a brief re-potting demo using a beautiful NWS [tree?] but primarily focused on kusamono from the Japanese aesthetic perspective, then treated us to a brief re-potting demo using a beautiful hornbeam. 

Owen shared that kusamono was initiated in the Kyoto area using local native plants and is now practiced as a “side art” and that there are three basic types of kusamono: moss balls as companion plants, or accents, for bonsai display; seasonal arrangements that are put together in recognition of the current or upcoming season, and stand-alone kusamono that are displayed alone in a similar fashion to bonsai. 

Many fine kusamono examples such as these can be seen at Owen’s blog, bonsaiunearthed.com 

Two major points of difference Owen observes between U.S. and current Japanese kusamono are that Japanese kusamono usually are much longer in training before display and kusamono as companion plants for bonsai are much smaller in Japan than in the US. 

While seasonal arrangements may be put together and dissembled after an event or season has passed, the general approach in Japan is to plant an arrangement and train it via defoliation and allow it to mature for a few years before it is exhibited. 

In the past Japanese kusamono-as-accent plants were at least as large as those most commonly seen in the US but the current Japanese vogue is for them to be no more than an inch or two in size, if not smaller! Owen said that as much plant material as possible is stuffed into a container and that which survives over time creates a very attractive display. 

Owen said that many of the general design considerations of bonsai also apply to kusamono such as considering compliment and contrast between the material and the container. He said it is important to know the environment different plants thrive in so everything in a combined planting is healthy. His final observation was that success will come from studying and learning the Japanese methods first, then stepping out and doing your own thing. 

Owen’s pointers on re-potting focused on root treatment and tree placement. His main emphasis was on the need to make sure large non-feed roots are removed and the remaining feeder roots are groomed to be radiating out from the trunk.

Please enjoy the gallery of photos taken during Owen’s lecture/Demo 🙂

(click on first image to scroll through gallery)

Again thanks for reading!

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