An exquisite kusamono from our Japanese mystery book. Because I don’t read Japanese, I can’t say what the grass is (can you?), who the potter is, or even, what the name of the book is. However, I can say, with complete confidence, that the whole arrangement is beautiful.
What does Kusamono mean?
In his book Bonsai, Kusamono, Suiseki, Willi Benz says “Kusa = grass and Mono = object.” He goes on to say “If a Kusamono-Bonsai is the main object of a display, we use the term Kusamono. But if a Kusamono-Bonsai is used as an accent or complementary plant, we say it is a Shitakusa.”
Expanding the definition over time
Mr. Benz goes on to say that over time, small flowering plants have also been used as kusamono. Now many people say that any herbaceous plant in a bonsai container is a kusamono. I think this is the way most of us use the term.
A tokonoma (display alcove) in the home of Daizo Iwasaki, that features a summer display of a bonsai, a flowering companion plant (shitakusa), a scroll and another object that looks like a large vase. The photo is by Morten Albek and appears in his book, Majesty in Miniature, Shohin Bonsai, Unlocking the Secrets of Small Trees.
Are kusamono bonsai?
Whether we call it simply a kusamono or a kusamono-bonsai (like Wille Benz), is a matter of choice, though the latter does imply that you include kusamono as bonsai. Beyond that, I’m sure the answer depends upon who you talk to.
In this kusamono, a stone doubles as the pot. The stand is pearwood. The photo (cropped here) appears in Willi Benz’s, Bonsai, Kusamono, Suiseki. From the collection of Willi Benz.