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Review: Bonsai-Kusamono-Suiseki, Benz

 Title: Bonsai-Kusamono-Suiseki
Author: Willi Benz 

And the title goes on to include “A Practical Guide for Organizing Displays with Plants and Stones.”  This book was first published in Germany in 2002, which is where Willi Benz hails from.  I knew what bonsai are and suiseki, but I only suspected that Kusamono referred to accent plants.  Kusa does mean grass and mono means object or thing.  Chapters 4 and 5 of this book (45 pages) deal almost exclusively with Kusamono.  There are many pictures showing a wide variety of these plants, many in flower.  Chapter 5 deals with the unique soil mixtures needed when raising Kusamono.  These tend to be humus, peat and sand.  Benz even offers three kinds of humus

This book also discusses the use of scrolls in making a bonsai display.  Sorry, there is so much to report on its easy to lose focus.  The book starts with guidelines for creating arrangement with Suiseki.  Benz presents the use of suibans (ceramic trays without holes) and talks about selecting the right sand.  There’s a series of photos that shows the change in appearance caused by picking different colored sand. One of my favorite photos shows 2 stones on stands with a Kusamono to the left and a miniature screen behind it (byobu).  I really like byobu. 

Chapter 3 focuses on pot selection and then the use of slabs and stands – including stands for mame.  When displaying a suiseki with trees, he explains that the stone typically goes on the highest shelf.  Overall the slants of the various objects on a display stand face each other and feed the eye from the highest to lowest level.  When using a shallow hexagonal pot a flat side is the front, when it is a deep hexagonal pot an edge is the front; this was a new bit of info for me. 

Chapter 7 deals with “Accessories” a short chapter that presents items that I usually think of as Chinese and not Japanese.  This includes mudmen and small buildings/pagodas and sampans.  Chapter 8 presents three types of Japanese displays, formal, semi-formal and informal.  The Tokonomas pictured were outstanding.  One had a flowering pear tree and a suiseki with a small window n the left.  Chapter 11 provides guidelines for displaying objects in a show.  Chapter 14 discusses items to suggest different seasons.