Bonsai Accent Plants
and other Companions

Bonsai accent plants are part of the art of displaying bonsai, in addition to the bonsai, bonsai stands and scrolls.

These small plants, and sometimes other companions, complete the picture.  Bonsai societies around the world are paying much more attention to companion plants and displaying bonsai in general.

The first annual  'Magical Bonsai Accents' show was held in 2012.  It was the first dedicated exhibition of accents ever in Britain. They've started something big, with something small.

The event was sponsored and produced by: Dan and Cecilia Barton, Mark and Ritta Cooper, Robin Jehan and John Trott -- all avid 'accent' enthusiasts.

No longer will the bonsai 'accent' have to be the Cinderella of the show … it will have a show of its own …”  -Dan Barton

History of Accent/Complimentary Plantings

by Guest Author Ritta Cooper

"The plants themselves were originally brought in with trees that had been collected. They were then planted in separate pots to remind the collector of where the tree came from.  These plants would often be grasses or wild flowers.

In time, the growing of plants to accompany bonsai trees in displays became more popular and an accepted way of depicting a feeling, season or location.

Bonsai accent plants have gained importance over the last decade or so, because many bonsai shows have become increasingly aware of the art of bonsai display, and not just with the quality of the tree exhibited .

It’s now about the bonsai, the pot, the stand, the scroll, and the complimentary plant, or other accent item (e.g. a bronze figure) as they relate to each other.

So, now when we display bonsai, we usually also include an accent item – as it has become known over the years.

If this is a plant, the correct term should be shitakusa, which is translated from the Japanese into: shita = below or under, and kusa = grass.

In the last 20 years or so, related or new art forms have developed:

  • Kusamono, which literally means: kusa=grass and mono=thing.
  • Kokedama, which literally means koke=moss and dama=ball
  • Nearai, which literally means Ne=Root, arai=washed. "

Bronze Figures (Tenpai)

When displaying bonsai, another complimentary item is figurines.

Bronze figures are available in many forms and sizes. Whether you display shohin sized bonsai or very large bonsai, you can find a size to suit the tree.

Bronzes can be manufactured in the traditional finish with a bronze metal appearance or colored by several processes to give a real life appearance.

It is best to find a figure to accompany the tree that has some form of relationship. 

Remember, the seasons can also dictate the choice.  For example, a pair of hares would go well with a tree in the spring.

Mice bronzes by John Trott

Pots for Bonsai Accent Plants

Pots for bonsai accent plants come in every conceivable shape and colour and in recent years have become increasingly popular as ‘collectibles’ in their own right.

Ideally, they should be fired to stoneware temperatures to render them frost-proof.  Raku ceramic pots can be used but must be protected in winter from frost or they will invariably crack.

bonsai accent plants, bonsai pot

The contemporary trend is to create pot forms that are more ‘organic’ and ‘free’ in form allowing the clay to ‘speak’ for itself.

Some pots are highly decorative.

- Comments and frog pots by Dan Barton

A Non-Traditional Accent

Despite the rules, there's always room in bonsai for a little fun.

This is from an American bonsai artist Michael Hagedorn who displays this boot at home in his personal collection.

 “ . . . this one is not really an accent although I have it out there between the bonsai along with the other accents. I could tell some story like ‘Well, the boot never did fit.’ But actually I bought it at an estate sale.”

Where to Go From Here

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