I recently learned a new word – Kokedama (pronounced Ko Kay Da Ma). It was at life skills trainer Nisha Bhimaiah’s residence in North Bangalore, where she grows beautiful ornamental plants out of moss balls, that I learnt about this wonderful Japanese technique of propagating and growing houseplants. Loosely translated, ‘koke’ means moss and ‘dama’ means ball.
I had interacted with Nisha on social media because of our common love for hand-woven textiles and anything handcrafted. I could anticipate meeting a multi-faceted woman with her varied interests that ranged from her love for theatre to jewellery making and to clamp dyeing of fabric. In addition, Nisha is also a qualified life skills trainer from Mangalore University and has worked with several corporates and is now working with schools and children imparting life skills and soft skills to them. But it was her social media page, called Nirvana Garden Concepts that features her kokedamas that intrigued me. Nisha, a Kodava -as I found out- grew up in the verdant environs and coffee plantations of Coorg and has a natural green thumb.
So what is a Kokedama? Kokedama is a style of Japanese bonsai where a plant’s root system is enclosed in a ball of growing medium like soil (Akadama or Bonsai soil), which is then wrapped in moss instead of a pot and finally secured with a string. Kokedamas can be placed either outdoors or indoors depending on the nature of the plant. It can be hung with a string or simply placed on a plate or bowl and is a brilliant way to enhance house decor using natural material. Nisha’s cosy balcony houses several kokedamas with ferns, anthuriums, various succulents and also cacti and the entire area exudes tranquillity.
Using coco-peat, peat moss and bonsai soil in equal measure and mixing it with water, Nisha creates the substratum and makes a ball out of it. The peat moss helps in retaining the moisture. In the next step, the plant is taken with the roots exposed and placed in between the ball that is partially split and then pressed together. One can add more soil at this stage to make the ball more stable. The ball is then placed on a lawn of moss that is wrapped around the sphere and pressed together to make it more compact. The base can be flattened so that it can sit on a table if required. A string tied near the junction of the ball and the plant makes the Kokedama secure. The last step is to wrap the string any which way till you feel that the ball is secure. The highlight of this technique is that you can create a garden or even a forest in the smallest available space. So whether you are in a small apartment or have a larger space, kokedamas can become a natural choice of greenery for your surroundings. Nisha is also urging nurseries in Bangalore to propagate their saplings this way to sell it to the customers. This will greatly reduce the plastic containers and bags that are rendered useless after repotting.
Though Nisha conducts life-skills classes in schools, she is now undertaking more gardening projects and also delivers Kokedamas out of Bangalore. Thanks to the recent Covid- 19 lockdown, she has even managed to take an online session for particpants.
Says Nisha, “Kokedamas make for great gifting options and I can create according to the budget of the client”. She goes on to add, “I completely credit my mother for my skills in gardening and couldn’t have come this far without her support.” Not for any reason that they say that Kodavas have farming in their blood. Nisha Bhimaiah is proof!
You can check and reach out to Nisha at https://www.instagram.com/nirvana_garden_concepts/ and