Sun, 13 Jun 2004

Dwarfed plants bring nature to a home interior

Maria Endah Hulupi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In the Japanese art of suiseki (beautiful-shaped natural stones), dwarfed plants are frequently added to enhance the presentation of the stones, completing "the story" of each stone.

Just like the art of suiseki itself, the tiny plants as well as the bases on which they are grown are carefully chosen and combined to meet esthetic considerations, such as an overall pleasant shape and balanced proportion.

"These dwarfed plants are usually grown on small bases to capture the beauty of the normal sized plants in nature," said suiseki collector Hadi Wijaya.

Among the most common dwarfed plants' bases for suiseki are rare, beautiful shaped natural stones, fossilized wood or bones, old terra-cotta pots or antique china.

The plants and the bases are not merely chosen based on artistic reason but also to embody a philosophical value.

"The plant symbolizes the living element that lives in harmony with the rock as the lifeless, solid material. Both create harmonious balance," Hadi explained.

Although they are popular as a supporting element to suiseki art, they too can be displayed as a separate feature, said the collector, who has been collecting beautiful shaped stones from around the country for around 40 years.

Either displayed alone or in a group, the dwarfed plants can bring out a unique sense of serenity and a little greenery to an otherwise staid house interior.

At his house in Cipaku, Bogor, Hadi displays dozens of beautiful dwarfed plants together with his suiseki collection. He also stands them alone, putting them on a cabinet or a table, like the one on his terrace.

"Growing these tiny plants is not as difficult as many people think and they don't require complicated and time-consuming maintenance."

He said that when the plants would be used in exhibitions, he added a little moss to cover the plant's root for esthetic reasons.

Different kinds of bases -- even stones found strewn in the street -- can be used to create pleasant looking dwarfed plants.

"You need a good eye and a sensitive judgment for the esthetic in choosing the stone and the plants, and in how to marry them as a unique feature," Hadi said.

The collector plants his collection of dwarfed plants himself, a hobby he took up around four years ago. The plants that he uses include ferns, bromeliads, orchids and palm trees. Common grass, he added, can also be used.

"The plants should be new growth or very young shoots and still tiny in size. The use of small mediums restricts their growth so they cannot grow to normal size, like they do in nature," Hadi said, adding that when removing the plants, one has to make sure that their roots are intact.

With a little tender loving care and suitable living environment, the plants can grow healthily for many years.

"They will retain their tiny shape for years but when they have grown out of proportion, you may need to replant them in bigger bases."

Hadi finds a lesson from nature in tending to his plants.

"The fact that they can only thrive with tender loving care, which we provide, can be likened to us who can only thrive because God takes care of us."


Steps to make your own dwarfed plants at home

Step 1: Necessary materials * A nice shaped small base, like terra-cotta pots, stones or chunks of wood, ideally with a flat surface or a hole big enough to put the plant. * Tiny young shoots or new growth of ferns, bamboo, bromeliads, palm or orchids, for example, which can be obtained in nature, like those growing on tree barks or from a nursery. * A wooden stick. * Silicon rubber glue. * Spray to water the plant.

Step 2: 1. Since the dwarfed plant is to be displayed, wash the chosen base thoroughly and wait until it is completely dry. 2. Study the shape of the base and the chosen plant, making sure that when combined they make a harmonious looking display. 3. Gently add dabs of silicon rubber glue only on the area of the base where you want to secure the plant. 4. Carefully attach the plant to the base; using the wooden stick, gently press the root of the plant so that it anchors to the base. 5. Spray the plant at least four times a day during the first few weeks and twice a day afterward. Fertilizer can be given every month through spraying. Display the plants in shady spots around the house.