As explained in another page, moss and other live miniature plants make for a great compliment to your bonsai tree. You can collect moss/small herbaceous plants from the forest floor, a nursery, boulders alongside streams, or from old, sheltered areas. Most if not all bonsai compositions include moss or lichen as attractive and easy-to-obtain ground cover. These live ground cover plants do just fine as an representation of grass and small saplings or herbs in a forest. But, besides living ground cover, have you considered adding other pictorial elements to your composition?
Artificial pictorial elements are able to enhance your bonsai project, and add to visitor interest in your composition. Right now, there is a lot of interest in small sculptures made from porcelain. They definitely look nice and elegant beneath the tree branches. But, you don’t have to overdo it. Miniature pagodas and Buddhas have been way overdone. It seems everyone wants these miniature sculptures underneath their bonsai trees. So, what’s there to differentiate your bonsai tree from your neighbor next door?
Try adding driftwood or deadwood to your bonsai ground cover, to give it a lot more natural character. Gnarled bits of wood may be added, along with small curved branches that have broken off from the same species of tree which you are growing. You can collect the larger twigs from the same type of tree for best effect.
A word of warning though. Make sure that the wood is free from potentially lethal disease, fungi, and bacteria before you add it as ground cover. Most of the time, this is but a tiny risk; however, fungus and soil bacteria can multiply easily, and infect the roots and bark of your bonsai tree. All wood that is not alive in nature is decaying in that sense, and are breaking down, biologically. So, it’s not much to worry about, provided you exercise care, like not over feeding or watering, and only choosing solid wood. Porous/soft deadwood/driftwood with holes in them are always suspect.
Treating deadwood before adding it
Lime and sulphur solution will bleach most deadwood and kill off most potentially harmful organisms. You should also alternate placing the wood in hot sunlight with several rounds of bleaching. Try using armillatox, an effective herbicide that kills bacteria and fungus. Or you can try a simple hydrogen peroxide solution that comes with most textile bleachers. Once the wood is bleached and dried in the sun, you can add a coat of varnish to the surface for a nice finishing touch.
Using ceramic figurines
There are literally hundreds of ceramic themes you can use for your bonsai composition. Small porcelain or stone sculptures with various themes will always add a nice touch. Buddha statues may be overdoing it, but you can always opt for huts, tigers, tortoises, birds, and many others. So long as the color complements the tree and the size of the figurine is small, it should look pretty.
If you are growing a fruit tree as bonsai, you could even add a tiny ladder to lean against the trunk. Many bonsai artists in Asia grow tangerines as bonsai. A ladder adds a comic touch, especially if the tangerine tree is in fruiting season.
The container is another design element
The bonsai container or pot is also a design element in itself. It’s quite important to choose the right design and shape for your bonsai tree. The color and material should not detract from the other ground cover elements. If you have subtly colored sculptures or smooth, flat stones on the ground, a colorful looking and shiny container will obviously be inappropriate.
In designing your bonsai composition, creativity and imagination is important, because each and every bonsai design should be as unique as the artist. Therefore, don’t simply blindly copy other bonsai artists. Your bonsai design is where you stamp your mark of individuality.