Bonsai Techniques

grass skirt


by Lew Buller

 For a special occasion, I made my wife a grass skirt. She wore it once and after that I was left with a lot of raffia and a need to find new uses for it.

It proved to be very versatile; in addition to using it to protect branches during wiring I used it in the following ways.



To replace copper wire around the rim of the pot and instead be able to anchor fine wires to the tree trunks. It was time to repot the tree and the branches I had tied down had not set yet. This enabled me to change soil, cut roots and still keep the branches tied down.

Several of the raffia bundles were braided together and I used them to keep soil from washing away from my Torulosa saikei. Moss and muck look best, but moss is had to find in San Diego, so aluminum screen wire had been substituted. Here’s what the raffia looked like in place after several weeks of use.

Wet or dry, raffia is very strong. Wet, it is very flexible and before wrapping branches with it, it should be soaked about 20 minutes or more. After it dries, it will cling tightly to the branch and is somewhat of a pain to remove. Where flexibility is not required, it can be applied dry and removed readily.

This little plant was left on my doorstep by a neighbor at the end of the street. It looks bad; the foliage says “Check my roots.” When I removed the plant from the soil, it had almost no roots. I could not repot it and tie it in place with wires coming up from the bottom–no roots to hold down. Also wire would probably cut into the trunk. So I put raffia around the pot, put the plant in, covered the bottom with enough soil to grow new roots, and tied it upright with the raffia. No guarantees, but it has a better chance at living than it did before.

Raffia often can be substituted for wire, especially when wire might cause damage. Or other wrapping materials which might cause damage. I had previously done a root over rock using a stretchable rubber tape meant for this purpose. It strangled and killed several roots. The raffia will deteriorate over time and cause no damage.


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