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Miniature Moss Gardens: Create Your Own Japanese Container Gardens by Megumi Oshima and Hideski Kimura – Book Review

Miniature Moss Gardens: Create Your Own Japanese Container Gardens

By Megumi Oshima and Hideski Kimura
St. Tuttle Publishing, 2017
Hardcover, 128 pages
$19.95 USD

Miniature Moss Gardens is a small book about making very small gardens. It gives an expansive view of the ways that living green moss can be used to create serene miniature gardens and landscapes.

Section 1 – General Information about Moss and Tools

There are essentially three sections to this book, beginning with information about mosses that are suitable for miniature gardens, and general information about the care and maintenance of moss.  While there are thousands of types of moss growing in sites that range from dappled woodlands to the cracks between concrete pavers, Oshima and Kimura give suggestions for only eight mosses that are suitable for cultivation.

Every gardener knows you need the right tools to care for a garden properly, and this is very true in the case of a miniature garden, which requires fine and careful workmanship. A miniature garden needs miniature tools.

Section 2 – Miniature Garden Forms

Before beginning to describe the various moss gardens, from easy to more sophisticated, Oshima and Kimura begin with a flowchart that asks you to evaluate your own skill, interests and circumstance.  For example, the first question is whether you have ever cared for plants or pets before. If you answer no, you go to a question about whether you are a bit lazy and find things bothersome. If yes, you go to the question about the size of your space. If you have a large space where you can place large objects, you can consider an easy care moss terrarium. If you only have a small space, you can consider a basic low maintenance moss bonsai.

The most basic miniature garden is a moss ball. It begins with a soil mixture that can stick together into a kind of mud ball that is then covered with moss. The moss ball can then be placed in a small dish on pebbles so that it can be regularly misted with water to keep the moss healthy.

Then the authors take us through miniature gardens that are more and more difficult, needing more skill and dexterity or a good sense of design. The progression is from kokedama, which is a moss ball that acts as the base for a small plant, to a kokedama bonsai, a terrarium, and an array of dish and tray gardens that will create a miniature landscape by incorporating stone or wood and plants.

All of these gardens look very simple and serene. They depend as much on the gardener’s own aesthetic sense as on technical skill.

Section 3 – Types of Moss

The final section draws our attention to the common appearances of various mosses in our personal environments. I enjoyed the reminder that we only have to pay attention to the small things in our world to find loveliness. Moss can be found growing in the cracks of pavement or on concrete walls, as well as on fallen dead trees, and barren places in a park. There is also a series of photographs showing moss growing in some unlikely Japanese locales.

Only a few mosses are really suitable for moss gardens. Eight of them are listed with enlarged photos. In fact, one of the tools suggested for the moss gardener is a good magnifying glass so you can really enjoy the structure of the different mosses. There is also information about where each moss is likely to be found. Not all mosses grow in shade.

In addition to suitable mosses found in nature, Oshima and Kimura mention that you can also buy these mosses.

Lost in Translation?

Miniature gardens and flower arranging are considered fine arts in Japan. That art has been admired by many of us in the United States so it is wonderful to have a simple book with many clear illustrations to teach us how to create miniature moss gardens ourselves.

However, this book is a book about Japanese miniature gardens that is written in English. It is not exactly a book written in English that takes into account that some of the materials and instructions will not be familiar to Americans.

For example, a recipe for making the ‘mud ball’ with Akadama soil, Fuji sand and rice hull charcoal is not helpful. Those materials are exotic and we would not even know how to make substitutions. Neither will we be able to find a cheap level-raising mat for our terrarium at the garden center. I have never seen anything even approximating this mat. There is also the question of where to acquire moss.

Fortunately, we can turn to the Internet and bonsai stores in the United States to buy miniature tools, soil and moss. If we live in a big city we can possibly find such a store locally and gain more advice, as well as the products we need.


I full heartedly recommend this book.  Having found a good bonsai store online and with the clear and beautiful illustrations at my side, I feel that even I could make a simple miniature moss garden. And after practice I might graduate to an elegant dish garden using my less than elegant aesthetic sense.

Where to Buy

Miniature Moss Gardens: Create Your Own Japanese Container Gardens by Megume Oshima and Hideshi Kimura is published by Tuttle Publishing. It can be purchased at Amazon for $19.95, hardcover. It is also available as a Kindle edition for $18.95.

And now over to you – Have you ever tried making a moss garden? How did it go? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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