Every article is a bit different and this one is too. Some stories begin with visitors interested in learning bonsai and Edison continues to do his usual great job.  Sometimes I get to talk story with them and am delighted when they join our Beginner Study Group which requires submitting written reports to develop a working relationship in which we can learn and teach effectively by email.. After an innovative enlightening introductory workshop,  enthusiasm is high and the Beginner Study Group is a great way to continue the rapid learning curve.

             But upon returning home, too often the actual planning of the next IWP, taking the photos and making notes while doing, and sending them by email turns out to be an overwhelming and daunting task.  Too many  do the workshops without critique, continue to learn, even begin to teach others, but somehow find it impossible to submit written reports.  I'm delighted when reports come in and try not to be too disappointed when they don't.  I especially regret when a Big Island resident who can drop in easily from time to time doesn't have the ability or willingness to make written reports.

              Imagine the progress that could be made if Ryan Chang and Jay Boryczko lived nearby and could drop in, get questions clearly answered,  and even pick out special trees for their next project.  They would have an opportunity to make great reports and allow Journal readers to share in their progress. That would be exciting as no one can teach others like a person sharing what was just learned.  That's why I'm excited to introduce David Raikow who first visited us and took a workshop led by Edison on July 12, 2014.  I asked him to make a report on the workshop and introduce himself.  Just two days later on July 14, 2014 I received his first report which follows:

By David Raikow, Beginner Study Group Member (Volcano, Hawaii, the Big Island!)

              My wife Sue and I visited the Fuku Bonsai Center when it was located in Kona during our honeymoon in 1993. Twenty years later we moved from the mainland to the Big Island, and were delighted to learn that that Fuku-Bonsai was just down the road from us. Iíve always been interested in bonsai, so this is a great chance to learn.

              David emailed: I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for, but I have started a notebook to keep track of plans for my trees. This is, of course, natural for the scientist in me. Here is an entry for the first tree that I made at the center. Please let me know what you think.  

Plant #1:  Dwarf Schefflera (Indoor) Seedling:2011; 1st potting:2014;  Origin: Fuku-Bonsai, Kurtistown

       Current Condition: This my first attempt, potted in July 2014. This tree has a strong butress root extending from the main branch. Iíve put an accent rock in that space, but I donít think it is fit very tightly, so Iím not sure if I should try to reposition it. The rock is sharp lava, and jamming it in might rip the bark. The tree does not require pruning at this time.

      Plan: The main branch (A) should continue to extend horizontally and then grow upward to an apex. A secondary branch (B) will remain low with a smaller canopy. The rock (C) may be replaced or repositioned at the next potting, but will be a permanent accent. The main root (D) over the rock will continue to be exposed. A smaller root (E) will remain exposed.

        Next steps: Allow tree to grow for several months before considering a pruning.


         NOTE BY DAVID F:   Wow David is going to be a great addition to the team!  He responds quickly, takes great photos, and even knows how to do fancy graphics!  So in the afternoon on July 14, I emailed:

         "Aloha David,  your report #1 is a start but lacks the human interest of an informal feature story to allow visitors (to the Fuku-Bonsai website and Journal readers) to share your experience.  How about a few paragraphs of how you learned about us, your thoughts upon visiting, and joining our community.  To give you a guide, check out

          You should do your second workshop (either another Sumo or Roots).  Take 6-8 photos and send with captions.  So your first Journal article will cover at least two trees and we have a few photos to include to add to yours.  Hope this plan is okay.  Regards,  ~~~David"

         That same night (July 14)  I received:   "Ah, I get it. I attached another word file with photos embedded. They are full size files, so If they are too big I could send you smaller ones if you need it. I hope there is enough material for a post. If you need more let me know."




         I chose this for my second tree, to be done in the sumo style.


        Preparing the pot.  I made a central mound of gravel .


        The root ball before loosening. Roots loosened and tree perched high in the pot. I used extra soil left over from tree #1 to raise the tree up and keep the roots high.


          Foil to hold soil to the roots. Iíll re-evaluate the shape when itís time to re-pot and the tree has had a chance to recover from manipulation, and grow a bit. 



          I emailed a critique and the next morning his revision awaited!



          IMPROVING IWP #2 - SUMO.   On Davidís advice, I re-did the roots and foil. This is the foil I originally put on the elevated Sumo root mass. Itís too small, too loose, and has no lip to allow watering from the top.  After taking off the foil the root mass was still damp from the previous dayís watering. I trimmed just a few of the loose roots.


              To re-do the foil, I started with a much bigger piece and used the accordion pre-fold method. The trick is to orient the folds vertically, then wrap the foil around the root mass, and squeeze the foil against the roots just at the base of the trunk. That way the accordion folds allow you to flare the foil out over the root mass, and flare it outward at the top to form a cup.    The foil flared out to cover the base and forming a cup at the top. I trimmed the foil both at the top and bottom. I added a loose rubber band to hold the foil in place, and pinched the edge of the foil a bit to secure it. The rubber band is not tight enough to actually constrict the tree. Last, I poked holes in the foil to create ventilation. When I water the tree I will soak it in a tub of water for 30 minutes, with the water level just below the lip of the pot, and pour a small amount in the top cup of foil.            - - - David Raikow


   NOTE BY DAVID F:  On July 16th I emailed:

           "Aloha David and mahalo for the rapid response and improvements. Your article is posted at   Overall I can see two minor changes that may make my side easier.  1) Can you get a rigid white Foamcor 2'x3' panel to use as a background as it shows details better.  A white plastic tablecloth would also work well.  I have a dedicated white plastic folding table that can be scratched, scrubbed down, and washed.   2) Try to take primarily horizontal ( I try for 3x4 Format ) with enough room for cropping.  You'll note that when there are more photos and limited captions, I line up the photos across the page and gang the captions together.  But for more detailed explanations, I line up the photos on the right side and have about an equal amount of space for 3-4 sentences as captions and this seems to work well.  I try not to have articles with a lot of text but sometimes that's necessary.   IWP #3 with extra large root extension may be a bit tricky.  Email if there are questions before you start. 


              David, in situations like this, I've been modifying my procedures with soil screens that are 1/2", 3/8", 1/4", 1/8", and 1/16" inch to give me a larger range of materials.  Use the larger pieces at the bottom and progressively use finer materials at the top --- including a layer that is very fine with a lot of organic matter on the very top.  I believe this is more effective in quickly developing hair roots that colonize the fine top layer. To be effective, the aluminum foil must be applied with a lot more control so there is a lot of overlapping to lock the particles into position with the foil quite rigid.  Because the foil is more than doubled up and firm, more and larger air holes seem to be needed. I'll provide details and show you at your next visit here after IWP #3-ROOTS, okay?  Because you are nearby and can visit often,  I plan to teach you based upon a higher standard from the start.

               You should proceed to IWP #3 - ROOTS.  Here I recommend that you modify the objective.  You live in Hawaii which has an over-abundance of beautiful lava rocks that would make you the envy of all Journal readers!  Your job is to visit and study anchialine ponds throughout the state and these are often near choice locations where superior rocks for bonsai can be found!  So your goal really should be to learn and become very proficient at rock planting! 

              So for your IWP #3 - ROOTS,  review past articles that utilize double tall "accordian pre-fold" method for creating roots ---   BUT EXTEND THE CONE TO AT LEAST 6" TO 8" AND USE UP ALL THE COARSE BOTTOM AND BODY MIX FOR BOTH IWP #3 AND #4!   This will result in you pre-training and extending roots for a future larger rock planting.  Please take your time and plan this out with a more detailed presentation with concise captions on prepping the pot (except for incorporating more string to add to the x-tie wires needed to secure your tall root extending foil apron). 

             But add more details on straightening and combing out the roots, creating the accordion fold foil and the process from that point on. You'll need to untangle and allow to drop straight down ALL of the roots and using cotton or other string that will rot, tie the roots so they are facing downwards as much as possible so the mass of the roots is like an extension of the trunk.  If they are longer than your foil,  trim the bottoms of the roots. Plan for about 15 to 20 photos with captions of 2 to 4 sentences for each photo.  It's better to over-write and send too many photos and this will allow me to edit or omit photos.  BUT REGARDLESS OF WHAT ENDS UP BEING PUBLISHED,  I'LL HAVE MORE INFORMATION TO BETTER UNDERSTAND YOUR WORKING STYLE AND MORE ABLE TO ADVISE!  Please email questions before you start.

        Upon completing IWP #3, I recommend that you do IWP #4 here at Fuku-Bonsai as you'll be out of potting media and I can coach you on your first rock planting, okay?  I think that the technical portion will come easy for you.  You're already skilled at writing and photography, but with continual improvements, you'll be able to put together some interesting articles that Journal readers will look forward to reading.  Please bring all your plants with you and I'll be better able to inspect them and may be able to give you more pointers.  It's going to be interesting to get you together with Ryan Chang, Jay Boryczko, and the others in the Journal editorial team.  Welcome aboard!  ~~~David 

         Part of his July 16th email included:  "BTW, I will be traveling this week so I can't get to tree #3 until the weekend."    On July 20th I received his third report that follows:





        1.        I prepared the pot for a roots planting first by fishing long pieces of string through the holes at the base of the pot.  I then added coarse gravel and the small sheet of plastic, and some soil mix on top of that.







         2.     I then prepared the plant by loosening the roots. This is the plant's first potting, so the roots were very compact.

        (DWF Note:  For this type of layout,  it's better that all photos be horizontal with enough room to crop to vertical if desired.  But if vertical photos are submitted very tightly cropped, it makes editing and layout more difficult.)





          3.    I put the plant on a large sheet of aluminum foil folded in half. I put soil around the roots. T folded the foil into a cone, tapered at the top. Holding the whole thing upside down, I added soil and gravel and used a chopstick to pack the mixture in gently. I made a layer of just gravel in the middle to help with drainage.






          4.      Flipping the cone full of soil over, holding my hand over the base, I put in the pot and added some more soil around the base to add stability. I then tied the whole thing down. I bent the foil at the top outward to form a cup.




         5.       I watered three both by soaking the pot in a tub with just up to the lip of pot and soaking for 30 minutes, and by using a turkey baster to add water from the top. I've put all my trees near a window that gets full sun in the morning. It is so cloudy here in Volcano, however, that they do not get full sun everyday.

             Iím looking forward to learning more about bonsai and gaining experience. Iím fortunate to have a great resource in the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center so nearby.    - - - David Raikow



          The above combines the first three IWP reports by new beginner study group member David Raikow.  I'm using it mostly verbatim to show how it's done and hope others that join our Beginner Study Group will feel comfortable enough to document and share their bonsai journey. But as pointed out at the start of this article,  David is in a different situation.  He lives nearby,  dropped in again and we did a detailed in person critique of his first three trees. 

          While #3 was an improvement over #2,  the report is still inadequate in that it does not provide enough information and photographs to become a "stand alone article."   As editor and teacher,  I want reports as if you were instructing a beginning student.  So the report should have a lot of information to be able to fully understand details of what you did and why you did it. As your teacher,  I cannot critique or assist if I do not know what you did or could not examine your work. So the first critque is inadequate information and photos. 

           It is my role as editor to select an appropriate number of photos and to select, edit and provide the written information.  Essentially,  the value of the articles are based upon how well it answers the question:  "WOULD A BEGINNING BONSAI STUDENT BE ABLE TO PRODUCE SIMILAR RESULTS USING THE FUKU-BONSAI INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE BASED ONLY UPON THE ARTICLE?"             


          Creating such a report is much much harder than most realize!  Because they read other reports in the Fuku-Bonsai website or the Journal,  they assume that everyone else does too and they want to only write reports that summarizes their experience and all other previously written reports!  BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT I WANT!

          Although I recommend that beginners start with our first January 2013 Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai and read EVERY article,  I don't think most will unless they are really, really interested in learning bonsai!  I ALSO KNOW THAT THE BEST WAY TO LEARN IS TO TRY TO BE THE BEST POSSIBLE TEACHER!  SO IN ASKING BEGINNER STUDY GROUP MEMBERS TO WRITE AS IF THEY WERE TEACHING HOW TO DO THE WORKSHOP, I'M REALLY TRYING TO TRAIN BONSAI TEACHERS TOO!     

           It seems that many have interest in bonsai and just don't know where to start!  There's enough interest that too many are being scammed by unethical bonsai hobbyists trying to sell them bonsai and even conning them into believing that outdoor bonsai trees like junipers will thrive indoors.  There's an article in this Journal on just that subject at:

           The overwhelming number who want to grow bonsai want to grow them indoors in their homes and offices so they can be enjoyed nearby and throughout the day.  Even if you have an appropriate outdoor environment whenever night temperatures are above 55įF,  you might want to grow and enjoy them indoors.  David lives in Volcano where night temperatures drop below 55įF during winter and it will be interesting to see where and how he decides to grow his trees. 

           He's researching anchialine ponds throughout Hawaii.  These are inland ponds not directly connected to the ocean but with water levels that rises and falls with the tide and which are the homes of the endemic Hawaiian Red Anchialine Pond Shrimp also known as "The Amazing Hawaiian Micro-Lobsters!ô" so we have a lot in common as I pick his brain and he picks mine! 


            Teaching bonsai via the Internet is very difficult and I reserve the right to teach only to those who are willing and able to comply with my standards and who have the desire to teach others.  Essentially I am teaching those who will contribute to teach others and to help improve the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.  My hope is that they will become Journal contributing writers to submit articles from time to time.  But the key to our future is increasing the number of JOURNAL CONTRIBUTING EDITORS who join me on a long-term basis and who I hope will help create content for the Journal in the post-Fukumoto era!  But David Raikow is in a slightly different category, although I look forward to him also becoming a contributing editor like Jerry Meislik (Whitefish, Montana),  Ryan Chang (Waipahu, Hawaii) and Jay Boryczko (Farmington Hills, Michigan).

            David Raikov lives nearby,  is very interested in a lot of things that we do and wants to help!  He's given me some great ideas for improving our website and I think you'll be seeing changes.  But I'd like to see David be able to put together strong Journal articles totally independently.  So for his Introductory Workshop Package #4,  I changed the assignment to "ROOT-OVER-ROCK!" 

           I also changed our roles.  Instead of me instructing, he doing, and me photographing and writing,  I'll do both the doing and explaining with him photographing and writing captions.  It turned out to be a very interesting Saturday morning!  First my camera battery went dead and David had to learn how to use it only with available light and no flash for best details.  This requires slow shutter speeds and even though the camera is mounted on a tripod,  you've got to squeeze the button without shaking.  A bunch of his photos showed camera shake and were thrown out. 

           But because he took enough photos, there were enough usable photos that I was able to select, crop, and set up in a MSWord format for him to write the captions.  So his fourth report is a bit different and is posted at  Check it out!  ~~~David F.


           (July 30, 2014)


          Tree #1: ďRegularĒ style. After consultation, foil was added and secured with reinforced tape. This will help protect partially exposed roots and keep fine soil in place. Also notice some yellowing on some leaves. This tree is acclimating to its new pot and home in a colder climate. Itís only two weeks in the pot. Iím keeping a close eye on this tree to make sure it rebounds successfully.




           Tree #3: Roots style. After consultation, the foil has compressed and taped down onto  the soil column. I had it passively over the soil, so needing to squeezing the foil on was a real insight.






              One challenge I have is finding a suitable place to put my trees. Here in Volcano it is usually sunny in the morning and then cloudy, or cloudy and foggy all day (when itís not raining).  At this location on my desk these trees can get up to 1.5 hours of ďdirectĒ sunlight that is coming through trees first thing in the morning.  Iím actually concerned it might be too much light.





            I think it might be a good location, however, because my Sumo tree is showing new growth just two weeks in the pot!




             NOTE BY DAVID F:        Although David Raikow lives "nearby,"  Volcano is about 20 miles away and at about 4,000 feet elevation whereas Fuku-Bonsai is at the 500 feet elevation.  In Hawaii the general rule of thumb is that there is about a 7į difference for every 1,000 feet elevation change.  So it may be a 20į to 25į difference in our temperatures.  It's likely that his trees will be growing slower in general, but is he using heating and we're not?  Look forward to comparing our growth rates.  Stay tuned!  ~~~David 

*** Return to the August 2014 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014