REPORT ON A PAIR OF FUKU-BONSAI WORKSHOPS
Giving workshops at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center is always interesting. The "CREATE YOUR FIRST BONSAI! workshop is usually led by Edison Yadao or Michael Imaino. Both do a much better job than me as they just cover the basic points well so student get just enough so there is a good retention rate. This is confirmed by completed feedback questionnaires.
Taking beginner workshops with me leading them is risky. As the chief "mono-maniac with a mission," when I'm in high passion, I may be more intense than many beginners can handle! In trying to teach as much as possible, I don't watch the clock and it can go on longer than visitor time allows. Students are known to leave almost shell-shocked! But some become good friends as I really set the bonsai hook deep! For fanatics that want to learn, are willing to adventure into experimental areas, and have the time, contact me ahead of time and again as you arrive in Hawaii. If I'm not tied up, I'll share with you the latest projects and challenges we're addressing.
This is a plus for some people and this report is on such a situation. It began with a visit in mid-afternoon by three friends who were housed in West Hawaii who were on a day trip to explore East Hawaii. The magnet for most visitors is Volcanoes National Park and the city of Hilo which is developing a low-key reputation as the best kept visitor secret in Hawaii State! West Hawaii is popular with the "sun and surf" types that once visited Waikiki, migrated to Maui, and now are entrenched in Kona-Kohala. Sometimes they get a bit bored with all the luxury there and venture out to see "the real old Hawaii" that is probably best represented by Hilo and East Hawaii.
On Volcano Highway 11 after leaving Volcanoes National Park and heading towards Hilo, many stop at Akatsuka Orchid Gardens who is a Fuku-Bonsai Promotional Partner. They may see one of our True Indoor Bonsai there, but Akatsuka doesn't sell them and instead send visitors to check us out. So the three friends visited and were smitten by the bonsai bug. There was time to do a simple "Create Your First Bonsai" workshop but two of the three wanted a bit more while the third needed more sleep and luxury time. They asked when was the best start time and I said 8 or 8:30AM, not knowing where they were staying.
After they committed, I learned that they were staying in West Hawaii and to get here via a 2 1/2 hour car trip, they'd have to leave at 6AM and no normal visitor on vacation is that crazy! But they were, even promising to bring me a cup of coffee and I told them I take it with sugar. So I smiled as they left but the next day they appeared at 8:30AM with the coffee with sugar and we began!
What is more challenging than a basic "Create Your First Bonsai"? How about a shallow "1:10 Project" 9" diameter saucer-pot with the new Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock? How about one person doing "Intermediate Sumo" and the other doing "Intermediate Roots" and each having two more units sent with their plant (as you need to order three to join the study group and shipping is free when 3 or more units are sent to the same address). So they both joined our study group and promised to create joint reports as they worked on the second and third set. Then I learned that Selma Koga lives in Pasedena and Juan Carlos Garcia lives in Folsom up north near Stockton/Sacramento. This pair is full of surprises and I look forward to their joint reports! Here's a report on their first workshop.
This is an interesting pair of friends who compliment each other. Selma decided to do a Sumo and Jose a Roots so they could learn the similarities and differences in both. So I explained the different objectives that Sumo is to develop a wide sturdy root buttressing to support a heavy multiple-trunked large wide crown while Roots should be a more elegant blend of the larger main trunk into downwards growing roots that will be extended to one day be an exposed root design or a tree ideal for root-over-rock planting.
Selma proceeded to partially bare-root and placed her sumo on an accent rock to spread out the roots and secured it with bind wire. Juan arranged his roots to blend with the largest trunk and start them on a downward path a U-shaped wire would elevate the tree to form a path for the lengthening roots.
|Selma was ready first so she prepared the 9" diameter saucer, installed the X-tie down wires, built a hill with coarse media, cut the plastic separator to tent and protect 50% of the hill from clogging, added body media, positioned the plant, tied it down, and added more body media.|
|Juan learned how to create the aluminum foil using the "accordion-fold scheme", positioning the plant with wire support, strategically adding sphagnum moss and a mix of coarse and body media.|
|Juan learned how to lift each side carefully and to place a little media on top, how to join the foil and squeeze and tape the top around the roots, and pre-form the foil column to be the desired size and shape. Turning it upside-down, he teased the roots to the outside edges, added and dibbled in more media, and firmed, squeezed and shaped the foil column.|
|In a short time he was almost done and we tried a new technique to close up the bottom with foil, tie the unit by sending the ends of the two support wires through holes in the bottom and twisting tight. Then set up a second pair of X-tie wires to further anchor.|
|Meanwhile, Selma wetted down a handful of sphagnum moss, squeezed it almost dry, and was cutting it into very fine pieces, then grabbing a pile, squeezing it and recutting it smaller, then fluffing it up.|
|By then Juan was finishing anchoring his roots, having cut off the bottom 1/2" of the foil, shoving coarse bottom towards the middle, firming it, adding body media and getting ready to finish off too.|
Selma shaped the surface of her sumo with a flattened spoon.
By using a sawing back and forth motion, she was able to
steadily move the media to blend into a smooth transition to blend
with the base that had been widened with the accent rock. She added
some finer media to create some firmness.
Note that there's an aluminum foil ball used to spread out some branches that were too close together so the crown would start growing wider. This worked well compared to wedging small rocks for that purpose.
|First she sprinkled the small fluffy sphagnum moss over about 50% of the surface. We screened the body with a 1/8" screen to get some finer media to blend with the chopped sphagnum moss. By patting it down with the flattened spoon the surface of the media was successfully transformed from a shifting gravelly surface to a nice smooth blend.|
|Selma's potted surface blended nicely into the buttressing root hill that the fine hair roots will quickly colonize and hold together. We've recently learned it takes 2-3 months for the fine network of hair roots to develop over the entire surface. And if this is kept protected with aluminum foil, a few months later the hair roots develop into heavier roots about 1/32" to 1/16" wide. Bellow these, a significantly heavier 1/8"+ roots form and it's these third set of roots that are the most desirable as they form the heavy permanent roots that are exposed later.|
|Selma learned how to install the full-saucer aluminum foil by first crumpling a full width aluminum foil that is equal to the circumferance (C=πD or about 3x the diameter or 3x9" = 27" long)|
|Juan caught up and quickly completed contouring the surface using the chopped sphagum moss and finer screened body mix.|
Both got a lesson in pruning, making air holes in the foil and completed their initial 1:10 Project workshop. They got a summary of how that 1:10 Project has progressed, the changes that had been made, and the opportunity to work on two such plants that had been part of workshops over a year ago. This would show them the differences between our original concept and what they just learned.
The 1:10 Project Roots had been done over a year ago when the best practices at that time finished off with just installing the aluminum foil to protect the roots and cover the surface of the saucer pot. At that time we didn't spend any amount of time contouring the media surface or creating a smooth blend into what would be the extended roots. But it was successful in that the roots had developed well. The finer roots were removed to focus on the heavy roots. Longer medium sized roots were arranged using wire bent into "hairpins," and the surfaces were smoothed with our new techniques. The branches were pruned, a new foil was installed, and they got an insight into how to handle the trees they had created in the workshop after a year or so of growth and development. They did a second such plant with no problems and learned to start new plants from cuttings.
The time flew and they were soon heading to meet friends. They joined our study group and left with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm. But now the hard part begins as they must master the cultural aspects of getting their trees to grow vigorously within the best environment they can provide. They'll find that it's a bit more challenging working alone, but we'll help wherever we can with the hope that they'll be able to master the basics, develop more knowledge and start sharing and teaching their friends and community! I look forward to watching their progress. They plan to visit East Hawaii more often and I look forward to other interesting workshops in the future.
This workshop was different. I usually demonstrate and do a tree and participants follow. But here both were comfortable just following my explanations and learned by doing --- but each pursuing a different goal. It was fun, but I felt like the ringmaster of a two-ring circus --- switching attention to the left until Selma was able to continue on her on --- then understanding what Juan was doing and taking him to the next series of steps. All the while I was trying to explain what has been accomplished in the 1:10 Project that uses the shallow saucer-pots and some of the concerns and ideas that I had to continue to make progress.
WOW! WHAT AN INTERESTING DAY!
It's been just three years since we began the 1:10 Project and so far it has exceeded all expectations. Initially, the shallow saucer-pot was desirable because the resulting bonsai was so much more attractive as the tree became more of the focus rather than an overly deep pot. I thought the challenge would be how not to kill it as it would dry quickly compared to a deeper pot. But I was gambling that the biggest problem with growing bonsai indoors was not to over-water so it could be possible. IT'S MORE THAN POSSIBLE!
Since we began, there's about 75 plants in the 1:10 Project on benches in front of the visitor center that gets full sun for about half of each day. TO DATE NONE HAVE DIED WITH THE STAFF JUST WATERING WITH A HOSE WITHOUT TAKING ANY EXTRA TIME OR EFFORT! We don't sell them yet but increasingly placing promising plants into this project.
The success of the 1:10 Project has resulted in more experimental small or mame bonsai efforts and these too grown in the same area have never had a fatality. I think Dwarf Schefflera is much more durable indoors and outdoors than anyone ever believed. So our trials are trying to find the limit. We water less but they do fine. We increase fertilizing and they do fine. I think that what we consider Fuku-Bonsai's "basic techniques" are very suitable for this tree. But our basic techniques vary significantly from techniques used by the traditional outdoor bonsai community and we'll continue to explain and detail them in the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai!