In the August issue of the Journal of Tropical
and True Indoor Bonsai, Rob Andersen was
introduced as the newest contributing writer.
From the start, the idea was to train Rob to be able
to teach others. So he selected wife Aly as
his first student! The objective of this workshop is to start extending
the roots to prepare the tree for either a larger
Roots or Root-over-Rock in the future. This is
a basic "growing-on" bonsai step. The True
Indoor Bonsai Rule is that each tree has an
individual owner-trainer so Aly called the shots,
with Rob as the photographer-writer-teacher.
- TEACHING & LEARNING
- Rob & Aly Andersen
- (Pleasant View,
I imagine that many who read these articles must
also look at images of the fantastic bonsai that
exist. I am a frequent visitor of the
'schefflera arboricola bonsai' Google search. Many
of these trees have been many years in training, and
have been cared for by bonsai masters for their
whole lives. If you are anything like me, you
want to create such a masterpiece!
However, these trees did not all start out as they
appear. The objective of any introductory package is
not to create an interesting, dynamic bonsai, but to
prepare the tree to become an interesting and
dynamic bonsai. These trees are like children who
have all the potential in the world. We must
prepare, shape, and mold them now so that they can
become the masterpieces of the future.
This workshop was done by my wife
Aly holding her plant before she
gets started. She was very excited about executing
the project, and convinced she would not let me do
anything for her.
She wanted to end up with a tall, twisty roots
bonsai. To prepare for this future, we must first
elongate and thicken the roots.
We spent some time examining the
tree beforehand to figure out the path we wanted to take.
With any workshop, or session you do, have a vision in your
mind of the tree's possibilities.
begin, we prepared all the materials, examined the tree, and
set off with an image of the future!
is a close up of the trunk of the tree and it may someday
become the wings of a flying bird. The branch on the left is
very tall (8 or 9 leaves have grown there), so we decided we
would trim that one to compensate for any lost roots during
the process. You typically want to wait for between 8 and 10
leaves before you do any trimming, as you want the trunk to
develop some thickness before making cutbacks.
Here you can see the tall branch
on the left. It has grown to be very tall, but is thin and
hasn't gained a lot of girth. Another possibility may have
been to pinch the growing tip to encourage some outward
growth. Again, always make sure that you have a plan in mind
before you get started on the tree.
carefully removed a lot of media from the plant, but was
extremely careful and left many of the small hair roots that
will keep this tree alive and healthy. Make sure when doing
a roots like this to carefully untangle the roots instead of
forcing and breaking them if possible. Remember, we want to
extend and thicken these roots--breaking them is not going
to accomplish that.
NOTE BY DAVID: This is the crucial step to preparing a
tree to be trained primarily by "Roots styling concepts."
The roots of a plant naturally spread out at the surface,
but if the roots are simply grown long, they will have an
unattractive bulging at the base of the trunk. So
while the tree is young and the roots are limber, bare-root
the plant and untangle the roots to lead them straight down
and lengthen them. At the base of the trunks, bend all
roots to face down and make a 1/2"-3/4" wide band made up of
paper or folded aluminum foil to hold the roots all facing
down. Then choke it tighter and hold in place with
string or the paper covered thin wire that will rot off
before it harms the tree.
Aly laid down her plant on the tinfoil. We misunderstood the
'accordion style' folding, and so it was basically a flat
piece of foil. It should have a /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ type
pattern. Accordion folding allows you to have a narrow
opening at the top, and a wider base. We also tied the roots
down near to top to help keep it narrow. Aly had to
redo this step 3-4 times, so be patient with yourself. If
you're teaching, remember to allow the student to do it
themselves. You can do an example one yourself, but let them
create their own.
Once the roots and outside media are wrapped, fill in the
bottom of the cone with media, and tease the media down with
a chopstick. Cover the filled cone with a sheet of plastic
so that you can turn it right-side up without spilling any
media. Carefully place the right-side up cone and plastic
sheet down into the pot, and slide out the plastic sheet.
Aly had to do this a few times too, so be patient.
Aly secured her cone in place by sliding the tie-down wires
into the tin foil. Notice how the top is narrow, and the
bottom is much wider. She also did a good job in allowing
enough room at the top of the foil to create a funnel for
water. She also made several air holes that will allow a
good deal of airflow to the roots that desperately need it.
This details the cut that was made and shows the top of the
cone. We covered the wound with vaseline and it should be a
healthy, happy plant. We made the cut as vertically as
possible, and tried to leave some distance between the base
of the branch and the cut. There was a lot of growth above
this point, so we're hoping for multiple growth point from
ALY'S COMMENTS: Working on this tree has been a blast. I
want more trees to re-pot because now I am just waiting for
the tree to be watered and trimmed. Patience will be my
virtue in working with these bonsai trees.
I think Aly did a great job on this bonsai! She has been
taking care of it since the procedure, and it has been
healthy. When doing this workshop, be patient, and try not
to rush anything. If you're worried about the roots drying
out, keep a spray bottle on hand and mist the roots as
needed. Aly finished off her plant by placing it on a
humidity tray, and has been making sure that it gets enough
As for being my first teaching experience, I think it went
pretty well. The part I was most concerned about (removing
the media from the roots) was the part that Aly did the best
in. I'm glad she stuck with her guns on wanting to be the
one to do everything. That being said, when I teach someone
to do this process in the future, I will definitely want to
have a plant of my own that I can use as a demonstration.
SOME THOUGHTS FROM DAVID: Rob and
Aly both graduated in December and are moving into their new
home so it has been hectic there. He tells me that he
enjoys looking for rocks and minerals and that Southern Utah
is an ancient volcanic area that has a lot of interesting
material to find. Their home is surrounded by larger
trees so it's a bit shady. It's also dry and Rob is
looking either for bowls or will make "semi-terrariums."
So I look forward to his reports and photos as he creates a
system and area to get optimum plant growth.
From the start, Rob was excited about teaching and
besides wife Aly, he has made contact with a few
others that are interested in learning. I recommend
that he complete the third most difficult Root-over-Rock
workshop and focus on creating an ideal growing area and
learning to grow the plants vigorously. Once he's got
some good growth, then consider planning to acquire a
shipment of plants to enlarge his collection or to start
Consider bulk purchase of 8 Introductory Workshop Packages
to get free shipping plus a 25% discount so your cost per
kit is $18.75 each including shipping. Or order 16
units and get a 50% discount and free shipping so delivered
cost is just $12.50 each. New teachers are offering
bonsai workshop classes for $35 per student. It won't
make you rich but will cover odd costs for refreshments,
etc. It's a good deal for the "students" too as if
they ordered a single Introductory Workshop Package from
Fuku-Bonsai, it would cost them $24.95 + $12 shipping.
Most people would be happier to have a person ordering the
materials and coaching them through the workshop.
The Introductory Workshop Package was a major breakthrough!
I began teaching in the mid-1960's when bonsai was still a
big secret and few were willing and able to teach in
English. Most who knew anything about bonsai in Hawaii
spoke Japanese and there was no information or suitable
tropical plants available. First success came when the
Evening Adult Education people reproduced by mimeographing
our first tropical bonsai handbook. But success really
soared when we provided prepared bonsai stock from Myrtle's
So the Introductory Workshop Package was our "Bonsai
Educational Holy Grail!" It's the finest kit that
contains all needed items and features a pre-trained 2-3
year old prepared bonsai stock in 2" pot that has character
within 1" of the soil level and a compact, complex shallow
root system within 1/2" of that soil level. It is far
more costly to create this workshop package than for us to
complete a small potted bonsai. But we offer it to aid
the growth of a True Indoor Bonsai community. These
are offered at major quantity discounts to anyone including
bonsai clubs. Teaching aids including color
flip-sheets are available as well as assistance.
Some clubs use the Introductory Workshop Packages for
beginner classes. Other clubs use them to create
bonsai to be sold for fund-raisers (while getting a lot of
experience)! Individuals (and clubs) purchase
quantities at discount for Christmas or personal gifts. To
date over 2,000 have been shipped and we are increasing
production with the goal of one day being able to offer
"Create Your First Bonsai!" workshops at major Big Island
resort-hotels as part of the project: "MAKING THE BIG
ISLAND AN INTERNATIONAL BONSAI MECCA!"
Those who join the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and the
study groups get access to other items that are not listed
on the Fuku-Bonsai website. This includes older
special stock and workshop supplies that are used for bonsai
club demonstrations, programs, etc. Please contact me
for more information. ~~~David (firstname.lastname@example.org)
E KOMO MAI . . . come discover the
serenity of nature, the beauty of bonsai, and the spirit of
*** Return to the September 2013
issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
- *** Go to
Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation home page
*** Go to
Fuku-Bonsai home page
- © Mid-Pacific Bonsai
Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013