Newest member of the Beginner Study Group

          On August 7, 2014 I received the following email:

        "Hello David - I enjoy reading your website.  I have been looking at it for the past month or so.  I have been raising indoor plants for a while, mostly succulents, but have had some schefflera recently.  I have attached a photo of two that I keep at my office. I had to shut the blinds to take a decent photo - they usually get more light.

        The one on the left was purchased as a "starter Bonsai" from a local nursery.  Its in a bigger pot to help encourage some more growth.  I hope to cut it back next year to get some more branching. The one on the right was part of a shrub that I purchased recently. Another local nursery had a large schefflera shrub for $20.  I took it home, cleaned out the rootball, and separated the 5 plants.  They all have quite interesting trunks.  I hoping the cuts will encourage some branches.

         I would like to buy one of your "roots" in the 8 inch pot, as well as some extra potting medium.  I am interested in the stock you grow in Hawaii, as well as your potting medium.  I have mixed my own soil as well as tried a pre-packaged bonsai soil.  Please let me know the best way to order.    Thank you,  Jeff Smith"

            I replied:   Aloha Jeff,  rather than purchase one plant and continue to grow low potential trees,  I strongly recommend you consider joining our Beginner Study Group to start with 4 high potential trees and learn  the basics.  Equally important, if you graduate you will qualify for the Fast-Track Study Group that has access to superior plants not available to the general public.  The basic rule is to start with plants that have character within 1” of the soil line and yours don’t.  In 20 years you’ll have 20 year old low potential trees.  I strongly recommend starting right and it will cost you less than the tree you want to buy!  ~~~David

            The same day I received his reply:  "Thank you, David.  I will take you up on your idea to start with 4 beginning plants.  Jeff" 



            Being in bonsai since 1962,  Fuku-Bonsai is now clearly the leader of True Indoor Bonsai.  The trees that Jeff obtained shown in the photo above is a lot better than most of the plants that beginners obtain and while they can be trained,  they will not likely be exciting high standard bonsai because they are being trained following traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai techniques and they lack "character" within 1" of the soil line.  It's easy to see that Jeff is interested, is resourceful, and has potential to really learn to create great bonsai if provided the proper guidance and given access to Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock!

           He writes and photographs well and responds promptly.  Rather than sell him a nice plant, I gave him a choice to learn and become a part of our Fast-Track Study Group.  In accepting I believe it will be win-win-win for each of us, but also the readers of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai. We talked by phone but his plants did not get shipped via FedEx until August 19 as tropical storm Iselle had knocked out all power (and computers) for several days, and Myrtle and I were attending family service and burial in Honolulu.  He received it on August 21 and on August 23, 2014 I received his first report that follows.   

 By Jeff Smith (Rocky River, Ohio)  August 23, 2014



          This workshop package provided by Fuku-Bonsai will allow me to pot a prepared bonsai stock, grown in a 2” pot, into a larger 5x3x2” pot. Tools used were scissors and a spoon. All other materials pictured were provided in the workshop package.

          The prepared bonsai stock, a dwarf schefflera, will have more room to grow in the larger pot.



        The first step of transferring the plant to the new pot, is preparing the pot.  The workshop package included a plastic pot, pre-twisted tie down wire, coarse bottom media, and a plastic separator.   I inserted the tie down wire through the center holes and spread them. I then added the coarse bottom media, trying to mound it in the center. The plastic separator was folded in half in each direction to make a tent like shape. The plastic separator will prevent the body media from working down into the bottom media and drainage hole area.


         One half of the body media was added around the mound formed by the coarse bottom media and plastic separator. The body media is less coarse than the bottom media, and it includes organic material.

         The pot is now ready to receive the plant, once it is prepared.



         Now I turn my attention to the plant. I was provided 4 Introductory Workshop Packages and I selected this plant for this first potting.

          Body media was removed to expose the roots, and the bottom roots were separated. The small plastic separator was removed to make room for the rock.





        I positioned the rock under the roots of the plant.

        There was a crevice in the rock that fit nicely with the base of the plant. I tied the rock to the plant with the paper-covered wire. This will secure the plant until more roots grow down into  the body media.







         I positioned the plant in the prepared pot. It is slightly off center. I then twisted the wire to secure the plant to the pot.






            Before twisting the wire further, and folding down the excess, I picked the plant up by its trunk. The plant was secure and did not move. I then folded down the wire to hide it. I added the remaining body media around the base of the plant and rock.





             To protect the exposed roots until they grow down and become stronger, I applied a strip of foil. I folded the foil until it was about 1.5” and wrapped it around the root/rock ball. I watered the plant by dipping it into a tray of water for 30 minutes. I noticed that if the water was too high, it caused some of the body media to float out of the pot. I lifted the plant out of the tray, picked out the floating media, and tried again with a lower water level. This time it worked. I did not add the fine top dressing at this time.


            1. This was the first time that I used this type of potting media. It is very different from other potted plant media I have used. Because of the small amount of organic material, I believe the fertilizer pellets will be key to vigorous growth.

            2. I may have removed too much media from the fine roots of the plant.

            3. I have never used wire to tie down a plant before. I think I was a bit nervous to twist the wire tightly at first. I had to keep adjusting it until the plant could be lifted by the trunk.

            4. This was the first time that I mounted a plant root system over a rock. I am looking forward to the 4th project and the large rock provided.


            "Aloha Jeff and my compliments on a far-above-average first report.  Comments:  I think you covered the basics well. But it is not necessary to remove every bit of media. Leave whatever is hanging on to the hair roots.  Before you place in pot,  pile all the media you took off in the pot and place your tree-tied to rock high and press firmly down.  Then add new media around.  Our media can be reused when potting Sumo style and this will result in a larger heavier root base above the pot level. 

            Before you tighten up the foil,  place a small amount of finer material between the rock and foil and a tiny amount of sphagnum moss on the top edge.  Then choke it tight.  But always make air holes with a pencil or nail with the holes poking down every ˝” of so. Leave this on for at least 3 months to encourage hair roots to develop.  Loosen foil but keep it slightly around the rock for a few weeks to allow roots to harden up before removing completely.  Spoon some water into the foil opening weekly. 

            Recommend you keep only two newest leaves on each branch and remove older ones to balance and off-set loss of roots.  Important to keep growth in favor of roots.  Not necessary to do these corrections and use any leftover materials for #2. To complete #1:  Please send me a photo of you against a plain wall holding your #1 just below your chin with a BIG smile ASAP.  Add any comments or thoughts.  I’ll complete and get it into the next issue to go out on the first and second of September so time is of the essence.  Will use the information from your first email.  Welcome to the study group!

            You did well on Sumo and recommend that #2 be a standard extended Roots.  Untie the x-wire and connect ends to make one long wire to tie-down over the media foil column.  Use only the coarse on bottom --- no plastic separator and no accent rock. Use accordion fold foil 12x12” folded double then folded so it is 6” high.  After folded, add some media and place plant (with roots bent and tied to face down like a carrot).  Can you figure out how to get media all around?  Tape or tie top, turn upside down and flare “skirt” wider and keep roots to outside.  Add media with aid of chopstick to totally full. Place paper or plastic under, turn over and position in pot, slip our paper,  add more media and press down all firmly.  Wire-tie and complete potting, making air holes, trim excess leaves, etc.

           After critique of #2,  IWP #3 will be another form of roots and #4 will use the larger rock okay?  Regards,  ~~~David 

             On August 26, 2014 I received this email from Jeff:

           "David - Thank you for your comments.  I have incorporated your comments into my work on the Second Introductory Workshop Package.  For example, I removed some leaves on the branches of the 2nd project.  Attached is my report from the Second project, "Roots."  Also attached is a photo of me with the First project.  Thank you, Jeff "


             It's a pleasure to complete this first report in such rapid sequence.  It completes in time to go into the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai to introduce Jeff and to invite others (including those without such high abilities and response standards) to join us in learning True Indoor Bonsai.   We are building a Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community and we're doing it the hard way ---  one person at a time with the goal of one day having Fast-Track members in all parts of the country who are fully enjoy creating True Indoor Bonsai from exceptional materials available only from Fuku-Bonsai. 

            They get to do the challenging and fun part and we get interesting authentic content for the Journal.  Each person in the Fast-Track group is different and we want it to be a long-term win-win-win relationship!  Almost a year ago we had Ryan Chang's impressive One-Year Report.  In this issue we have John "Jay" Borczko's One-Year Report.  I'm looking forward to publishing others and believe Jeff will be able to submit an extraordinary report in August 2015!  Stay tuned!

            Per his email,  Jeff sent in his second "Roots" report,  but there's going to be a lot in the critique that may result in a total redo to greatly raise the standards.  I'll also be increasing the difficulty factor for his project #3 and #4 to challenge his capabilities for maximum educational benefits.  I strongly believe that those with the strongest interest will become the most proficient --- especially with multiple experiences and superior plants and kits.  So I'm excited about Jeff's potential and future and pledge to assist him and others who are willing and able to share the educational progress!


            More are joining the Beginner Study Group including those who learn about it during a visit to the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center in Kurtistown and get to do their first IWP following a demonstration and receiving supervision.  We've begun to ask participants to take notes and to submit report on MSWord with photos and text to be their first IWP Report.  After critique, the remaining reports are via email.  Jeff Smith's report and email contact prior to the report was shared in total without editing.  Both of us are very straightforward and I have high hopes for Jeff.

           I tell those who join the Beginning Study Group after learning about it on a visit here that on a business basis,  the study groups are not really profitable as I put in a lot of time to assist members.  But on a long-term basis, this really is a win-win-win situation.  Nowhere in the world can an isolated bonsai hobbyist have such access to the largest most reputable informational resource like the Fuku-Bonsai website with over 3,000 pages up (and continually growing). 

           Nowhere in the world can you obtain the specific plants that are written about and direct contact with knowledgeable individuals willing and able to assist you.  We have very high hopes that those who complete and graduate from the Beginner Study Group and those who become members of the Fast-Track Study Group will play increasingly significant roles in the future. 

          The members of the Fast-Track Study Group will be the contributors of articles for the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai in the post-Fukumoto future.  It is easily possible to hire editors and webmasters to produce the Journal.  But it is impossible to find writers who are willing and able to write with sufficient knowledge.  By rewarding these members with support,  assistance, and access to Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock and other advanced materials, each member gets the needed assistance to create exceptional bonsai without having to build their own capabilities to produce larger quantities of high-potential plants.

           Although we teach the basics of how to create such high potential plants with character within 1" of the soil level, this will be extremely challenging for hobbyists as it requires 2 to 5 years of diligent work.  At Fuku-Bonsai,  because of our large volume and commitment,  we run many batches using a huge number of varied professional techniques that include culling of sub-standard and weak trees.  So there are a very wide range of styles and it is possible for a Fast-Track member to request plants of specific sizes, ages, and styling for their projects at special affordable prices.  This special personalized service is costly and we offer it only to Fast-Track members who provide articles and other assistance.

         With access to workshop packages,  they will be able to successfully teach others in their areas. They can form clubs that specialize in Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.  And when I'm gone, I hope they will help to guide and assist my successors!

         So I welcome Jeff Smith to the team and invite all others who have such skills, interest and desire to learn and master Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.  Please contact me for more information.

       ~~~David (

*** Return to the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
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