On September 2, 2014 we were visited by Gerardo Ortiz and wife Alesandra Medacano, who initially told me that they were from Mexico.  I showed them around and we talked story.  Later they requested an Introductory Workshop which I thought was not appropriate as we are currently not geared for shipping plants to Mexico.  They cleared up my misunderstanding, and corrected me to understand they now live in Redwood City in California so there were no problems.

                They claim to have poor English communications, but I had no problems and enjoyed their stories so asked Alesandra to take photos while I demonstrated with one set and coached Gerardo who did another set.  I took the first "before"  and the last "after" photos,  they took notes and the in-between photos, signed up for MPBF membership and the Beginner Study Group and they left with large smiles,  promising to send a written report of the IWP #1 Sumo workshop that was done at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center in Kurtistown, Hawaii. 

               The next day we shipped the plants,  they likely received it on September 7, and on September 9, I received both the report on the IWP #1 BASIC SUMO workshop done at Fuku-Bonsai and their IWP #2 BASIC SUMO workshop that were done on their own.  It is very obvious that there is no communications problems as they write and photograph well!  The first report came in a bit mixed up as two cameras were used.  So I sequenced the photos and added some captions where necessary.  While we usually do a demonstration presentation, most IWP reports focus on the guest participant and this is one of the few that includes photos of me from the demo portion.  Their captions are in bold italics Times Roman and mine are in Arial.


              Selecting the right material is important. From the top you should see branches that are growing in different directions. Your kit will provide a good quality plant and everything you need to successfully build a sumo bonsai for the indoors. Introduce the wire through the drain holes. Place the gravel in the center of the pot, leaving a pyramid shape on the center. he piece of plastic creates a canopy shape by folding in half and then on the other direction.         .

       Place the plastic in top of the higher part of the gravel. Add half of the media mix along the edges around and press down firmly. Gently rock the plant,  and carefully remove from the nursery pot.Use a roothook to remove the media and the plastic and expose the roots. Start at the top... Take your time.  Once root are exposed, examine them.

          Gerardo is very carefully bare-rooting his tree starting from around the top, loosening the bottom, and untangling the roots in the middle.  Separate the roots but don't remove any particles held by the root hairs.


        Sometimes you need to remove some roots on the center to make space for the rock.

           Once the roots are untangled,  expose the bottom of the roots below the trunk.  Leave the outer roots and shorten the roots in the center that are going down to be able to position the accent rock up tight against the bottom of the root base.  This will force roots to grow out and to thicken to become an exceptional trunk-root base buttressing which is the hallmark of a superior Sumo tree.



       Spread the roof of roots on top of the rock, bring all roots down and tied them securely with the paper covered bindwire.

       Use the damp fine particles of the removed media and fill any gaps between the roots or between the roots and the rock.  Once tied, I set it down on top of the empty 2" nursery pot.  Place all excess media removed into the new pot and create a hill.  Study how to best position the tree.



     Position the plant on the pot and press down firmly, use 2 opposite wires to tie the tree down near the trunk by twisting the wires together.





      If you do a good job, you should be able to lift the trunk and lift everything as one piece.
Tie the other 2 wires on the opposite side of the trunk.






      Add media to the roots and rock and wrapped w aluminum foil, make small air holes about every half inch.

      For watering: submerge the pot is about 2 inches of water for 30 minutes.
Tilt the pot to one site allowing the water to come out until the leaking diminishes.


      Mr. Fukumoto,  It was a pleasure to meet you as well as Mrs. Fukumoto at the Fuku-bonsai cultural center.  I really enjoyed your conversation as well as the amazing Workshop. Thank You for your help,  Gerardo Ortiz,  Metro Taekwondo,  Redwood City, CA



             It was a fun day and Gerardo and Alesandra were fun to talk with.  Although they were born in Mexico and claim they are not good in English,  they do fine and we share similar goals.  Gerardo teaches taekwondo and especially enjoys young students.  But in addition to the technicals of the martial art, he also teaches the basic lessons of life as we also try to do as we teach bonsai.  He has some bonsai experience but is excited about the unique traits of True Indoor Bonsai.  They signed up for the Beginner Study, selected 3 more IWPs, and two small lava plantings that we shipped the next day.  A few days later,  I received the photos that they had taken with some information that was formatted as captions to go along with their photos  along with the photo below and their 2nd IWP report that follows:

By Gerardo Ortiz, Beginner Study Group, Redwood City, California  (September 7, 2014)


            At Fuku-Bonsai, I selected 3 more plants and used one for this sumo workshop.  I began by Introducing the wire through the drain holes and leave the ends on the corners. Place the coarse bottom gravel in the center of the pot, leaving a pyramid shape on the center. Create a canopy shape by folding the plastic in half and then half on the other direction. Then place the plastic separator in top of the higher part of the gravel.


            Add half of the media mix along the edges around and press down firmly. I carefully lift the plant from the nursery pot and used a root hook to remove the media, and the plastic separator and exposed the roots.


            This plant has roots on one side only. So I paid special attention on the placing of the rock to bring all roots down and around, I tied them securely with the bindwire. After positioning and tying the tree down near the trunk, I lifted the trunk to make sure that the tree was securely tied down. 


            I added media to the roots and wrapped with aluminum foil.  Make small holes for drainage and air circulation.


          I submerge the pot in water for 30 minutes. Tilt the pot to one site to allow the water to come out like a steady stream until the flow diminishes and it starts dripping. Then place the tree on a bright windowsill. 


            I was pleased and proud of Gerardo and Alesandra as they produced a nice informative report that covered all basic details.  While they have experience growing traditional outdoor bonsai,  there are a number of techniques specific to True Indoor Bonsai.  Recently we began trying to be more specific regarding watering by saturation.  For typical potted bonsai,  sit the pot in water that comes up to the bottom of the pot rim and allow the water entering through the bottom drain holes to saturate the plant.  When a foil column is used,  pour water into the top of the foil column at the start and upon completing the weekly 30 minutes of soaking. 

           When removing from water, tilt the pot so water comes out in a steady stream as shown in the last photo. As soon as the stream breaks up into drips, level the pot to stop the dripping and place it on a dry plate on a window sill.  With their Sumo techniques down pat, I recommended that they do a Roots next, but without the plastic separator or accent rock, BUT TO SPLIT THE ROOTS FROM THE VERY START IN PREPARATION FOR  A TALLER ROOT-OVER-ROCK PLANTING.

           I recommended using an 18" foil folded double to 9" with accordion folds to have a plant with extended roots in a year or so that would be able to go root-over-rock with the "saddle" being about 9" high.  Root-over-rock is the superior long-term method and when roots are pre-extended,  success is almost certain as the roots are in or near the media in the pot.   Placing a plant with short roots and trying to extend them while the plant is on the rock has a greater difficulty factor and a higher failure rate. I really like success and try to teach "common sense" techniques and strategies. Members of the study groups get additional correspondence and recommendations that are incorporated into their reports. 

By Gerardo Ortiz, Beginner Study Group, Redwood City, California (September 20, 2014)

           Hi Mr. Fukumoto,  here is my report on the roots bonsai.  It was very helpful to read and see pictures of others reports.  I chose this plant for is potential to air roots and cutting.


        Steps 1 to 5 are the same as for sumo, so here are the pictures or the first steps.


    Next step is a bit tricky sense you need to untangle all roots without removing the media. However Mr. Fukumoto recommended using a flatten ball of aluminum foil to split the roots. I removed more media than I should. 


       After inserting the foil as high possible, I tied the roots so all of them point down.  I used a 18" long foil that when folding in half result in a 9"  high accordion.  The plant is placed with some media about 1" from the top with the roots pointing down and more media is added. The 2 edges of the foil are joined to create the column, squeeze gently to preserve the accordion structure.      


       Now the plant is turned over and more media added,  always paying attention to direct the roots down.  When I don't see roots I add more media until the whole column is filled up. The column is placed securely and tied into the pot. Holes about every inch are make in the foil for air circulation. I covered the whole pot with foil to avoid media floating in the water.


        It has been a great learning experience working with the IWP program. I feel that it's been easy for me because I did the first workshop at the Fuku-bonsai Cultural Center. The instructions provided with the kit are very easy to follow, plus you have everything you need in the package. Another thing that compliments the program is the website, where you can find reviews from other members and all the pictures they have posted. In my case, it was very helpful because although I understood the instructions on the roots I was able to compare what I understood with the reviews just to double check.


        Mr. Fukumoto's feedback after each report enriched the experience and my confidence in the future tasks. So far, it is hard to choose which of the three is my favorite because every activity has different characteristics that make them fun and unique. I believe the hardest part is waiting for the trees to develop. My student's parents have seen my bonsai and have showed interest in learning bonsai techniques. I feel comfortable enough with guiding them through the first IWP because I know the quality of the set. 


        At this time, I am working on the rock for the next IWP, which is Roots over the Rock. As soon as I complete this last one, stay tooned for this review.  Thank you very much and I look forward to advancing to the next level group.   Best regards, - - - Gerardo Ortiz


                  The IWP Roots objective is a mid-stage growing-on effort to primarily extend the roots.  There are two or three general options upon creating longer roots: 

            1.  To train into Root-Over-Rock and this is the more common recommended route as it will produce a larger more impressive result in a short period of time.  For those wanting to plant on taller rocks,  after a year or so,  attach support sticks or wire and further extend the roots.  The top of the oldest heaviest roots can be partially exposed a little every few months.

            2.  To train towards an Exposed Root design.  Some prefer a solid column of roots that substitute for the trunk of the tree and the foliage crown can be shaped either as a traditional rounded tropical crown or as a flattened "Kasa" or umbrella crown where there's primarily a single layer of leaves.  There's a greater difficulty factor in creating "open roots" and in this case, it makes sense to fuse roots where they cross to create a stronger structure. 

            3.  To train towards a "Bottom Dragon" with twisted roots.  Roots are much more limber than trunks and training roots into innovative shapes are the activity going on behind the scenes by members of the advanced Fast-Track Study Group with a range of reports to appear in near future issues. 

                  As we build an Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community,  those in the Beginner Study Group are being exposed to the most active members of the Fast-Track Study Group.  It is my hope that the friendships built up will carry on into the future generations and that these reports continue to break new ground!  As this is written,  Gerardo has begun preparation of this rock and he has been asked to do an advanced IWP #4 ROOT-OVER-ROCK.  He's doing great!  ~~~David

*** Return to the October 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