Chinese "CHI" is interpreted a number of ways.  I use it to describe "the innate spirit of the dominant characteristic"  that guides and shapes a person or bonsai.  This moves the concept of bonsai beyond the interpretation of a tree into the realm of utilizing a plant as a medium of art! 

          For some who believe that bonsai is only a miniature potted interpretation of trees,  this may be controversial. I see it simply as another inspiration for styling an artistic potted plant.  If the identified "chi" is used consistently as the guiding styling principle, the bonsai becomes a unique celebration that may become unlike any other past or present bonsai!

         It begins with identifying a feature, theme or trait that should be enhanced. As an example, some plants of the citrus family are able to be trained with exposed roots.  So this root trait was used to create unique exposed root trees as shown in this first photo of a Chinese Box Orange (Severinia buxifolia aka Atlantica buxifolia).


         If a tree has a dramatic bend,  additional such bends will create a distinctive tree. The training of a young Dwarf Schefflera illustrates an application of this concept.  

        This tree was an Introductory Workshop Package demonstration plant about a year ago styled "tall and elegant" with a bit of a swirl to compliment the swirling trunk. At the time of the workshop, compared to other plants, the tree was thin with graceful trunk curves. A proportionally tall foil collar was constructed with the hope that there would be fewer longer roots. Several aerial roots fell outside of the aluminum foil collar. 

          This close-up photo shows the interesting curving trunk that sets the theme to create a tall elegant exposed root bonsai that will have a thin compact tall root to compliment the upper trunk. 

         When the foil column was removed, I was disappointed that no roots had formed inside the column.  I note that this particular tree was a part of an experiment that used an extra heavy thick aluminum foil.  It's now not recommended as I believe the lack of air circulation prevented roots from forming inside the column so the plants dropped aerial roots outside the collar.  We will use thin standard foil and are running trials and creating a lot of holes in the foil for better air circulation and getting better root formation inside of the collar. 

          Starting from the top,  roots were bent tight against the trunk to follow the swirl and create a compact tight pattern.  A 1.5" wide strip of foil was folded multiple times to be about 1/4" wide, wrapped to hold the roots in place, and tied tight with aluminum bonsai wire.  Roots lower down were bent tight with the wire holding over the foil "cushion." This was repeated a third time and roots were positioned to become a visual extension of the existing trunk. 

          A longer foil was created and mostly coarse bottom material with Nutrient Granules was used to encourage root formation in the new taller foil column.

           Starting from the top, the edges of the foil column were brought together with the column having about a 1.5" diameter. Masking tape was used to hold the column every 2" or so while it was being formed.  As I neared completion, 2 U-shaped heavier aluminum bonsai wires were taped to each side of the column for support and a ball of aluminum foil temporarily closed off the bottom.  The foil column was bent and twisted to compliment the curves on the tree's trunk.  The bottoms of the four wires were bent to hold the plant in the desired position and the ends of the wires were tied through the holes in the bottom of the 9" diameter shallow saucer-pot. 

            This tree is part of our "1:10 Project" that uses shallow saucer-pots that are 10 times wider that deep.  The depth is a bit less than 1" in the 9" diameter saucer.  More information of the 1:10 Project is posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6.html

             Many of the Fuku-Bonsai experimental plants are trials that follow a "book-ends" concept.  Sumo trials will try to create the shortest heaviest trunks with low branches and a very dense heavy foliage crown. 

            This tree is part of the Roots trials to create thin elegant taller trees with small tight crowns with small compact leaves.  In concept,  Sumo and Roots celebrate the outer edges and in between, it is possible to create every possible bonsai banyan shape.  Growers like the idea of having both Sumo and Roots when ordering our potted bonsai.  Our Custom Collection shows a full range of styling between these two "book-ends."            

            When the top is pruned, it gives a better idea of the envisioned tree with a compact crown with a lot of detailed branches and small leaves. 

           Note that this photo shows potting completed. Our media has a lot of coarse material for excellent drainage and foil is used to cover and protect the surface as we water the nursery with hoses.  This is less of a problem indoors where collections are smaller and watering by saturation is recommended. 

           A close-up view of the top 3" of the tree showing the nice swirling movement of the trunk that will compliment the thin tall elegant root mass being developed.  The top of the foil collar is shaped like a rain catchment so water can easily enter and travel through the colllar.  Even in Hawaii, it may take 3 to 4 years to create sufficiently heavy roots to hold up the tree.  It may take longer in regions with shorter growing seasons or less ideal growing conditions and this may be the reason that plants with well established aerial roots are the most popular of our three basic styles. 

***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai Styling article on "ROOTS"

***  Return to MPBF Journal issue #2;  February 2013

*** Return to Fuku-Bonsai website home page

*** Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website homepage

Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai Inc., 2013

*** Go to www.gofundme.com/save-fukubonsai for more information or donate.