In 1989 Fuku-Bonsai sprayed defective Benlate contaminated with weed killers and suffered catastrophic losses that totaled over $30 million.  With the support and assistance of many individuals and organizations throughout the Big Island of Hawaii, we survived, reinvented the company, and are now rebuilding and expanding.  FUKU-BONSAI ENTERS A NEW ERA!

AN UPDATED 2011 YEAR-END SUMMARY REPORT:

REBUILDING FUKU-BONSAI NURSERY (2010-2011)

    Fuku-Bonsai founder David Fukumoto repaints the welcome sign in 2010 to symbolize nearing the end of the battle for survival and that better days are ahead!
          Fuku-Bonsai has been the innovator and pioneer of True Indoor Bonsai™ since 1962. In 1973 it was Hawaii's first certified export nursery.  The design of the then new nursery benches utilized metal roofing sheets and these have held up well with many lasting over 35 years.  With minor repairs,  greenhouses are still in use!  In 2010, Fuku-Bonsai had the highest rated USDA Pacific Region proposal and received a $90,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) for "Rebuilding Fuku-Bonsai Nursery!"  We were sponsored by the non-profit Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council.

     Nursery benches were built in 1973, 1977, and 1983.  Each time the design was improved.  The photo shows benches built 34 years ago in 1977 and some of them are still usable.  The metal has rotted and some tables have collapsed. The nursery has the equivalent of over 600 benches 6' wide and 10' long.  The current design features heavier wood framing, prefinished aluminum roofing materials that will not rust or need painting, and waterproof cleats to prevent rotting where bench legs contact the wet ground. With these improvements, the new benches may last 50 years or more!

 

      RBEG funds builds 50% new benches, repaired many others, and created plant racks to allow increased production of the breakthrough2" prepared bonsai stock which upgrades the entire product lines and makes possible the Introductory Workshop Package.  Fuku-Bonsai planted a giant 2006 seed crop and needs many more benches to allow plants to be properly spaced for training and to mature for sale.

 

      As old benches were removed, all possible reusable material was salvaged for use in repairs.  Plants were jammed onto the best benches and nursery sections with the worst benches were cleared first.  This required a huge amount of labor but we were delighted that much of the wood frames had been protected by the metal bench surface and were still in reusable condition!

 

      New materials came in a huge truckload!  Construction depended upon the weather.  We cleared old benches on sunny days and precutt wood and build bench frames on rainy days. Bench frames were built efficiently in record time with assembly jigs.  The new benches are great!

        This photo shows the nursery's "Section D" which fully holds 120 benches that are each 6' wide x 10' long.  Most of this section will be new benches.  Note that the shadehouse was built 34 years ago in 1977 and with minor repair continues to be in usable condition.  Certified export nurseries in Hawaii must grow seedlings and cutting on benches with no contact with the ground and be in "non-soil media."  our potting mix utilizes ideal Hawaiian volcanic high-velocity pumice ejecta which has exceptional aeration and drainage characteristics. 
      We luckily obtained discounted prefinished aluminum roofing panels. Once the metal surfaces were attached, benches were shimmed and plants moved to designated locations. Plants had been stored on  the best old benches so, as the plants were moved, those benches were repaired.

      Older benches in fair condition were power washed and sprayed with Zophar coal tar coating to greatly extend their usable life. With more benches and lighter work available, staff was added. Fuku-Bonsai is now increasing production, marketing, and income!

 

  With the bench sheets installed,  there's now enough benches to pot up and spread out the massive inventory to slowly mature into the highest quality, best value, and most successful bonsai for anyone anywhere who can grow houseplants!
    This fourth photo in the series of the same "Section D" benches show the benches are now filled.  The benches near the road are filled with plants in 4" pots to be potted into 4LL8 or HM8. Older larger plants in 5" pots will go into 8LS8 or HL8.  Still older larger plants will become 17LS8 or Custom Collection. 

     Fuku-Bonsai can offer high-quality exceptional value products because of our ideal growing conditions,  high staff skills, and the economies of scale.  We can produce in 8 to 12 years that others not in ideal tropical climates would not be able to do in more years of trying! 

    This photo shows a part of "Section B" which is part of the area used to "finish" bonsai before shipping.  In the foreground are our popular HS8 Small Size Dwarf Schefflera Lava Plantings.  All plants are pre-trained prior to rock-planting and enough benches are assigned to each model item to assure plants will be well established before shipping. 

     By having a HUGE growing-on area to train and mature older pre-trained plants,  we can more carefully maintain the almost sales ready plants in Section B and C and in the sales area adjoining the visitor center.

     The Fuku-Bonsai staff has begun to expand and we are committed to building a new International Bonsai Center in Kurtistown.  A new entry area for an interim center will allow repair and enlargement of the current display which will become the staging and support area for the new center.  May 2011 photo:  Front:  Fuku-Bonsai founders David and Myrtle Fukumoto.  Top:  Michael Imaino (Senior Plant Manager and President Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation), Katherine Wood (Part-time bookkeeper),  Antonio Diaz (Nursery Trainee), and Edison Yadao (Customer Service and Workshop Manager;  Vice-president Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation). 

         CONCLUSION.  Life is not fair!  Although we received a 1994 Benlate product liability settlement and a 2007 DuPont fraud settlement, the net total of the two settlements after legal fees, costs, and taxes was less than 10% of our losses.  DuPont's clout really beat up on us.  But while many other Hawaiian nurseries and flower growers went out of business,  Fuku-Bonsai survived, reinvented the company, and is now rebuilding and expanding.

          In the 20+ year battle for survival, we concluded that residual contamination prevented us from growing our original Brassaia crops to the same high standards.  We found the Dwarf Schefflera could be grown,  was a far superior plant for bonsai, and developed a superior new specialty crop that incorporates the unique features of Dwarf Schefflera!  It grows faster and has far better branching compared to Brassaia.

          WE WERE FORCED TO DEVELOP A WHOLE NEW SPECIALTY!   Recropping is clearly the most difficult part of recovering from our defective Benlate catastrophe.  It will still take several more years to bring the replacement plant inventory to the same pre-Benlate stage or development. But while it's very difficult not to be bitter of being forced to struggle for survival,  I accept that we need to move on!  We need to acknowledge and thank those who supported our efforts and we survived only because of our customers, staff, stockholders and our community!  THANK YOU!

         AS A CONSOLATION, WE CELEBRATE THAT DWARF SCHEFFLERA IS A SUPERIOR PLANT THAT IS MORE TRAINABLE THAN ANY OTHER PLANT! First, it is a faster grower which is great for impatient Americans and helps to reduce our costs and allow us to provide greater value. If the tree is in a strong growth, it can be cut back and will predictably develop multiple new growth points.  Selecting the most desirable growth points and removing the rest of the new shoots makes it easier to build out growth where it is desired. Using SUMO techniques,  it can be trained into shorter and stouter trees when younger trees are grown by accelerated growth techniques or when massively reducing old trees! 

          IT HAS THE ABILITY TO SEND OUT AERIAL ROOTS!  When I first began bonsai, I really wanted to create banyan bonsai shapes and Dwarf Schefflera is the premier plant,  far superior to ficus! Aerial roots are the key to creating Banyan Bonsai but also unique exposed root designs.  Our ROOTS styling continues to be the most popular amongst our visitors.  ROOTS was our second major styling concept and as we get more skilled, we are utilizing more creative roots techniques into our newest Hawaiian Dragon

          WE ARE LEARNING HOW TO CREATE MORE EXCITING TWISTY-TURNY FUN BONSAII!  Our HAWAIIAN DRAGONS are the most complex, difficult and challenging.  Initially we started with one sharp bend near the roots and as we gained skill, began to produce more complex "TOP DRAGONS". When we up-potted the 4LL8 to 8LS8 on some of them we added interesting ROOTS and as they became more complex, we called them "TOP & BOTTOM DRAGONS."  Recently we learned how to create more complex top bends, and with the aid of a preformed wire armature, can not create more complex root structures!  There seems to be no limit to how much the tree can be trained once you master the techniques.  The limit then is only what you can imagine!  This tree is the most trainable of all bonsai trees!

          DWARF SCHEFFLERA CAN BE TRAINED INTO SMALL OR LARGE BONSAI!  Most plants are known to make nice bonsai within a narrow size range.  Dwarf Schefflera is a major exception as there are a few in our private collection less than three inches tall.  There also are several that are over three feet tall!  Some ficus such as the Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa 'Retusa') can alsobe trained into both tiny and large bonsai, but there are not many others.

          DWARF SCHEFFLERA CAN BE GROWN IN CALIFORNIA, FLORIDA, MAINE, AND ALASKA AND ALL POINTS IN BETWEEN! Can anyone name another bonsai that can adapt to that range?  In the future, Dwarf Schefflera bonsai will become the most popular in the world because everyone everywhere can grow it more successfully, in more stylings,  and as the most attractive bonsai for indoors!!

          FUKU-BONSAI IS COMMITTED TO BECOME THE HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCER OF DWARF SCHEFFLERA BONSAI AND PREPARED BONSAI STOCK!  We will one day be able to supply bonsai clubs and instructors throughout the country so the newest members of the bonsai community can become successful and enjoy the art and culture of bonsai.  We'll start by providing the best value,  highest quality plants to our mail order and website customers and ask you to help spread the word about Fuku-Bonsai. Our customers are great and we thank you. Much of our ability to survive was the huge support from our community, associates and stockholders, and our hardworking loyal staff.

          As I write this, I'm 71 years old and my major remaining challenge is to position Fuku-Bonsai to be able to be able to supply the next generation. Now with the nursery rebuilt and salable production increasing, we are placing greater emphasis on training our newest staffers.  In the months and years ahead we will increase issuing the FBnews Email Newsletter with the goal of four issues per year or about every three months.  Please also help spread the word about this and send an email with your name, email address, city and stay to receive email notification when a new newsletter is issued.  Please also email if you have ideas for future website articles or if we can be of assistance.

           Regards and aloha!    ~~~David W. Fukumoto, president and founder, Fuku-Bonsai Inc.            
                                                        November 2011            Email: david.f@fukubonsai.com
FUKU-BONSAI CULTURAL CENTER & HAWAII STATE BONSAI REPOSITORY
          PO Box 6000 (Olaa Road), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
          Phone (808) 982-9880; FAX (808) 982-9883;  URL: www.fukubonsai.com
          E-mail: sales@fukubonsai.com         © 2011 Fuku-Bonsai Inc. 
 
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            FBnews is a free periodic newsletter for the members of the Fuku-Bonsai Study Group and the friends and customers of the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center & Hawaii State Bonsai Repository.  It includes current sales and articles of interest to those growing True Indoor Bonsai™ or any other form of artistic pot plant. To receive email notification of new issues, send an email to sales@fukubonsai.com with your name, city and state.  There is no fee, but donations to the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation are gratefully accepted.