We first trained outstanding SUMO BONSAI  ---  heavy-trunked or multiple-trunked trees with multiple apexes and low arching branches that form short and stout rounded crowned  BANYAN BONSAI.  The prized specimens have aerial roots that fall from high branches far out from the trunks and these are known as RAINFOREST BANYANS.  Sumo trees are ideal for rock plantings which was our original specialty.

                   Banyans are the exotic trees of the tropics and an especially elegant form is created when a bird eats a seed and flies up into a tree.  The seed passes through the digestive system and comes out as a "fertilize-encased seed" that may lodge into a crouch of a branch and germinate.  Over time, the roots reach the ground, the tree grows vigorously and strangles the host tree which dies and rots.  Over more time the crown develops high above the ground in a Sumo shape.  The roots thicken and the result is an elegant taller bonsai that feature exposed roots.  These ROOTS BONSAI have become the most popular potted bonsai.

                  Starting with either a Sumo or a Roots,  it is possible to train almost every possible banyan bonsai shape.  Banyans are trees with strong vigorous growth that are almost always upright.  At one time it was very rare to find a banyan that was not upright. Over time,  we learned how to create such trees.  The one common factor was a sharp bend as low on the trunk as possible.  If there were more than one bend it became more interesting.  Then we started the concept of creating radical changes throughout the life of the tree so that over the years we developed extraordinary HAWAIIAN DRAGON BONSAI!

                   If Dwarf Schefflera is the only ideal tree for growing indoors in homes and offices,  to get variety into a collection, it makes sense to create HAWAIIAN DRAGONS!  These are twisty-truny fun bonsai exploit the plasticity trait of Dwarf Schefflera. Each time you repot, consider turning or changing the angle of the tree.  Combine it with the concept of Roots!  Then create a more radical version by forming unconventional root designs!

                 Edison Yadao is Fuku-Bonsai's customer service and workshop manager and also vice-president of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation.  He is shown in the photo above with one of Fuku-Bonsai's oldest Dwarf Schefflera Hawaiian Dragons that was originally a natural epiphyte growing out of a tree. When collected it had long roots that reached the ground and the roots were formed into an exciting pattern.  Where roots crossed and were tied together, the roots fused and over time, a rigid root structure was able to support the tree and the roots were exposed.  The tree was collected about 2000 with a then estimated age of about 10 years old.  So the bonsai is about 24 years old and in training about 14 years. 

               During that 14 years it was mostly trained in a large container with a "collar" on top made up of a 4-gallon pail that had the bottom cut out.  On a nursery bench, it was very heavily fertilized and branches were allowed to grow out 6' to 10' long before it was cut back severely.  This repeated "reduction-building" growing-on training strategy was necessary to create strong growth that made the unique root design possible.  It would not have developed with just ordinary growth!  

              A basic bonsai rule is that the girth of a trunk is a reflection of the total amount of foliage that it has produced.  So if you keep a plant in a small pot and keep pinching it back to keep it pretty and always neat, you'll have a nice SMALL BONSAI!  But if you have many branches close together and allow each to grow large,  each of the branches will be thick where it comes off the trunk  --- BUT THE TRUNK WILL ALSO THICKEN DRAMATICALLY! 

             One of the best ways to thicken a trunk is to grow a large branch near the roots that will one day come off.  At Fuku-Bonsai,  we leave on as many branches as possible with the idea that any extra branch can be removed later.  This is preferable to not having enough branches as it is very hard to glue one on where you need it! This is a sequence showing removal of that extra branch that was over 2" thick!




             Michael helps to position and guide the Sawsall blade placement as Edison prepares to make the cut.      




            Mike  holds up the large branch that was removed while Edison presents a Sawsall salute! Total time to grow the branch was about 24 years.  Time to cut it off --- less than one minute! 




             Edison wields the mallet and chisel while Mike holds the tree steady and the scar is trimmed and sealed with vaseline.


            Leaves were removed to improve the chances of rooting. The large compact branch has a nice stout interesting shape and this great development is only possible with "REDUCTION-BUILDING" techniques!  Some sphagnum moss was placed below the cut section, a half-flat filled with coarse bottom and body mix, tie-downs positioned, and the "large cutting" is being prepared for rooting. It may take two months for first roots to develop and perhaps 6 months before it is fully rooted. 


           The restyled 24 year old Hawaiian Dragon bonsai with the large branch removed,  the removed branch being rooted, and the tools used.

            BONSAI IS NOT A RACE!  Many years ago I knew that the branch was going to come off. But it was necessary to help create the strong growth needed in cascading styles as the top of the tree grows the most vigorously.  Many bonsai trainers could have figured out that the branch needed to come off.  But most would not leave it on until now.

                 Another view of the restyled Dragon.  Note that the cut of the 2" thick branch is not easily seen. The trunk at that point has enlarged to about 3 1/2". The cut was coated with vaseline and will heal in time.  Note the very heavy structure and taper that are a result of massive REDUCTION-BUILDING!  This major Fuku-Bonsai training technique is a radical version of the more known penjing "Clip-and Grow" training strategy that is very appropriate for use in Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.

                 In the future, following the influence of the Hawaiian Dragon theme,  the tree will be potted with the pointed roots more upright and the cascade foliage more downward.  Creating Hawaiian Dragons is the most difficult of our three major styling techniques and as the popularity increases we are devoting more time to creatively improve it.  The initial bend must be done when the tree is very young and it takes several years to reach 4LL8-D Living Lovable sales stage.  Then what?

                We are working with the concept that when a tree is up-potted from 4LL8-Dragon to move toward 8LS8-Dragon standards that it have a significant restyling to result in a more complex shape.  One way is to train exposed roots and combinations of Dragons and Roots are effective as seen in the large tree in this article.  We have not been able to build up inventory of Custom Collection Dragons as they are quickly snapped up by visitors to the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center. 


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