By Carol Tingley (Apex, North Carolina)

                    I can see by reading reports from other study group members that Iím not the only beginner long on enthusiasm but short on knowledge.  I made some rookie mistakes, but thatís how you learn.  Davidís critique of my first efforts gave me some excellent feedback and specific suggestions for improvement.  Even more important, he got me to think about the bigger picture and the longer term.  In thinking about what I wanted to get out of this effort and where I wanted to be in five or ten years, I realized I needed to back up, slow down and take the time to think about each tree as an individual, not just as another lesson or the next challenge. 

                   (Note:  Carol's original report is posted at

                   My ďRootsĒ effort was flawed and David explained how to improve it, but I decided to go back and redo it as a Sumo. Partly, I felt the plant itself was so thick and solid that it should have been a Sumo, and I had ignored that and made a ďRootsĒ just so I could try the Roots technique.  Iím going to get some more plants.  Iíll have plenty of chances to try the Roots technique, so whatís the rush? 




      Rocks were chosen to nestle below the roots, forcing the roots to spread around the rocks and form a broader buttress. Close-up of rocks fitted carefully among the roots under the tree. The rocks are lava, but not the one that came with the IWP.





          The roots were securely tied to the rocks with soft cotton thread. The tree was potted high and off center, then secured to the pot with the wires.






      I placed the foil around the pot, added some fine media, closed in the foil and added some more fine media, then closed in the foil a little more leaving an opening at the top.



                 I felt it was important to master the Sumo technique, which I had done with just once.  This second attempt at Sumo was actually much more satisfying than the first one. I knew better what to expect and how it was supposed to look when completed, and I took a little more time to arrange the roots and the rock just right.  I think it is a definite improvement over my first Sumo, and the plant itself looks much happier.

                  My first Sumo also had some flaws, but I didnít redo the whole thing.  I was reasonably satisfied with it and it was already starting to grow. I finished the top of it better and redid the foil cover as David suggested to make it more sturdy so it could stay in place for several months. Now I am looking forward to ordering more plants and trying some new techniques.  But Iím going to take my time to master each technique and to consider each plant as an individual.                   


                A NOTE FROM DAVID.  I think Carol is a bit of a perfectionist.  When I began,  I was much more casual in the way I did things.  But as I picked up pointers from others and saw the results that they achieved, over time I'm a bit of a perfectionist,  especially when I'm working on a tree that has a lot of potential!  I sensed that Carol wants to keep improving and has the ability to pay attention to detail.  She originally thought to order the 16 IWP units to create Christmas gifts, then changed her mind to conduct a family workshop with half of them.

                 Then she inquired whether I'd consider releasing 8 units of the Premium Intermediate Workshop Package and if she could mix and match to earn the discount.  Why not?  So the subject changed as she set as her goal to create a varied personal collection and I thought that was great.  So slowly we came up with some additional tweaks!  

                 Both the IWP and PIWP are primarily to master Sumo and roots.  But there are really two kinds of Sumo --- those with one heavier trunked tree and those with more multiple trunks like a grove.  There are three major routes with roots:  1)  The more typical upright exposed roots.  2)  Roots with all roots compressed to be a continuance of the trunk to create a snake-like root-trunk, and 3)  Roots as in Root-Over-Rock plantings.  So how about adding a pre-sculptured rock?

                Every True Indoor Bonsai collection should have a Hawaiian Dragon!  But the smallest is item 4LL8-D and Carol authorized a budget for this and so she could create a small 7" shallow 1:10 Project Sumo and two other 9" shallow 1:10 Projects. 


                  This is what happens when everything works!  The plants bring joy, the owner-trainer gets more excited, and now  Carol is looking forward to teaching her family that will be gathering for Christmas.  Looking beyond that she's planning a patient series of study group projects one at a time.  With eight projects, she'll have a number of articles and reports next year that will show the enhanced potential of the Premium Intermediate Workshop Plants in a larger 8" diameter x 2" pot. 

                  The concept of the PIWP was introduced in the October issue and in the November issue an article showed how it was great as a multiple planting on a larger rock.  In this December issue,  it was used in a root-over-rock into shallow 1:10 Project containers.

                  The Premium Intermediate Workshop Plant is at an ideal stage.  We don't sell seedlings as they are too fragile for most beginners who don't yet have good skills.  We believe the Introductory Workshop Plants that are 2 to 4 years old are stronger with a good record of success.  But the Premium Intermediate Workshop Plants are superior in their ability to recover and produce strong regrowth and that's what's needed to be successful in bonsai! 

                  Although twice the cost of the IWP, we believe the PIWP is a better value.  For those who want to work more plants with a smaller budget,  the IWP is a good value and in the coming year, we will have articles on how to "up-pot" and create superior PIWP plants.  We call this an interim growing-on stage and it is good for future instructors to learn the essential steps to create superior workshop plants.  Stay tuned!

                 In the past year as study group members members completed their three IWP's the common question was:  "WHAT'S NEXT?  With each person I tried to learn their long term goals and based upon their skill levels, I made recommendations.  For those who were already excited about teaching, I recommended getting 16 IWP units, to begin teaching, and starting to learn "up-potting" techniques.  Others are doing rock sculpturing and planting and it's been wonderful!

                 Carol is going in a different direction and I look forward to her sharing her progress!  Please email me if you want to join the study groups and have projects in mind.

                                      ~~~David  (



         AN IDEA:     This shows my growing setup in an uncovered tank next to a southeast facing window.  I got a bag of lava rocks from the local hardware store and used them to keep the pots off the bottom so they can drain adequately after their weekly bath. It also provides a selection of rocks of different sizes and shapes to use for potting. The lava is a different texture than what comes in the IWP kits, so itís probably not from Hawaii, but I think it adds a little tropical flair to the tank.   - - -  Carol


 ***  Return to the December 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
  ***  Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation
  ***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai website
          ©  Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai