By Carol Tingley (Apex, North Carolina)  Journal Contributing Writer

              I ordered a set of eight Premium Introductory Workshop Packages to try a variety of bonsai styles. After repotting one in the Roots style, with a snake-like exposed roots body, for the second plant I decided to do a multiple-trunked Sumo. This second plant was just as robust and well-developed as the first one.  As shown in these photos, the Premium plants are remarkably large and complex, yet still in their original 2-inch pot. I had previously planted an IWP as a Sumo, and I liked the idea of using a rock underneath the plant to spread the roots and help create a large buttress at the base of the tree. Based on my experience with the first Premium plant, I expected the roots of the second plant to be long and sturdy, and they were. I thought I could use a larger rock than I did with the IWP, and I thought I would try a native North Carolina rock. I searched the creek near my house to find a rock that was the right size, attractive, rounded on top and flat on the bottom.

        Once I removed most of the old media from the roots, I spread the roots over the rounded rock.  There was a larger root on one side, so the tree is off-center, putting the larger root on the side and draping the smaller roots over the top of the rock, tied with a cotton thread. This photo shows clearly the length and quality of the roots.

        To be clear, this is not in any way what is called “root-over-rock” styling.  This is just using a rock to spread the roots of a Sumo tree.

        The pot was prepared in the usual way, with the coarse media mounded in the bottom, the plastic square placed over the coarse media, and the body media placed around the edges, partially covering the plastic separator.

         I put the plant, with the roots draped over the rock, on the plastic separator a little off-center in the pot. This positioned the plant quite high in the pot.
         I then covered the whole thing with body media, creating a high, conical mound. I put a foil collar around the whole pot to keep the media from sliding off. I forgot to add nutrient granules, so I went back later and poked some down into the media with a chopstick.

         I am thoroughly enjoying the Premium plants.  I am also trying to provide feedback for future adjustments to the PIWP, so I will respond to the comments David made on my previous report. He mentioned including an X-tie down wire instead of the plastic strips. I think this is a good idea. I tried again to use the plastic strips, and while they are more suitable for the Sumo styling than the Roots (I had trouble tightening them on my Roots plant) the plastic is much more visible and not as attractive.


        David also mentioned including an accent rock. This is also a good idea. A rock is very helpful for a variety of styling options. I used a native rock, but the lava rocks are very good and not everyone lives near a creek to find a suitable rock. Plus the lava is really light compared to a native rock.

          Finally, David mentioned increasing the overall height standard for the plants. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but I’m not sure it is so important.  There is some advantage in shipping and in the repotting process to not having as much foliage. Plus, the plants are so large in their tiny pots that they seem to dry out a little faster than the IWP plants, and more foliage might increase that.

          Lastly, once you repot the Premium plants into the larger containers, they grow really fast and you will have more foliage quickly.  Here is a photo showing the new, lighter green leaves already on the first Premium plant that I did as a Roots. So I think the size and complexity of the root system is the most important feature of the Premium plants.

          - - - Carol       (March 2, 2014)











              Mahalo Carol, I appreciate your evaluation which has a lot of credibility based upon having done both the original Introductory Workshop Package (IWP-8) and the proposed Premium Introductory Workshop Package (PIWP-8).  There clearly are differences and I thank you for pointing out some of them.  In bonsai, the quality of your workshop product is directly based upon the quality of the workshop plant. 

             I am continually amazed that many want to start with weak, sickly, young untrained seedlings or cuttings.  This is a very poor strategy if the person does not have any experience in even growing house plants!   So starting with a weak, sickly plant is the easiest way to fail in growing bonsai as the tree might not even live long enough to grow strongly!  NEVER TRY TO TRAIN A WEAK PLANT!

             To see what is possible to develop in just one year when starting with high-potential prepared stock, review  

             Secondly,  start with as much character as possible and ALL prepared bonsai stock that are part of our Introductory Workshop Package have lower trunk character, multiple trunks or low branches within 1" of the soil line and a shallow compact root system within 1/2" of that soil line!  CREATING SUCH HIGH-POTENTIAL STOCK IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF BONSAI!  

             It is not realistic to teach beginners  to start develop character until they first learn to grow plants to be healthy and grow vigorously. If you look at photographs of plants being offered for sale on the Internet, few if any have lower trunk character, low branches, or multiple trunks within 1" of the soil line!  That's because producers of low-quality bonsai are either not willing or not able to create that character.  THE QUALITY OF YOUR FUTURE BONSAI IS LARGELY INFLUENCED BY THE POTENTIAL OF YOUR PLANT START!


            Fuku-Bonsai does extensive professional culling to high standards that are not matched in the industry.  All plants meet our minimum standards and besides being used for the Introductory Workshop Package, they are bare-rooted to be part of our most popular HS8(M) Small Size Dwarf Schefflera Lava planting which is shown in the right photo. At one point trees that meet the minimum standard are set aside,  those that don't meet standard are destroyed. Those that exceed the standard graduate to be used for our older higher quality products.    


     1.   Are bare-rooted to become our HD8 Desk Size Dwarf Schefflera Lava Plantings.

     2.  Premium Introductory Workshop Package to be available only to members of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and study groups.  And,  

     3.  Up-potted to be trained to be used in 4LL8, 8LS8, Medium and Large Lava Plantings, and Custom Collection.   

           DOESN'T IT MAKE SENSE TO USE OUR HIGHEST QUALITY PREPARED STOCK TO PRODUCE OUR LARGEST AND OLDEST PRODUCTS AND TO SUPPLY THOSE WHO SUPPORT US?   We are building a Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community that will grow the highest quality trees.  So we will offer the Premium Introductory Workshop Package only to members of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and the premium prepared stock only to members of the Fast-Track Study Group!

          Our production capability and inventory is inadequate to meet Fuku-Bonsai production needs and the open market so our premium prepared stock will not be wholesaled or available to everyone.  These are especially be reserved for members of our Fast-Track Study Group who will be using them for building their own collections,  and their own premium workshop kits to teach others!   


           CONTINUING RESEARCH ON PREMIUM PREPARED STOCK:    Just as there is a significant difference between our small size lava planting and desk size lava planting,  there is a significant difference between our two grades of prepared bonsai stock and in the coming year, members of the Fast-Track Study Group such as Carol will be helping me to prove or disprove my theories. 

     1.   I believe that at this stage of development our premium prepared stock has inherent superior advantages in spite of being just a little older and more developed than the younger prepared bonsai stock.

     2.   I know that at this stage of development our premium prepared stock will begin accelerated bonsai development as both the lower trunks and roots have achieved optimum critical mass! 

     3.   I also know that those students who start with the Premium Introductory Workshop Package will produce better results than those students who start with our more economical Introductory Workshop Package and this will likely apply whether the student took the workshop at Fuku-Bonsai,  in a class led by a member of the Fast-Track Study Group,  or whether they become a member of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and purchased the PIWP by mailorder and put it together without other assistance! 

            I am asking Carol and other study group members to document and take periodic photos to find the ideal growing practices in all parts of the country to be able to assist those just getting started.  We are committed to high quality and success and invite everyone to join us!

             ~~~David (

*** Return to the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
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