On January 19, 2014,  by special arrangement,  we hosted the Sams who were on the Big Island to participate in nursery organizational activities and it was the only time available.  A previous meeting indicated a very compatible win-win situation was possible.  The Sams own and operate Orchid Alley Kauai and are active in industry matters.  They are also growers,  niche marketers, shippers,  and love to teach. They are interested in making bonsai a major second product line!



           We had  limited time so Fely started with her IWP going for a standard Sumo with rock under to spread out the roots securely tied together with paper covered bindwire,  using some media she had removed, made a short aluminum foil collar, turned it over and filled it upside-down. 



          Neill worked on the new Premium Introductory Workshop Package and quickly bare-rooted and had the roots of his older tree going downwards and tied with paper covered bindwire.  Here he's creating his accordian-fold aluminum foil collar as he moves towards creating an upright Roots (without rock) in the larger 8" diameter x 2" pot.



            Fely had previously prepared her pot with the tiewire,  coarse bottom,  plastic separator tent, inserted half the body media and tamped it down.  Soon had her IWP Sumo positioned in the prepared pot and was securing it with the tiewire.



            Neill had no problem putting down a layer of body mix, nutrient granules,  some sphagnum moss on the upper portion.  Here he's bringing up the sides of the apron in a manner that leaves a layer of media all around the roots.



            Neill choked up the top of the root column and tied it with bindwire,  turned it upside-down to shape the skirt to be a little wider at the bottom, teased the roots to the outer edges, and dibbled media into the center of the roots, pushing the roots to the outer edges.  After filling the cone with media, a folded paper was placed on top, the plant turned right side up and positioned, and the folded paper removed.  Fely completed placing fine media into the top of her collar.



              With a shaped flattened spoon, Fely completes firming down the gravelly media with a back and forth movement that removes the air pockets and firms the  media. 


               In less than an hour we covered basic IWP Sumo (with accent rock under) and basic PIWP Roots (without the accent rock).  The Sams have an orchid nursery so have all the basic skills so they quickly picked up the details of each of the components of the two kits,  the advantages of the new premium plants, and the planting protocols.  Neill teaches orchids and within a few months he'll confirm and acquire confidence in growing Dwarf Schefflera to begin teaching in Kauai.


               The proper watering is the key as it pushes out "old air" as part of an air-water exchange cycle that keeps Dwarf Schefflera healthy.  Prior to watering, Neill's plant weighed 1.75 pounds.  After soaking, it added 1.5 pounds and that's about equivalent to 3 cups of water.  So the plant should not be watered for a week until most of the water has been used up, then 100% saturated by soaking for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Do not add a little water every day as the roots will rot! 


           SOME COMMENTS FROM NEILL AND FELY SAMS:    We were both very honored & appreciative of the time you & Myrt gave us on what would have normally been a day off for you. We learned so much in a relatively short time. I was impressed with the amount we got done in the time we had. I can tell that good preparation makes for a much more efficient use of time. With each step you taught us, we learned, and as we learned with your guidance (and patience) were able to create our first “sumo & roots” Fuku-Bonsai’s.

          We enjoyed learning in a true hands-on fashion, learning the differences of each technique, the evaluation of the best plant material, the creation of the structural framework, tying & binding techniques, the careful foil folding & wrapping techniques, how and where to poke holes in the foil, and the subtleties of air exchange brought about by submersion watering all culminating in the two bonsais created by us!

         We also truly enjoyed the ambiance of your truly beautiful bonsai cultural center. We learned something new every minute we were there. It was nice to wander around among your display plants, learning of the 1 to ten ratio pot size, tips on turntable design & wood preservative techniques. We will be anxiously awaiting our next trip to the Big Island to learn more, & hopefully create our first dragon bonsai !

         Thank you again for your sharing of your time & knowledge,  
          - - - Neill & Fely Sams (Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii)

         SOME FINAL WORDS FROM DAVID:  Even with the limited time available,  we had enough time to do a fast demonstration of a basic rock planting review that I was working on and that was completed in less than an hour and is posted at

         If you follow traditional Japanese training methods in which the bonsai are always attractive and groomed,  they will slowly develop and improve over the years.  Sometimes a tree's growth slows down and the plant loses vigor and at that point, the Japanese often removes it from the pot and plants it in the ground to help it recover.

        At Fuku-Bonsai,  only a small percentage of our plant inventory is sold only at various "model standards."  While we train using a great variety of techniques,  all of our plants are grown vigorously and as sales inventory is needed,  enough plants to replace plants that are sold are selected to be potted and groomed to meet the sales model standards.  All other plants are moved into training for older, larger, or more complex bonsai including rock plantings that will one day be offered as Custom Collection specimens. 

         Increasingly Fuku-Bonsai is building a strong varied plant inventory of pre-trained older plants that are ideal for moving into larger more complex bonsai that utilize assembly techniques including rock plantings.  These are being made available to the members of the Fast-Track Study Group who agree to provide photos and reports of their results to share with the readers of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai.

        Fuku-Bonsai is building a team of both hobbyists and professionals who enjoy the challenge of creating bonsai, but do not have the ability to develop their own plants from seeds and cuttings.  We start everyone off with the Introductory Workshop Packages and do enough to assure the study group members acquire the basic techniques and achieve a reasonable standard.  Our workshop packages and conversion kits allow them to develop customized projects and in sharing their progress with the readers, it becomes a win-win situation.  Membership in the study groups and access to advanced stock is limited to those who are willing and able to share their results and submit articles for publication. 

         The Sams are our newest study group members and will be comparing the original Introductory Workshop Package (IWP) and the new Premium Introductory Workshop Package (PIWP) that was designed for those who want to move right into creating a high-potential medium size bonsai.  It features an older plant and the larger 8" diameter x 2" deep pot.  This combination will produce  more vigorously growing plants and I look forward to comparative photos in the future.  If you like the idea of being able to train True Indoor Bonsai throughout the year,  you're invited to join us!  ~~~David (

*** Return to the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014