From left, Rebecca Hawes, Debra and Robert Mitz with their first Introductory Workshop Package plants.  In the right foreground is the larger Premium Introductory Workshop Package that was used for the introductory demonstration as we continue final trials prior to the formal introduction in 2014.

                As I was setting up a workshop for Debra and Robert Milz of Sonora, California, Rebecca Hawes of Pearland, Texas visited and wanted to do a workshop too.  While all workshops are different,  we try to cover the same basics with an emphasis on high success practices --- how True Indoor Bonsai differ from traditional outdoor temperate climate bonsai,  the totally different cultural practices,  and design / training of fast-growing tropicals in the shapes of tropical trees. 

              Lately in my presentations, I've tried to stress that Dwarf Schefflera is a natural epiphyte that likes to grow on other trees and that it can handle very dry conditions as the roots are often exposed as they travel down to the ground.  That special quality makes them "draught-resistant" and they should not be over-watered. Most quickly can see the common sense rationale of why we do what we do and we try to use tropical terminology to differentiate from the more rigid traditional practices.

               I got to do the workshop as Edison was tied up so I had a chance to use the soon-to-be-introduced Premium Introductory Workshop Package as demonstration materials. They quickly grasped the concepts of "Sumo" being short and stout and good for rock plantings on lower rocks, and "Roots" for taller elegant exposed root bonsai or for planting on taller root-over-rock designs.  My demonstration was of a "Roots" with an embedded rock that will be ideal for a future taller root-over-rock planting. 



           Rebecca had no problems at all with a Sumo over the accent rock with a foil collar to assure strong root development.  I think she's been thinking about doing bonsai for a while but somehow just never started. It's obvious that she loves plants and is very artistically inclined.  

            Her comments:  "This was absolutely awesome! So much knowledge and a great teacher. Thank you very much. I look forward to hopefully growing some successful bonsai."



         Debra also went Sumo over accent rock with foil collar and was quickly done.  Robert had found a beautiful tree with a double bent trunk and main branch that with the accent rock created a nice windblown scene.  He planted it high and with the foil collar, will have a nice start. 

        Bob and Debra have businesses and make a great team.  They have a large home with lots of space over-looking Yosemite National Park and bonsai would be a great hobby for them! 



        I tend to reemphasize the need for complete weekly air-water exchanges and the basic cultural requirements. Saturation is the best method and there's a large difference in weight before and after watering.   It's better to underwater as over-watering kills the roots and plants die.  If you forget to water for a week or two,  you may see tiny vertical creases that are symptoms of under watering.  Soak the plant for a few days and the chances are the plants will rehydrate and the creases will disappear. 











              Edison was available to help Linda Wagner of nearby  Volcano.  Linda recently moved to the Big Island via New Jersey, Arizona, and Oahu.  While on Oahu, she got all excited about a lava planted Dwarf Scheff that was given to her and was told to look up the bonsai guys when she was settled here.  So she found us and in no time, Edison had completed his demonstration and she started hers.    It seems the biggest struggle is getting the tree out of the nursery pot!  Dwarf Scheff likes it tight but a simple little square of plastic separator creates a nice bonsai root system.  Linda had already watched Edison complete his so she had no problem when her turn came. 

               Linda joined the foundation and the study group and took her second IWP to complete at home and submit by email.  We'll then do the third here and if all is progressing well, may move into the Premium Introductory Workshop Packages.  There's a lot more that makes taking the workshop here memorable.  We try not to overload information in each session.  There are plants everywhere in various stages of training and it's a lot easier to teach here.  Besides learning how to root cuttings, you can see a whole series of increasingly older plants developing to give you a good overview of the subject and you can appreciate how much we've focused on essential principles. True Indoor Bonsai is easy to learn!










            By coincidence, a few days later, Keith Schoffstall of nearby Mountain View visited again to show rocks he had collected for his garden landscaping project.  He had grown our Hawaiian Lava Plantings and expressed an interest in learning True Indoor Bonsai so took his first IWP workshop with Edison, joined the Foundation and Beginner Study Group, and took home a second IWP to be done on his own.  If all goes well, he may switch over to the Premium Introductory Workshop Packages and volunteer here from time to time in the future.  Edison thinks he has a natural knack and in his feedback questionnaire,  he wrote:    "Edison put me on the right path to grow bonsai trees ---  great future in this!" 


            Here's an example of four similar trees that Edison has done as demonstration plants that were selected to show how trees develop over time.  The left plant was just done with Linda.  The next tree is just a few months older and one section is starting to really grow.  Let it!  Give it good growing conditions and increase fertilizer.  The trunk will thicken faster, but by increasing the growth rate, when you prune the tree, it will throw out more new growth points!  That's the major priority for this first stage of training.  With more new growth points,  you'll have more choices of which to retain and which to remove and that will improve the shape of your tree.

              Compare these two trees that are less than one year difference in training!  True Indoor Bonsai develops much faster than slow-growing traditional temperate climate bonsai.  Dwarf Scheff loves to be rock planted and you can use the rock to encourage an impressive large buttressing root base.  Or plan to remove the rock to plant the tree on a larger taller rock.

            Note that most of that heavy new growth has been pruned off and only a short stub section is left and new growth points have appeared.  But the overall heaviness of the trunks and large roots are very apparent.  The tree already had a nice distribution of branches, and from the new growth, only one additional growth at a good location was retained.  Note that while there are major improvements in the character of the tree, the overall size has not changed much. 

            If you want a larger bonsai,  now is a good time to up-pot it using the #8 Conversion Kit as the larger root system will produce stronger heavier growth.  But you can leave it in this container to create a nice small bonsai.  As the roots fill the container, growth will slow down.  As more growth points disperse the energy of the plant, the leaves will reduce in size if you give it strong window light.

           This style of training is known as "REDUCTION-BUILDING" and is the preferred training method at Fuku-Bonsai to produce heavy trunks, branches, and roots.  We like to grow compact trees with short branch internodes.  With as many growth points in a compact area,  it is very easy to form an attractive foliage crown.  When using this method, be sure to keep the plant well fertilized and keep the tree thinned out by removing enough old leaves so you can clearly see the trunk structure and light can get to the new growth.  If the new grow develops in a deeply shaded situation, the new leaf will be very thin and long. 

            If you plan to visit the Big Island, consider taking a workshop here.  If that time is far off,  consider joining the Beginner Study Group now so you can learn the basics before you come.  That will allow us to recommend more advanced workshops using older plant materials to create impressive results! 

Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014