EDITOR INTRODUCTION:    Thomas had two IWP reports in last month's Journal and the third in this issue at www.fukubonsai.com/1a68a.html   Most in the Beginner Study Group don't do a Root-Over-Rock as part of their initial four IWPs.  But Thomas is a little different.  He began earlier and purchase Fuku-Bonsai plants on an earlier Big Island vacation,  had rooted cuttings,  and had actually drilled holes through dense lava-type rocks and planted the rooted cuttings in them.  So for his fouth IWP, I wanted to show him an alternative method when using our older pre-trained prepared bonsai stock.   The first two photos show his dense lava that he had drilled a hole right through.  The rock will fit in the IWP.
By Thomas Matkey (Glendora, California) Beginner Study Group


                At David’s suggestion, I am going for something a bit different for my 4th plant.   The first three projects were fairly straightforward.  Pot preparation and the basic steps were the same for all three.  The same process was used throughout with only some basic modifications to the tasks. These methods are completely different methods than the ones I had used before.  I just took a cutting, bored a hole in a chunk of lava rock, filled the hole with sphagnum moss and stuck the cutting in it.  I’d put the rock into a container and cover it with dirt.  Keep it moist and hope for the best.  Somehow, they grew, but with no character or flair.  Just a small plant, growing in a rock.  I did get some nice roots on some of them, but just through luck.


                Now that David has taught me his methods, I’m sure I’ll be getting much better results.  And with some character and flair, I’m sure.    IWP #4 is a non-standard challenge and starts with a lava rock larger than the small size that came with the kit.  I had a rock that would serve the purpose, but it was too tall.  I used my concrete wet saw to cut off the very top of the rock.  This rock is about 3” long at its longest point, about 2” wide and about 1 1/2” high.



               This rock already had with a 1” hole in it that went all the way through the rock.  This is not good.  If I planted in this hole, the roots would have followed it and became the primary roots.  We don’t want that!  We want most growth to come on the roots on the outside of the rock.  So I plugged the hole with concrete and put two toothpicks in the wet cement for drain holes.



                I then carved out 5 root trail crevasses.  I tried a couple of different ways to carve the rock, but the best turned out to be my Dremel tool and a diamond crusted bit (set of four for $4.59 at Harbor Freight).   I also had some hard metal bits, but the diamond bits worked better.  I found it helped if the rock was completely wet.  It seemed easier to carve and resulted in less dust flying about.  I kept a pan of water handy and would dip the rock in it to get rid of the mud created by the diamond bit. Somewhat messy with all the water, but better that than having fine volcanic dust flying all around. 

                Pot preparation was different too.  No wires and no plastic tent.  Just put the coarse media in the bottom of the pot and it was done.  This was the easiest part of the project!  The rock will sit on top of the coarse media, nestled down in the pot rather than sitting level with the lip --- no tie-down wire, no plastic tent.



              First, I started preparing the root trail crevasses.  I lined each with sphagnum moss and added some body media.  Another layer of sphagnum moss went on the top.  These were all packed down tightly to settle them in the crevasses.  I put about ½ teaspoon of coarse bottom media into the big hole and tamped it down to settle it.  Then came ½ teaspoon of nutrient granules, a thin layer of sphagnum moss and 1 teaspoon of body media.  I packed the ingredients well into the hole.  This completely filled the hole and there was a slight bulge at the top. 


             I took the plant out of the pot and spread the roots to see how they would fit the rock and the root trail crevasses I had cut.  This is when the trouble started.  This is also when I stopped taking pictures, concentrating so much on what I was doing, I forgot to take pictures.  While fitting the plant to the rock and bending the roots to fit the crevasses, the sphagnum and body media started falling out of the crevasses.  Not much, but enough to make a difference.  I got the first root down and added more sphagnum, some body media and a top layer of sphagnum.  Then I tied the root down with some rottable string to hold it in place.  The second root went about the same way.  More media and sphagnum falling out, but eventually the root went into its place, covered with sphagnum, media and more sphagnum and tied down. 

             By this time, almost all of the body media in the crevasses had fallen out.  I repacked one crevasse and got the root into place and tied down.  I eventually got all the roots in their spots and tied down, but it was a bit of a struggle.  I did get the plant in the best position relative to the rock.  It leans to the right of the high spot and there’s a single low branch heading out over the longest part of the rock.  The plant is off-center relative to the rock.  The roots fit fairly well (thank goodness) to the crevasses I cut.  A few were bent in a different direction than their original shapes, but the roots are quite flexible and there was no problem doing that.   From this point, things got easy again.  I put the plant into the pot directly on the coarse media.  It fit in the pot with a half-inch or so clearance on the sides and a bit more on the ends.  There is plenty of room for the roots to go down between rock and sides.  I took these shots just to see how it looked in the pot.  I’ll add an aluminum foil collar before I fill in the rest of the media around the rock.


             I took a piece of aluminum foil about 2 X 10 inches and wrapped the rock, conforming it to the shape of the rock plus plant.  I started about a half inch above the bottom and up to a point just lower than the old soil line.  That exposes some fresh roots.  There’s a flare at the top to assist in watering.  I gathered up all the body media that come out from the pot and roots when I started the project.  There was lots of nice, fine media along with the large bits.  I gathered it all up and got rid of the largest bits.  The plant went into the pot again and I filled in the rest of the pot with that media I had collected.  I poked a bunch of air holes in the foil, with extra holes around the root crevasses.  It might seem difficult at first to know where to put the holes, but after working with the plant and rock, I knew exactly where the roots were.  Of course we can’t forget a good soaking for 30 min.

           That wraps up IWP #4.  It was a fun project despite the problems I ran into.  I’d make a few changes next time.  I wouldn’t fill all the root trail crevasses with the first layer of sphagnum, media and sphagnum to start the assembly.  I’d do the center hole and then unpot the plant and get the plant in the right place on the rock.  I’d then pick my first root trail to fill in.  You could put the plant down while you do this.  Then put the plant back in place, add the sphagnum, media and final layer of sphagnum and then tie it down.  Then I’d pick the second root, add sphagnum media and sphagnum, position the root and then the last layer of sphagnum, media and sphagnum before tying down.  The roots are flexible enough that you can push them to the side while filling in the root trail crevasses.


               Upon receiving this fourth report,  I emailed:

           "Aloha Thomas and congratulations on your IWP #4 report.  It was a lot more complex due to inclusion of an unprecedented hard dense low root-over-rock goal and you asked enough questions,  developed a logical game plan,  executed, and did a commendable report!  Consider that you’ve “graduated” from the Beginner Study Group.  So to complete the article,  how about writing a summary/conclusion of the entire 4-step Beginner Study Group --- an evaluation of the good and the bad,  what could have been improved,  and where do we go from here.

            Some seem to want me to have a similar but more complex route to follow as the next series possibly to be called Intermediate Study Group as a more structured transition in lieu of the open-ended Fast-Track Study Group which is great for the self-starters who come up with their own project origination.  Please give me your thoughts and basically answer the question:  “Where do we go from here?”   You do good work and I’d love to have you join the editorial leadership of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai,  first as a contributing writer and as a contributing editor if there is enough interest and commitment.  Please give me your thoughts. 


                I received back from him a thoughtful reply and an offer to put some thought into it and just do another report on the entire process including an evaluation of the good and the bad, what could have been improved, and where do we go from here. 


                That was appreciated and I quickly agreed.  So stay tuned for Thomas's next article!  As editor, I invite everyone to write me to give me your thoughts.  I believe that the focus of the Journal must be to educate, support, and assist individuals who are a part of the "TROPICAL & TRUE INDOOR BONSAI COMMUNITY" that we are trying to create. 


                 From our very beginning,  even as a family nursery,  Fuku-Bonsai has been focused on creating this community with Fuku-Bonsai aspiring to the highest bonsai professional standards of integrity, product line quality and value,  education, preservation of the past, and a commitment to leadership and to be a resource for the next generation.  We recognized that for a bonsai hobby community to develop,  it is necessary to have professional support. Upon evolving from the Fukumoto family sole proprietorship to a corporation, we formed the non-profit 501(3)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and formally began to accept worthy memorial bonsai to preserve the bonsai that are part of the development of Hawaiian bonsai history. We are making progress and invite all possible input from everyone. 


                 ~~~David (david.f@fukubonsai.com)  


              © Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014