Components of Fuku-Bonsai's 1:10 Project: "Bonsai in pots 1/10th as deep as they are wide!" The shallow round plastic saucers were designed by Fuku-Bonsai founder David Fukumoto in 1977 in collaboration with Gerry Gilmore of Ole Orchard Hill who had a plastic extrusion business. They were initially intended to be used as display saucers with gravel for Fuku-Bonsai's Hawaiian Lava Plantings or to catch water for deeper round pots of matching design. Three sizes are made: 7" diameter x about 3/4" deep; 9" diameter x almost 1" deep, and 12" diameter x about 1 1/4" deep. The 7" and 12" saucers are shown with holes drilling. In the foreground are three types of collars: 1) aluminum foil, 2) nursery pots with bottoms removed, and Fuku-Bonsai's "Cornstarch Keto-Tsuchi Muck."
SHALLOW POT BASICS
"BON" is a pot; "SAI" is a plant. So bonsai is a plant in a pot. It is also an artistic pot plant and the pot has a major role like a frame for a painting. The pot should compliment but should not pull away attention from the bonsai. If the pot is too heavy or large, it may be unusable. A general guideline has evolved that for most attractive display, the depth of the container should be similar to the thickness of the bonsai's trunk. Generally, a forest arrangement would have a large shallow pot to match modest trunks of forest arrangement trees.
THE TRUNKS OF MOST BEGINNER TREES ARE THIN AND IT IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO GROW A PLANT IN A SHALLOW POT! BUT IT IS A LOT EASIER INDOORS COMPARED TO OUTDOORS WHERE PLANTS DRY OUT VERY QUICKLY.
The Fuku-Bonsai 1:10 Project is to explore and develop techniques to create very attractive bonsai in shallow round plastic saucers that were available and converted to pots by drilling drain holes. After a number of trials we learned that shallow pots tend to have poor drainage and plants will not do well.
FACTORS REGARDING DRAIN HOLES. It is preferable to have numerous "medium size" drain holes instead of two large or many tiny holes. For 7" pots we make 19 each 1/4" diameter holes in a pattern with holes concentrated in the center of the pot where the media would be deepest and optimum drainage is needed. Along the shallow edge there are fewer holes and this part of the pot tends to dry fairly quickly. For 9" pots, we make 25 each 5/16" diameter holes. For 12" pots we make 31 each 3/8" diameter holes. These seem to work well to create good drainage and an abundance of places to secure anchoring devices and tie-downs.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES OF ANCHORING. Securing the plant to the pot is important and we are running trials whereby the plants in our permanent display collection are permanently attached to the pot. Rock plantings may have a concrete base to allow the plant to sit securely. Anchor wires are installed when creating the cement bases or inserted through holes drilled in the rock. For a "Sumo" type plant with a broad heavy trunk-root, we may run a wire through several holes in the center and plant the tree over the wires so the roots can intertwine and grab onto the anchor wires. Tie downs are used also to secure the plant until established with the tie-downs later removed. For taller exposed root designs, we have installed permanent wire loops and sit the plant on the top with the roots secured against and concealing the wire. In our most advanced application, we built a wire armature and secured the plant against it. The armature is sturdy enough to hold the plant in various positions. These techniques are explained in articles within this portal section.
INSTALLING TEMPORARY COLLARS TO HELP FIRM UP POTTING MEDIA. While the outer edges of the pot may have just an inch of potting media, the center portion may have 3" or more. Without help, the media will roll down and spill out of the shallow pot. Various "collars" can and will help shape the root mound and hold it in place until either the roots hold the media in place of the potting media firms up and no additional support is needed.
1. ALUMINUM FOIL. This is our favorite way to create a "temporary deeper pot" until the potting media firms up to allow contouring the surface. The foil can be made several layers thick for a more rigid collar or used as a single layer to help protect roots that will be exposed in the future. If you're developing a taller root system, consider incorporating wire supports.
2. A COLLAR FROM NURSERY POTS. Simply turn a nursery pot up side down on your shallow saucer and cut off the bottom for a deep collar or to the depth that you desire. Once the roots travel throughout and the media is firm, the collar can be removed and the surface contoured.
3. FUKU-BONSAI'S CORNSTARCH KETO-TSUCHI MUCK. Mix 1/3 cup cornstarch with one cup of water and cook while stirring until thick like Jell-O. Allow to cool and mix about 1/3 each of the cornstarch jell, slightly damp spaghnum moss, and fine sand or lava pumice. The sphagnum moss acts like reinforcement wire to hold the muck together and provide porosity. Add more sand or pumice for stiffer walls or more cornstarch jell for thinner minimum support. This muck is great for doing taller exposed root or rock plantings.