We launched the "FUKU-BONSAI1:10 PROJECT; BONSAI IN POTS 1/10TH AS DEEP AS THEY ARE WIDE" on April 26, 2011! As Fuku-Bonsai enters a new era, we need to make the new staff a part of the team by sharing and creating together a new beginning!  Most beginners start with deep pots.  By potting into shallow 7" diameter saucers less than 3/4" deep, we set a new standard and newest staff begin their bonsai careers by mastering advanced techniques!  In 2010,  David began creating a collection using shallow 9" and 12" saucers with spectacular results. (See INTRODUCING THE NEXT MAJOR FUKU-BONSAI CHALLENGE) Shallow saucers need better drainage and a multi-hole pattern was developed that would provide best drainage in the center with the holes also helping to anchor plants and any supporting components. 

       The Introductory Workshop Package was becoming the easiest and most successful way to learn (or teach) bonsai to anyone anywhere who could grow houseplants. It was time for new challenges and premium 2" prepared bonsai stock was becoming available.  The staff and I developed five experiments:  1)  Basic Sumo with X-wires for tie-downs and using a temporary 2" square collar to help firm up the media.  2)  Two rocks with their bottoms flattened and drilled through to anchor to the saucers for two different rock planting concepts.  3)  A driftwood tree anchored to a plastic base plate for improved drainage for an epiphytic-style planting.  And 4)  A 4-wire twisted armature that holds a base rock to create a slender twisty-turny literati-style dragon. 









         As we expand and rebuild, it is important to introduce our newest staff to the traditions and innovations of our past and to invite them to develop advanced bonsai skills.  So a day is set aside for staff education and team-building. The ambitious idea was for each old-timer to contribute one of a series of workshops.  We started by explaining the innovations of the past that evolved into our high-success techniques for creating exposed root and rock-planted bonsai.



          In Japan,  "Keto-tsuchi" is collected from below rice fields that have been cultivated for many generations.  After repeated annual burning of the rice straw,  the soil has become very fine, filed with organic matter, and is very sticky.  It is used for rock plantings and as a temporary rim when planting on flat rocks.  Moss adheres well to the much. 

           At Fuku-Bonsai we cannot use any dirt and developed the muck. Thickened cornstarch serves as a binder for a muck that can be mixed thick to build walls, or thin to serve as an adhesive. Because it has no dirt or clay it is usable in our "soil-free" certified export nursery. 

          Myrtle had cooked three recipes of Fuku-Bonsai's "corn starch keto-tsuchi"  and Mike demonstrated how to mix it with roughly 1/3 cornstarch jell, 1/3 organic peat moss or spaghnum moss components, and 1/3 aggregate.  This produced a stiff mix that can be used to build up walls if necessary. By varying the amount of each component, it is possible to use the muck in various ways.

          Mike also introduced the use of aluminum foil as a "temporary vertical pot" to prevent roots from drying out, to encourage development of long roots, and as a major aid in creating rock plantings and exposed root designs.  


















          David showed how he used more cornstarch jell and damp spaghnum moss to create a stickier binder to hold drainage materials and nutrient granules. He introduced the idea of using a permanently hidden wire armature to create his "Literati Dragon!" Literati is opposite from "Sumo" which is short and stout.  This is a tropical interpretive form of Chinese penjing that he has been developing in recent years.  The idea is to create a network of roots to from the body of the dragon to totally cover and conceal the wire armature.  Within the wire framework would be media and ultra slow release nutrients to support strong growth. There would also be sufficient spaghnum moss to aid in moisture distribution.

          The first order of business was to create a coarse drainage layer within what would be the trunk base.  For the roots to grow vigorously it needed fertile media and an ideal root environment.  By incorporating a lot of porous aggregate, spaghnum moss, and nutrient granules with a minimum amount of cornstarch keto-tsuchi, the drainage needs were resolved.  A similar mixture with more coarse aggregate and organic matter would fill the voids in the wire armature and the roots would grow through and around to eventually totally conceal the wire.  The wire would allow creating a lot of sharp bends and kinks to suggest complex movement. This was the first effort in using this training concept.

           David and Myrtle both have dragon symbol and this would be a collaboration that was discussed in the evenings and Myrtle found the perfect tree in the nursery!  It was amongst the oldest of our 2" prepared bonsai stock with dragon styling and it was necessary to greatly reduce stumpy root and extra branches to focus on the complex twists and turns. With paper covered thin wire, the root system was formed into a long carrot shape to blend with the curves off the wire armature.

          More cornstarch keto-tsuchi blended and tapered the dragon body and aluminum foil secured and firmed the bottom 4", then the middle section, and finally covering the remaining exposed roots.  A 2" high bottom collar was installed and the final bending and styling was completed. The multi-wire armature worked far better than expected and larger such efforts are planned.  Being a collaboration, David stepped aside, Myrtle finished the trimming, and graciously took the bows. We make a terrific team!

















          Then Mike did his epiphytic planting.  Mike joined Fuku-Bonsai in 1983 and has developed into my right hand man and is the Senior Plant Manager.  He's in charge of construction, maintenance of the physical facilities as well as the nursery. He really shines when he builds things and his driftwood tree was solidly anchored and bleached.  The engineering was strong, his project well planned, and done quickly and professionally!

          The tree was bare-rooted, the spread points opened, the tree quickly draped over a branch saddle, roots twisted down to the ground, temporarily secured, and finished with media held in place with aluminum foil.  He really made it look easy!


          Then it was Edison's turn.  Edison joined Fuku-Bonsai in 1999 and is our customer service representative and workshop manager.  He's our primary go-to instructor when visitors come to take the Introductory Workshop Package.  He's led the most workshops so wanted to do something different.  He selected nice prepared stock with extended roots and had prepared by anchoring a rock to the shallow saucer. 

          He used the cornstarch muck to attach spaghnum moss to cushion  the various locations that the roots would cover the rock.  Using paper covered wire over aluminum foil folded over several times,  he secured the roots to the rock.  Then using a collar from a portion of a nursery pot, he provided potting media for the ends of the roots.  Then with additional media to fill any openings between the roots and the rock.  He added a small amount of muck where he added more spaghnum moss and quickly had the rock wrapped and completed the planting.


          Edison had helped Kate and Anthony by walking through the steps so they could execute what they had in mind. He helped to prepare their projects by getting the needed materials and assisted in developing an anchoring strategy.


          Anthony joined the construction crew just a few months before and this was his first workshop exercise.  He found a nice "Sumo" 2" prepared stock and learned how to pot it high using the standard x-wire tie-downs with a nursery pot collar to help support the future wider trunk-root buttressing. 

          "Sumo" is the basic style that must be mastered by everyone. The great majority of Dwarf Schefflera are naturally single trunked trees and it requires very strong vigorous growth and dramatic pruning to create stout trunks, multiple trunks, and low branches that are needed to create attractive Hawaiian Lava Plantings and short and stout banyan styling.  Exposed roots are added to Sumo to create "Roots" which is the most popular of our three major stylings. 


          Kate's Fuku-Bonsai's operations manager and a gutsy, promising bonsai trainer.  She took on the challenge of rock planting a dragon!  Hawaiian Dragons are the newest area of experimentation at Fuku-Bonsai.  Most Dwarf Schefflera plants are single trunks that are straight near the roots. We start with a sharp bend as close to the roots as possible to start a styling that is twisty-turny and suggests dynamic activity.  It's our most creative and fun bonsai!  Kate began with a dragon with two strong growing areas and in the initial styling session, anchored the tree to the rock and is rooting the mid-section of the tree also to the rock.  There's long limber growth that will be part of a second training session in the future.



          First watering is recommended by saturation for thirty minutes with the water in the tub just an inch high to assure that any dry organic matter is fully wetted.  Use a turkey roaster-baster to get water into the aluminum foil columns. 

          Small bonsai require greater skill and care but develop faster.  So if the staff can master these advanced techniques, they'll be better able to help customers!


          THE FUKU-BONSAI STAFF - MAY 2011 as we begin a new era!  From left:  Co-founders David and Myrtle Fukumoto,  Kate Wood (Operations manager),  Michael Imaino (Senior plant manager), Antonio Dias (Nursery trainee), and Edison Yadao (Customer service & workshop manager) with some of the earliest "1:10 Project" efforts that were in 9" shallow saucers and show with two in larger 12" shallow saucers.

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     17-856 Olaa Road (PO Box 6000), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
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      Fuku-Bonsai, 2011