EXPLORING A MINI 1:10 PROJECT SUMO

          As part of the 1:10 Project,  we are reviewing the 7", 9", and 12" diameter saucer-pots.  The small 7" saucer was initially difficult,  but after planting 20 or so,  I am getting more comfortable with the mechanics and confident of the necessary procedures. 

               To develop the skills to be a strong instructor of True Indoor Bonsai workshops,  I invite serious individuals to join our advanced study group that start with three workshop kits.  The first is  a standard Introductory Workshop Package to teach basic "Sumo," then  two 7" Premium 1:10 Workshop Packages which  are being developed to teach basic "Sumo" and "Roots." Having two versions of sumo, participants will learn the key 1:10 Project challenges.  Upon completing and comparing the two sumo packages,  the third "Roots" workshop package will test whether the principles are understood and can be successfully applied.  These two 7" Premium 1:10 Workshop Packages will only be available to members of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and include an offer of personal email assistance.

               I believe the 9" and 12" diameter saucer-pots are suitable for "Premium 1:10 Conversion Kits" with needed basic components.  The 9" will be recommended for up-potting the 4LL8 Living Lovables and the 12" recommended for up-potting the 8LS8 Living Sculpture. But what about smaller 1:10 Projects?

                         

             I was able to address this when Jake Wegehoft of Kohala, on the northern area of the Big Island of Hawaii, called requesting assistance in locating small pots for his other miniature projects.  His location and circumstances were such that I invited him to visit, master True Indoor Bonsai,  and teach as part of our overall team to address the project:  "Making the Big Island an International Bonsai Mecca!"  He was interested and visited on Friday,  March 22, 2013.
           This is a smaller 1:10 Project tree in a melamine dish 5" in diameter and about 1/2" deep and 4.5" high above the pot rim . Twelve 1/4" diameter drain holes were drilled into the bottom.  It began as a 2" prepared stock that meet the standards for the Introductory Workshop Package and was potted about two years ago.  Since this was done,  we've learned a full range of additional techniques so I planned a workshop with Jake to test the latest theories.
            Jake is holding a plant I selected and a similar melamine dish that is 5" in diameter only 3/8" inside depth!  Thirteen 1/4" holes have been drilled and three notches ground out of the foot ring to allow some air circulation under the dish.  In the foreground is the plant above and to his right are the standard components of the Introductory Workshop Package which uses an easier 5"x3"x2" deep pot.
          After installing the X-tie down wires, a coarse bottom was spread across the entire bottom,  compressed by taping with the nursery pot and a 1/2" high hill built up on the coarse layer.  This is being shaped and compacted with a flattened spoon. 
          A 1" diameter plastic separator was folded twice and shaped to be a "tent" to protect the highest part of the hill from future finer body media filtering down and clogging the drainage layer.  Shallow containers require incorporating as much air as possible and a larger amount of coarse bottom material is used.
           Body potting media is dropped over the plastic separator and allowed to roll down to seal most of the hill and allowed to build a high hill.  The material includes ground coconut husk which does not easily break down like peat moss or bark. It also includes white nutrient granules that is the best ultra-slow release over a one year period.
           The selected plant has excellent potential as it was greatly reduced very low and the main trunk already has four tapering sections in just an inch or so as well as several low branches.  Jack began with a root hook to remove the top media to expose the tops of all major roots. 
           Cleaning down to the top of the roots revealed a large poorly formed root (which was removed) with an ideal very shallow compact root system with roots facing all directions.
           In removing material from the bottom of the root ball, the original plastic separator is exposed.  It had worked well in keeping a lot of fine roots above and preserved the drainage capability of the material at the bottom of the pot. 
            Part of a long root was trimmed and the tree lowered onto the hill and positioned, then firmed down and ready for securing with the tie-wires. 
            Pull up and position the first wire.  Then pull up, position, cross, then tighten the first set of wires.  Pull it up with a needle-nose pliers and twist snug.  Repeat with the other set of wires.  When the tie-wires are pre-twisted into an "X" any two wires can be paired. Normally a single tie-wire is sufficient but we allow for two sets as most beginners initially do not secure the plant sufficiently on their first try.
           When done well, you should be able to easily pick up the plant by its trunk  with no movement at all.  It is important for the plant to be secured snug as roots will not form well if the tree is shaking each time it is moved.  
           We screened the body media with a 1/8" screen to remove the larger pieces of pumice aggregate. The finer material contained a larger percentage of ground coconut husk and pumice and small amounts were carefully placed to fill between and cover the roots. 
            A minimum amount of the finer material was "vibrated" into position and smoothed out the hill.  Note that the coarse bottom later is still exposed toward the outer edges near the rim.  The primary apex line follows the heaviest part of the main trunk and the trunk swerves to the right.  There is one large branch being trimmed short.  
          Trimming the top growth will help to slow the growth of the plant.   The top apical growth point is fairly well established and there are strong branches to the left and right. The tree is well along in having the minimum structure to build out the remainder of the bonsai.  The hill still needs to be shaped into the desired profile.  Surface roots will follow the final shape of the hill so careful attention at this point will produce the ideal root structure to create an exciting bonsai design. 
             Tear off a piece of aluminum foil about two and a half times the diameter of the saucer or about 12" to 15" for this 5" saucer. Wrinkle the 12" width until its a series of crumpled folds  about 4" wide. 
            Crimp finger-wide ridges across one side of the foil for the full length to allow shaping the foil support to protect and hold in place the media in the shallow saucer-pot, to shape the hill, and to form a water funnel to very easily saturate the root ball each week.  The "smooth" left side will protect the media surface and hill and the fluted half will be bent up to form the funnel.
             Start by positioning the edge of the foil just inside of the saucer rim and firm down first along the edge, then blend firmly into the hill.  Bend up the other half that will form the water funnel later and continue around.  As you firm down and compress and smooth out the crinkled aluminum foil,  you can get the fill shaped very close to what it will become in the future.
            When you reach the starting point, connect the two ends of the foil by overlapping and folding over about 1/4" and press flat.  Start choking the foil around the hill and the base of the tree, then flatten and shape the water funnel.  Open the top slightly about 1/8" around the base of the roots and add a little fine media.
             With thin strong monofilament  tape,  cover about 1/3rd of the circumference, crossing over the aluminum foil joint.  Go under the rim of the saucer-pot another 1/3rd of the circumference, come over the foil a second 1/3rd, under a 1/3rd, the across the last 1/3rd of the foil. Cut and bend the extra tape under to complete and secure the aluminum foil.  The purpose of the foil is to protect the media from being washed out if you water with a hose, to hold the media and hill in place to allow the roots to take on that form, and to prevent the shallow amount of media from overly drying.
               We have no problem growing these outdoors in our shade house or in areas that are sunny part of the day.  If the foil is applied tightly and no air can circulate, the roots will rot!  So 1/4" holes are made 3/4" apart to allow free air circulation under the foil.  Leave the foil in place long enough for roots to fully cover the hill and to hold the media in place.  This may be 6 months outdoors and a full year indoors.  When removing, first remove the tape and open the foil connection to check the roots.  If the roots almost cover the hill surface,  temporarily tape it close loosely for a month or two to allow the roots to harden off. 

 

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