Now almost two years after up-potting a 4LL8 Roots into a 8" diameter x 2" deep pot, it's time to move it into the premium 1:10 Project into a shallow 12" diameter x 1.25" deep saucer-pot.

           For almost two years there's been almost no pruning or attention. The tree has doubled its size with long new branches.  It had been raised up to extend the roots using an double aluminum foil collar (without air holes) and the foil was largely intact.  Like other collars without air holes, aerial roots dropped down outside the collar and I may have stumbled upon a technique to create such roots!  The 12" diameter x 1.25" shallow saucer-pot was prepared the same as for the SUMO project. The objective of this training session was to again double the length of the exposed roots!       
          The foil was removed, roots straightened downwards, and three "L-shaped wires"  with the short end inserted into the root column and double-bound with bind-wire.  The three wires will form a tripod long enough to extend the roots several inches. Foil was crumpled, then "accordion folded" with equal parts coarse bottom and body mix placed on the foil.  A light amount of sphagnum moss is at the top edge.
         As each side of the foil was lifted additional media added including on the top so there was potting media all around the roots.  The upper portion was tightened and taped, the column turned upside down and filled with more media from the bottom,  dibbling in to fill any gaps between the roots. The wires were positioned to be a tripod and the bottom of the foil column flared to match the hill, and the column filled with media.
       To this point all seemed to be going as planned.  I placed my open palm under the end of the column, turned it up side down, and positioned it just above the hill.  I quickly pulled out my hand expecting the column to match and sit on the hill, BUT IT DIDN'T!

      I forgot the tripod wires would hold it up and half of the material in the foil column flowed out!  Rather than redo the project, I decided to salvage what I could and improvised a repair procedure.  The excess potting media was removed so the media in the saucer-pot was at the proper level,  the tree positioned slightly off-center, and the base of the root buttressing flared to the finished profile.

         This photo shows the amount of excess potting media removed and how coarse the pieces are when extending the roots in a significant amount to prevent it from holding too much water that would rot the roots.  This is based upon our moist Kurtistown climate and a finer mix may be needed in drier areas.  Ryan on Oahu is growing trees outdoors and is having problems with his extended roots so this is still an area of trials to see what works where.  A hole in the foil shows the height of the area that needs to be filled.
         The foil to secure the media in the saucer-pot was installed first with two strips of foil .
        With the bottom foil in place and taped down, holes were made through the foil column,  potting media spooned in,  dibbled firmly, and more media added.  As the column was filled,  holes were taped and new holes higher up and on another side of the column was made to spoon in more media and this continued until all media was back inside the foil column  and firmly in place. 
         With so many holes weakening the foil column, an additional layer of foil was installed.  The foil is 12" wide so this will be a dramatic tall slender exposed root design.  The conceptual justification for this styling is based upon birds eating the seeds, and flying up high into a host tree.  The seed passes through the bird's digestive system and emerges from the back end of the bird as a "fertilizer-encased seed." 

        The seed germinates, grows, and strangles the host tree which rots away.  A "Sumo-like" crown develops up high and the roots travel down to the ground.  Such "Epiphytic trees" are common in the Hilo area of the Big Island. 

         The branches are tall and long and wired to be horizontal branches.  The upper portion above the primary trunk had been pruned and a compact new crown was starting to form.  Note that air holes have been made about an inch apart throughout the foil column.
         Branches were shortened but left a bit longer than usual with the hope that multiple new branches will emerge and branches could be shortened further with new growth aimed in the ideal direction.  The foil may be left on for another two years or more, and except for trimming to develop the foliage crown,  very little training will be needed during the next few years. 
        SOME CONCLUDING COMMENTS BY DAVID:  At this stage, the most common questions generally pertain to how long the foil should be left on or what will be the next training procedure.  I have an automatic answer that I learned in army basic training after a long training march, a heavy lunch, and been shown a training film in a dark warm room!  Sargaent turns on the lights, yells out your name, and asks a question.  He's already taught us to jump to our feet and yell out:  "IT DEPENDS UPON THE SITUATION, SIR!"  

         So I smile when the questions start coming after each workshop.  IT DEPENDS UPON THE SITUATION!   What do you want to do?  Do you want to create high-quality bonsai that have a crown made up of strong complex branches with taper or do you just want to "do bonsai?"  Unfortunately,  in many situations,  bonsai demands patience IF YOU HAVE ONLY ONE OR TWO BONSAI IN TRAINING! 

         Plants need time to grow out and grow strongly.  Pinching when only a few new leaves have emerged will stop that growth before the branch is strong enough to throw out new growth points when pruned.  I recall my first major training lesson by friend Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro.  After having met him several months before, he invited me to visit him at his home and once settled down in this garden work shed, he promised to teach me the "secret of bonsai!" 

         He had several young recently rooted cuttings in small nursery pots that were single stems and 3"-5" high. One by one in excruciating detail he explained why he picked a specific spot to nip of the end and explained that if the plant was growing strongly, that two or more growth points will develop.  "AHA!  THEN WHAT?"  When the new shoots emerge, choose the one you want, trim off those you don't want, and let them grow until it's time to pinch again. So I was all ears but after what seemed to be identical explanations,  in my youthful aggressive manner, I told him: " I know what you explained the first time and you've told me the same thing three times.  So when are you going to tell me the secret of bonsai?

        I think he was a bit upset as he said:  "DAVID THAT IS THE SECRET OF BONSAI! Get the plant to grow strongly, pinch, select new growth,  allow to grow out again, pinch and keep doing this for thirty years and you'll have nice bonsai like mine!  Papa was a master of training by what I now call "Building."  WOW!  Bonsai has got to be the most boring time killer for old guys!

       At that time I was admiring his trees that had trunks 2" to 3" across, but I wasn't willing to wait 30 years! About that time,  I had borrowed a copy of Man Lung Garden Artistic Pot Plants by Hong Kong's penjing master Yee-sun Wu who explained his "Clip-and-Grow" method.  In Hong Kong, wealthy penjing hobbyists purchased larger old trees from nurseries that already had 2" to 3" thick trunks that may be 36" tall.  They would reduce the trees to 18",  establish a new central leader, and developed all possible lower branches.  While starting with larger, older stock. This method produced some nice trees that were about 24" tall with complex branching patterns.  But the taper wasn't all that impressive and over time,  I kept reducing much more dramatically and in time I developed what I called "Reduction-Building"  that produces great "Sumo" trees that Fuku-Bonsai is known for.  It's the only way that I can consistently get trunk character and low branches within one inch of the soil line!

        It happened that an Oahu nursery had purchased and imported a large number of 20-30 year old Japanese Black Pine when a large Big Island grower passed away.  I learned about it and selected and obtained about 100 of them in 3 to 10 gallon nursery pots.  Those were my first Reduction-Building efforts and they were spectacular successes!  Papa visited our Kaneohe home and chewed me out royally!  He never cut anything larger than the thickness of a pencil because he hated scars.   

        A few years later, it was time for the Fukumotos to move to the Big Island to form Fuku-Bonsai and I would be taking 120 of my bonsai collection and split them up amongst several friends to hold for me for several months until I have enough facilities to handle them.  These closest bonsai friends also had first choice but limits of up to six plants each before the remainder of the 2,000 tree collection was sold.  By then, the Japanese Black Pines had almost healed and Papa selected primarily from the reduced trees that he scolded me!  That gave me more confidence and on the Big Island,  I trained primarily by Reduction-Building and Sumo became our basic training strategy.

       ROOTS represents our second major training strategy and as you can tell from this report,  we're still learning at the same time that members of our study group are helping me to find the best methods.  We will share these with Journal readers and invite you to join us!   

                                   ~~~ David W. Fukumoto (

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          Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation & Fuku-Bonsai, 2013