FIRST TRIAL OF THE PREMIUM INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE (PIWP-8)

                Repeat visitors Pat and Ralph Whitright of Monroe, Washington came with friend Mary Lou Hymen of Phoenix, Arizona.  Pat had done an Introductory Workshop Package on her first trip last year and she was ready for an Intermediate Workshop II,  especially since a pre-sculptured rock was available.

               Mary Lou had not done any workshops previously so I showed her our standard Introductory Workshop Package and the new Premium Introductory Workshop Package we were finalizing for introduction next year. The original Introductory Workshop Package has proven ideal as an economical unit that was intended to provide the basics and I was concerned that, while it created nice Sumo or Roots small bonsai, it was not suitable for Root-Over-Rock,  especially if the student was to sculpture and properly prepare the rock. 

               Even those with some bonsai experience have problems.  Once the rock was properly prepared with a planting saddle and root trail crevasses,  I think it would be a good to have the "Root-Over-Rock Workshop' as a separate option that could be of a smaller size (like Mary Lou's) or as an Intermediate Workshop II (like Pat's).  I will not offer sculptured and prepared rocks as items to purchase separately.

               Initially I envisioned the Premium Introductory Workshop Package was to just feature an older more developed plant in the same 2" nursery pot and use the same workshop pot and components.  But that pot would become too small too quickly and I've been moving towards using the #8 Conversion Kit.  It didn't matter if the Sumo and Roots were IWP, but I felt the Root-Over-Rock was best in the larger 8" diameter  pot. 

               So I asked Mary Lou what she thought and without hesitation she liked the 8" diameter pot for the Root-over-Rock but decided it was also better for a second Sumo workshop.  So we started with Root-Over-Rock with a smaller rock for Mary Lou's smaller plant and a larger rock for Pat's 4LL8-Sumo that was to be rock-planted.

 

            Normally we don't have keto-tsuchi available and we do Root-Over-Rock workshops without it.  But we had some left-over from Paul Bakerman's workshops and it was used to position the sphagnum moss, Nutrient Granules, and layers of media and moss on the cushion above the saddle.  
            The older more developed plant worked well with the pre-sculptured rock and Mary Lou had no problem with Edison guiding her.
          Pat's larger rock also had a nice saddle and deep root trail crevasses to accommodate the larger roots of her older more developed 4LL8 plant. In both cases, the rock planting were comfortably attached with very high success potential if the roots were long enough to reach the media in the pot.  Roots were positioned with bindwire that will rust or rot off without damaging the roots.   
           A hole had been drilled right through about 1/2" above the bottom of the rock and a medium heavy wire had been sent through with the ends bent down and sent through the drain holes.  After the aluminum foil collar was in place,  while up side down, the tree was positioned, some coarse placed on the bottom, the pot placed upside down, and the potting completed with the bottom of the rock at soil level.  Just pulling and twisting the wire that went through the bottom of the rock was enough to secure the plant.
          Pat checked for any hollow spots with a dibble and filled them with body media.  Off to the left, Mary Lou was working with Edison and very quickly had her heavy trunked Sumo's roots straddling an 1 1/2" flattish rock. When planted high in the 8" pot  and with good care, the base would develop into an impressive buttressing in a relatively short time.  
          Pat's aluminum foil collar used the "accordion fold" style which works well to add a small amount of body media all over the rock. Her pot had been prepared with three longer anchor wires.  First the wires that went through the bottom of the rock were run through the drain holes, the planting completed, and the rock wires tighten.  After the top of the collar was funnel shaped, two of the three long wires went over a heavy section and tightened, then anchored again with the third wire. So the large rock planting was very strongly anchored. The two gals finished about the same time and  Ralph got to see his birthday gift being created. 
           Mary Lou seemed to have a natural knack.  She made excellent plant selections and her two trees have good odds for success and become attractive bonsai.  The larger 8" pots worked very well with the trees she selected and I'm convinced that the Premium Introductory Workshop Package will be offered with the larger 8" diameter pots.  Mary Lou does ceramics so I look forward to seeing her bonsai in her pots in the future.  By coincidence she lives fairly near to Paul Bakerman and the Scottsdale Bonsai Club and there may be a nice amount of True Indoor Bonsai activity in the near future!
 

CONCLUSION AND COMMENTS BY DAVID: 

          Some of the most enthusiastic bonsai hobbyists who collect aged trees growing in harsh environments dream of one day finding the perfect tree that has been sculptured by nature over many years.  If successfully collected and with enlightened refinement techniques, these Nature's Bonsai masterpieces become spectacular!   This is the type of bonsai that dominate bonsai exhibitions.  But these are not for everyone.  They require a macho personality and willingness to become a dedicated craftsman to learn the discipline and the technical skills to keep these trees alive.  They are usually large and require expensive pottery and a lot of manpower to move them around.  In my early days,  I went that route. 

           But I've also always wanted to help everyone to learn the basics in a very efficient effective manner with very high success.  Essentially,  I'm much more of a bonsai populist than anyone I know.  To go this route,  it made sense to create a certified export nursery and to specialize in Dwarf Schefflera,  the most durable of all houseplants with ideal bonsai qualities.  But besides specializing in the best plant,  it was necessary to learn and establish disciplined professional standards to produce highest quality plants in large quantities in a very cost-effective manner to keep them affordable for everyone. 

          In 2007, we introduced the Introductory Workshop Package that to us was the "Educational Bonsai Holy Grail!"   From very early during my first teaching years in the 1960's,  we recognized that beginners really needed to have an initial success to help build their interest in bonsai.  Each year, we've tried to improve the Introductory Workshop Package and as more became successful, they enjoyed taking on more difficult challenges.   Pat has made a nice amount of progress this year and is already thinking and talking about what she wants to do when she comes again next year! I predict that Mary Lou will move faster and independently and will also make great annual improvements.

         Today's workshop was a wonderful experience for me as I got to see the dream of over 50 years unfold!  An introduction of True Indoor Bonsai to one with obvious potential,  enjoying a second visit from Ralph and Pat and seeing her growing confidence in tackling a project that would have been unthinkable just a year ago.  But I swelled with pride as I observed Edison assist Mary Lou,  knowing that this was Edison's first Root-Over-Rock workshop (although he has observed, done some, and has very wide experience planting our Hawaiian Lava Plantings). 

          I know that the Premium Introductory Workshop Package will be an outstanding success!  The results of the Premium Workshop will have a superior potential and growth rate, just as our Desk Size Hawaiian Lava Planting is the odds on favorite of many of our repeat customers over the Small Size Hawaiian Lava Planting even though it's just a little larger and priced twice as much.  I have confidence that many of our customers can see good value as reflected in the shift in reorders. I believe that the more customers know, the more they can see that our best values are our older larger plants.

         I predict that the Premium Introductory Workshop Package will fill a large niche between the original IWP-8 and the Intermediate Workshop II that uses a 4LL8 potted bonsai (in sumo, roots, and Hawaiian Dragon styling) and a #8 Conversion Kit.  But I think the "Root-over-Rock" workshop will be offered as a separate package as even those with some bonsai experience had difficulty learning to sculpture and properly prepare the rock.  But like Pat and Mary Lou,  I believe most will be successful and enjoy the workshop if a pre-sculptured prepared rock is included with other needed supplies. 

        For more information about the Premium Introductory Workshop package,

         As I finalize the Premium Introductory Workshop Package,  I'd like to hear various opinions.  I hope to have all finalized to be able to formally introduce it in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai.  This represents another major Fuku-Bonsai milestone on a path that began in 1962.  I thank everyone who helped to make it a great journey!  

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

***  Return to the October 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai
***  Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
***  Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
          Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013