AN INTRODUCTION BY DAVID. This is Jay's first article as a Journal Contributing Editor. I think over time, you'll find him to be a very interesting person as he shares more about himself and his other activities besides bonsai. In correspondence, I learned he once took a workshop given by Jerry Meislik so he's been growing bonsai for a while. I learned he also knew Jack Wikle and like several of the Michigan Ann Arbor bonsai community, he's been playing with lights and growing bonsai outdoors in warm weather and indoors in cooler seasons.
My attention increased when I learned of his interest in growing a fair amount of Dwarf Schefflera alongside his other trees. Most of the older Fuku-Bonsai customers grow them only indoors all year around. Most of the older established traditional bonsai hobbyists don't grow Dwarf Schefflera and if they did, wouldn't consider growing them outdoors because they look too fragile compared to pines and junipers. So I've been looking for those who are interested in growing them under stronger lights and/or outdoors to get better growth.
The first person I found to fit this profile was Ron Davis of Montana who contributes articles as his time permits. He's not able to provide a continuous stream of monthly articles and I think that's what's needed to give everyone an awareness of growing True Indoor Bonsai as an "IN AND OUT BONSAI!" This is to prove my theory that Fuku-Bonsai's specialty Dwarf Schefflera is the fastest developing tree of all trees grown as bonsai --- that it can be trained into more styles than any other plant --- that in seeing such rapid progress compared to traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai that Jay will join Ryan Chang as the Michigan version of growing "Fast-Track Bonsai!"
I believe that Americans are like me --- we're impatient and want to see results. We aren't totally disciplined like the Japanese and so we need tough durable trees that will make progress even without meticulous attention and nurturing! And if there is success, enthusiasm will increase and in the future, I'm betting that you'll see Jay doing some very interesting bonsai --- something he really hasn't done over his long bonsai so-so past efforts.
I hope others who grow our Dwarf Schefflera and other outdoor bonsai will come forward initially to work alongside Jay to define and prepare those who want optimum growth on how it's done. I'm sure that Ron in Montana will have a similar schedule as Jay. Getting Jay together with Ryan Chang will have side benefits just as Ryan is also learning from Jerry. So as we develop a national Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community, I invite others who want to learn how to grow our high-potential Dwarf Schefflera using uncommon techniques to create superior high-quality plants and to grow them using accelerated growth techniques. I invite those who are willing and able to teach others to join us with the goal of having a network of Fuku-Bonsai Associates who know the true potential of Fuku-Bonsai's trees.
In his first article as a Journal Contributing Editor, I asked Jay to tell something of his past and how he progressed to his current lighting unit. So here's Jay!
Indoor lighting is no stranger to this website and I recommend if you have not already done so, to read Jerry Meislik’s article titled “THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHT” (www.fukubonsai.com/1a9a5.html) . Jerry is our subject matter expert on plant light requirements and light layout to achieve optimal plant growth with all growing indoors throughout the year. This article will be from my perspective since my plants are outdoors when the weather stays above 55°F.
While outdoors, my trees are under a lathe type structure with
benches to display the trees and filter some of the sun light. I've
included a photo of my previous tree display stand. Some trees will
benefit from some protection from the summer mid-day sun. My trees
are out for the summer, which in Michigan depending on Mother Nature
ranges from late May to Mid to late September. Outdoor temperate
climate trees are mainly juniper, elm, some pines, and my favorite
outdoor tree, Birch.
My indoor tropical trees are Sweet Plum, Fukien Tea, several species of Ficus, and a gift from my mother a Heartleaf Ivy and of course Dwarf Schefflera. The ivy I have had for over 20 years and the photos are then and now. When the weather dips to 55 or below the non-temperate climate trees, have to come in until temperatures are 55 degrees or higher. Then they get to go outside for their summer vacation.
A SUMMARY OF MY BONSAI HISTORY
The year was 1993 when I purchased my first bonsai --- the usual juniper with the plaster of Paris glued to the top. A friend of mine gave me some great advice --- “remove the plaster of Paris”. The short story is that I killed it a short time later. I quickly learned the difference between trees that are indoor tropical and the outdoor temperate climate trees (those that need to go dormant).
Still excited about my new hobby, I bought another tree, which led to several more trees, all of which were outdoor species. Then the inevitable happened, winter came to Michigan. With the lessons I learned that summer, I knew I had to leave those outdoor trees outdoors for the winter. Itching to further my education and fuel my desire to work on trees, my good friend had more advice for me. Like the movie, The Graduate his advice was “Indoor Tropical”. Now I can enjoy this new hobby year round.
At first, I grew my trees by a window that provided enough light to keep these trees healthy. It was not long before I had too many trees to get them all into the window. That following spring I joined the Ann Arbor Bonsai Society where I met Jerry Meislik and Jack Wikle. By that time, Jack had already been growing trees under fluorescent lights for 20 years and was having fantastic results. (For Jack's article, go to www.fukubonsai.com/2b2a2a.html) That fall I had purchased my first four-foot shop light and a light timer. My investment for the light and timer was twelve dollars. Of course, I bought more trees and one light grew to two.
Here's a photo of one of my first light carts that I built and there have been a few others. The four foot shop light is a great light, it is perfect for someone who is still unsure of themselves and has not yet reached the “I am hooked” phase of this hobby…Yet!
Fluorescent lights are inexpensive to purchase and operate. Using my local electric rates and a little math you can get a good idea of what your light would cost to operate. If you add up the entire kilowatt charges for your electric service and there are a few, mine totals up to about .135 cents per kilowatt. A 2-bulb 40-watt fluorescent light will consume on a ten hour on time 800 watts. My cost would be just over 10 cents a day and totaling $3.24 a month.
Then I was having success not killing my trees due to a lack of knowledge and bought bigger indoor tropical trees. Now I started having issues with the bigger tropical trees. With these larger trees, raising the light was required. At their new height, the four-foot shop lights were not providing enough light for the trees inner and lower branches or sufficient light for the smaller trees that were further away from the bulbs. This lack of light causes the inner branches to die back, which starts to affect your overall design, and affects the health of the tree. Then my friend introduced me to a 400-watt metal halide grow light with light mover for a little over $200.
Since I needed more light to grow bigger indoor tropical trees I needed more light so I could effectively push more plant usable light further. Four-foot fluorescent shop lights provide enough plant usable light to a range of approximately 2 ½ feet. With my larger tropical bonsai, I needed more usable plant light at ranges approaching 3 ½ feet or more.
The need for more plant usable light started me with a 400 watt metal halide light until this year when I purchased a 600 watt light that will easily push usable plant light to 3 ½ feet or more. The cost of the fixture bulb and ballast would run in the $380 dollar range. Not cheap but not overly crazy. The cost of operation of my light is significantly higher when compared to the four-foot shop light. Take my same electrical rates and do the math. Now a 600-watt light that is on for 10 hours uses 6,000 watts at .135 cents per 1,000 watts equals 81 cents a day, which works out to $24.30 a month.
I need to put this disclaimer in. Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai plants do not require a high power light set-up like the one Jerry has or mine. They will do fine with simple window light and proper watering (until you run out of window space) .
My table for my indoor trees is 30 inches wide and 8 feet long. The coverage area for a 400 watt metal halide is about 3x3 feet. The coverage area for a 600-watt metal halide is 4x4 feet. For a 1000 watt, coverage is 5x5. These yield about 40 watts per square foot. In my case, the amount of space needed to care for the trees I have would require a second light to produce about 800 watts.
This would require two 400 watt stationary lights I was fortunate when I purchased my 400 watt light 20 years ago, it came with the light rail (light mover) and I still use it today. From the pictures, you can see a track mounted to the floor joists in my basement. The little black box contains the drive motor and the switch to send the light back the other way when it reaches the end of the track. This light mover allowed me to expand my growing area without the added the cost of another light and the costs of the additional electricity to operate it.
It also allows light to hit the lower foliage. There have been some informal studies; that state there is considerable loss of light energy because static lighting lacks the lighting angles one would get with the sun moving across the sky. The extra growing area provided by the mover has its limits. There is a point of diminishing return related to how powerful the light is and the length of the lights travel. If the light travels too far from any one end there will not be enough light available to the plant. Another informal study suggests the light mover would expand ones available growing area by 25%. This is without increasing total light on time.
Disclaimer time again. The lighting and the mover are not required to be successful with Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai plants. David was intrigued by my particular lighting arrangement and wanted me to share my experience with you. I hope you found this interesting and useful.
Aloha! - - - Jay
SOME FINAL COMMENTS BY DAVID. One of the things I remembered from Jerry's original article was that metal halides have a buzz and that he somehow was able to separate a portion and had them in a sound-proof area. Jay says that he has to turn his TV a bit louder. So that's the major negative. Jerry keeps his plants on rolling bread-racks and those plants that need stronger light are near the top while the Dwarf Schefflera is on the lowest levels as they need less light. I'd like to see someone keep moving Dwarf Schefflera closer to see how much light it can handle because in general, the more light the more compact the growth!
The Dwarf Schefflera in the photo is in my private collection. To date, very little has been written about Dwarf Schefflera as small or mame bonsai. This one is just 4.5" above the rim of the 5.5" diameter "pot" which really is a melamine saucer with drain holes drilled into the bottom. It is one of the experimental Sumo plants that was trained in the smallest 5.5" diameter saucer pot available at that time for our 1:10 Project in which we plant in shallow containers that are ten times wider than they are deep. We primarily use the Fuku-Bonsai 7", 9", and 12" diameter plastic bonsai saucers with a lot of holes drilling into the bottom as shallow containers tend to drain poorly and it's easy to have root rot.
BUT BY USING VERY SHALLOW SAUCER-POTS, THE TREE STANDS OUT RATHER THAN A TOO DEEP POT! We are finding that Dwarf Schefflera can be trained to be drought resistant and this small bonsai is grown outdoors in full sun at the Kurtistown Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center on hot aluminum root iron covered benches! The tree began as a 2" prepared bonsai stock used in our Introductory Workshop Package and in training now with special techniques for a little more than two years. So total age is about 4-5 years old. Compare that with any bonsai you may have of that age.
In last month's Journal, I gave a preview of the future Premium Introductory Workshop Package that will be introduced in January 2014 and these plants are being discussed with those in our Journal editorial team and Jay, having completed his first three IWP's wanted to start increasing his Dwarf Schefflera collection. Like Ryan Chang and other Journal contributing writers, they have special access to Fuku-Bonsai products not yet offered to the general public. Some items may only be offered to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation members. The last photo in Jay's article above show the 16 premium prepared bonsai stock that will be pre-trained for more advanced projects in the future.
There's a buzz going on and reservations are being made for the Premium Introductory Workshop Package. 48 units went to Bahrain last month. Ryan and Jay will be running trials, and the consensus is that while the Introductory Workshop Package is a good economical entry-level workshop for beginners, that the Premium Introductory Workshop Package will likely surpass it in by repeat customers even though it will be priced twice as much. But due to the amount of time and work involved, this will not likely be a profit center for Fuku-Bonsai and we likely will limit sales to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation members for the first few years until we can build up inventory.
I believe I've found a suitable 4.5" diameter x 0.5" deep saucer to be customized and offered as part of a workshop package to include the premium prepared bonsai stock. I hope to have this item available for introduction in Spring 2014 along with a Premium Root-Over-Rock Package that includes a pre-sculptured prepared rock with all needed specialty rock planting supplies!
Please feel free to write for more information if you're interested in joining our study groups and one day becoming a contributing writer and teacher of True Indoor Bonsai. I am very proud of our growing team and again welcome Jay! ~~~David (firstname.lastname@example.org)