A YEAR AND COUNTING
It's hard to believe a year has gone by already. A year ago having a desire to increase my knowledge and skill in bonsai, I took the plunge into the introductory workshop here at Fuku Bonsai over the internet. You may recall I did well with my first two of the three workshops. I am happy to report all three have put on a lot of green top growth, hopefully that translated into a lot of root growth. Here in Michigan the best time to repot indoor tropical trees is late June to early August. This article will cover my first three introductory workshop trees “Sumo,” “Roots” and “Root Over Rock.”
Of the three, the sumo has grown the least. However, these pictures show how much the sumo has grown over the past year. Left is after the beginners workshop and the other is just before repotting.
I would have to say that all the green top growth equated to a lot of root growth. Look at all of those nice healthy roots. While the sumo was outside it was watered twice a week, depending on how hot and windy it was that day and watered once a week when inside under lights. The above right photo shows the rubber band holding the tree to the accent rock is still in place. The right photo shows the accent rock which I placed under the Sumo last year that will be replaced with the larger rock on the right this year.
Now planted high in the pot, the Sumo and the rock are just setting on the top of the soil. David suggested the larger stone and high planting position. Our goal is to grow this tree into what David has termed as a “Super-Sumo”. The soil is mixed with nutrient granules and topped off with coco peat and will be wrapped with the usual foil collar for another year. I used plastic wire ties to help spread the branches. I could have used wire but the risk of leaving wire scares would be high. The ties are wide and adjustable even under the foil collar. They also can be cut and removed without removing the foil collar.
From the before and after you can see my root-over-rock has put on a lot of green growth and notice how deep green the leaves are. I have learned over the years if you can get a good fertilizer schedule in place and stick to it, you will be amazed at how much greener and healthier your plants will become. Of course, the disclaimer goes here: It takes more than fertilizer for plants to put out healthy green growth. Let us not forget the other essentials required by the plants like water and light.
Over the course of a year, the plant has filled the pot with roots. It appears to be adhering to the rock. I combed out the roots and did no root pruning. I noticed it would be best if I planted this one a little deeper than I did the sumo. The roots in the lower quarter of the stone still needed guiding and retaining in the crevasses I created. That is why I used raffia to wrap the stone hopefully for just one more year.
Over the next year, the fine feeder roots will dry out and I will remove them as they do. I used red arrows to point out where I made my cuts so we could start the refining process with this plant. I am not certain I like my current pot choice. I believe its overall size works for now but the shape and color does not work for me. The pot will eventually be much shallower but I needed more room for the roots to grow so the bottom quarter can thicken and grasp the rock. It is early in the refinement process but to me the rock and tree are not in harmony. The rock’s movement is to the left but the tree seems to be moving right. This can be corrected next year by tilting the rock further left and changing the cut at the top of the tree, so the new growth will come out on the left side. When the new growth appears from the top, I can encourage it lean to the left. As new growth appears on the left branch, I will encourage it to grow longer than the branch on the right. This will also help the left ward movement. Not so fast, I will have to look at this from the other side and see if it offers a better view.
The initial repotting photo and the year later photo really tell the story. You can see some serious growth has occurred in one year. Remember I am from Michigan, it has been a cool summer so far this year, and during the winter, this plant is under lights. My plan was always to do a “Hawaiian Dragon”. I am probably less conservative than most and sometimes less than David is. For this plant, David even “let me off the chain”. David said this one had to be unique and not end up looking like any type of bonsai style. As you will see from the photos below, I hope I have accomplished the goal.
To my surprise, the tree had grown all the way down the foil column and into the pot below and even becoming root bound in only one year. After combing the roots out, they measured just over 12 inches long. I used raffia to hold the roots in a column shape. I want the top portion of the roots to be slender because I am going to be making some tight bends.
TWISTS AND TURNS
I had some difficulty with trying to affix wire to the foil prior to the wrapping of the tree. You will notice some wire in the completed photos. The wire ended up on the inside of the foil, which I think kept the foil from collapsing closed while I made my bends. The issue that arises is the foil will tear open during sharp bends if you wrap the tree before bending. David said to make the foil loose so I could bend it without tearing it. I did not have too much luck with that, probably because of the sharp bends I wanted to make. What seemed to work for me was figuring how long I needed the completed tree to be and cut my wire appropriately. You are better off having too much wire; you can always cut the ends off. Fold the foil in half so you are working with a section 6" wide filling with soil as you go. I found it easier to work with adding 6" sections at a time until I made it to my desired length.
The completed tree soaking in my bonsai fish tank intensive care unit (BFTICU). The tree is now too big to soak in a bucket. When this tree makes it down into the pot, the length of the trunk would measure approximately 24 inches. If last year’s growth is any indication, I should have no problem getting there. The only issue I see is watering this properly. It is a little tough keeping a fish tank full of water around to water only one tree. The second picture shows the twists and turns in better detail. My idea of a dragon is like the ones you see in a Chinese parade with the body of a snake and a head of a dragon.
Jay with the three original IWP's started one year ago and with the sumo (left) and the roots (Center in the top small photos and on the right in the large photo above) reported in the September 2013 Journal issue posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6w.html and the roots at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6x.html Because he had previous bonsai experience, Jay was one of the first to do an IWP Root-over-Rock that is also featured in his one year report and originally reported in the October 2013 Journal issue and shown after completion in the small right photo and after pruned in the center in the large photo above. Jay was one of the first to tackle such a challenge and the story is posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6y.html I recommend you go back to the original articles as you can really see the HUGE DIFFERENCES! GREAT PROGRESS JAY!
In contrast, note the modest differences in the juniper and the upright pine with the left photo from the September 2013 issue one year ago. The juniper has been rock-planted but the tree has not really developed much. Jay has worked on the pine but there also isn't anything like the one year development of his three original Dwarf Schefflera!
I know it is hard to wait a whole year before unwrapping your trees. Believe me as you can see it was well worth the wait. I know you might be disappointed that two of the three were re-wrapped for another year. I could have worked towards refinement with all of these trees but I wanted more. You need a little patience, it will happen. Easier said than done right? David mentioned that I have changed over the course of the past year. I thought I was pushing my luck with some of the root-over-rock trees I had done.
I have to say this dragon takes the cake and I'm surprised by the amount of growth these dwarf schefflera put on in a year’s time. If you look back to September 2013 article you will see the same trees pictured on the right. Notice their growth is noticeably less than the dwarf schefflera. David feels I am having more fun now than I did a year ago. Not certain I would use the word “fun,” I like the word “challenged.” Those at Fuku Bonsai and the editorial team help inspire, challenge, and drive me to do better. Ready to do better?
Enjoy the ride but take time to smell the roses!!
IN AND OUT RECOMMENDATIONS
I commented last month about some things you might want to check into before you bring your trees indoors for winter. I have noticed the mornings are darker when I water and the nights are getting cooler. Well for Michigan, this year has been one of the coolest I can remember, which prompted me to insert these ideas. I do not know about you but if there is an empty table around, inevitably things get placed on it. With these projects, my indoor light table is covered with “stuff.” If you have placed moss or pellet type fertilizer on your trees that you plan to bring indoors, now is a good time to remove those items. Pests like to live on or near moss and fertilizer pellets. Taking them off a few weeks before coming indoors will force the pests to find a better place to live. I will spray my trees, when I remember, a few times per the manufactures instructions, before they come in for winter. Lastly, check your light bulbs make sure they work and if there peak output has past then it is time to replace them.
- - - Jay (Bonsaijay@outlook.com)
SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID
WOW! Jay had shared a photo or two of a plant or two a few months ago and the growth has really been impressive in the past few months outdoors! I think everyone will agree that it is very possible to get a lot of growth in one year even in cooler Michigan! In a way, Jay should be expected to get as much development as at Fuku-Bonsai as the number of trees that he's growing is very small so each of his trees get a lot more attention then the average of each of the trees at Fuku-Bonsai!
This is a busy time for Jay as he's already planning how the trees will be brought in for the winter to grow in a heated area with lights. Jay has pruned just one of his three trees and I've suggested he prune the other two and have new growth being established as he brings them indoors. This advice is due to my guess that natural light is still stronger than his metal halide light that will likely not be able to penetrate the very heavy foliage mass and all he'll get may be spindly stretched out growth that will not add much bulk. I reasoned that by cutting back, he'll be able to get another set of branching and he'll get superior development and bulk if he allows another year of rampant growth.
I also advised him to get a larger container for that Dragon. Jay sent a note that he's already did more work on that large dragon and it's much more impressive. He has some ideas and plans before the plants go indoors and that will be included in next month's article. He also wants to do some saikei updates!
Jay invites those who do "In-and-out bonsai" to contact him to share your techniques or if you have questions he might be able to answer. I invite others who grow Dwarf Schefflera outdoors whenever night temperatures are above 55°F. We knew this was a common practice and that Dwarf Scheff really responds well. But this is probably the first documentation with photos and a contact resource person willing to share and to help others.
Jay is becoming an increasingly important member of our editorial team and he compliments Jerry and Ryan. Thomas and Jeff will become more active as they develop the very comfortable relationship. If you want to get help to learn the basics of True Indoor Bonsai, become an active member of the Beginner Study Group. If you want to continue on a long-term basis and more actively interact with others as we learn together, graduate and join the Fast-Track Study Group. Please email if you have questions.
Jay, congratulations and mahalo for the extensive contribution to this month's Journal!