Here's a photo of me in my warm plant room where my Tropicals & True Indoor Bonsai spend the winter and two photos of my outdoor bonsai display area and the mound of snow that cover my outdoor bonsai!
MY WINTER WINDOW INTO BONSAI
By John "Jay" Boryczko, Journal contributing editor (Farmington Hills, Michigan)
Many of you, who have been reading these Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai articles and projects produced by the editorial team probably wonder if you are up for that type of challenge. I can tell you this dog’s bark is worse than his bite in this case. Creating the types of bonsai/penjing plantings we and someday you can produce all have some type of challenges. What would life be without a few challenges along the way? Bonsai can sometimes be like eating; sometimes we bite off more than we can chew.
I wish I had pictures and remembered more of my beginner’s madness for bonsai in the late 1990s. I remember owning roughly 50 trees at one time. I bought on pure adrenaline, if it had an interesting leaf shape, habit of growth, or trunk color, I bought it. Giving little regard to what the plant required of me to survive. In the 1990s, information about growing a particular plant species as bonsai was hard to come by. My article this month will cover the challenges I faced, joining the “Fast Track Study Group”, rock plantings, the “360-Degree Rock-Planting Project”, joining the editorial team and bonsai in general. All with the hopes of keeping you from biting off more than you can chew.
Let's start at the beginning --- getting into bonsai as a hobby. I covered my history in the November article of this Journal. There are fewer obstacles now compared to just ten years ago. Plant material for instance. Now some websites list whether a plant is suitable for bonsai. That does not mean it will be a thriving bonsai or make a good bonsai for you. It means others have used it for creating bonsai, a little misleading don’t you think? Different plants have different requirements, just because it is a bonsai does not mean they all require the same care, from a horticultural perspective.
In the beginning, you want proven plants for your area and situation, which you have with Fuku-Bonsai Dwarf Schefflera; the True Indoor Bonsai. It is a houseplant first, so it tolerates indoor living conditions. Unbelievably, many plants suitable for bonsai will not survive long indoors. I would have supplied a picture of a dead plant to illustrate my point, but we all have seen a dead plant but don't keep a picture around to prove we killed it.
There's a difference between tropical and indoor plants. They both require temperatures above 55 degrees but tropical plants have higher light and humidity requirements than houseplants. Now I know before you run out and buy your first bonsai that you have addressed the challenges of keeping your new bonsai alive when you bring it home. Now is a good time to read the culture sheet that came with your Fuku-Bonsai True Indoor Bonsai and take the oath:
"I, _ (state your name), will not buy more plants than I have room for or can care for at any one time."
THE CHALLENGE OF STYLING
Paralyzed with fear many beginners forgo trimming and styling their trees all together. Styling and trimming your trees is what makes a bonsai, a bonsai. There have been literally thousands of books printed on the subject of styling accompanied, with a set of traditional rules. David also provides tips on styling without the traditional rules. The thing to understand about styling is you are the artist. You determine what looks good to you and trim and style according to your tastes.
The cultural sheet that comes with the Fuku-Bonsai’s True Indoor Bonsai explains pruning your plant to help achieve a pleasing design. A simple sketch of what your overall objective for your plant will help when it comes time to prune. This sketch will provide you a road map to follow when it is time to prune. It is easier to cut twice than it is to cut once and try to glue that branch back on.
THE PROBLEMS OF PESTS
I do not mean those things that bug you like the neighbor’s kid or dog. There are bugs that live off the juices a plant creates to sustain itself and grow. These pests are not much of a problem if you always grow your plants indoors and buy from a reputable grower. Like your neighbors kid however, somehow they manage to creep in. I end up bringing my pests indoors with me because I grow my indoor trees outdoors when temperatures stay above 55 degrees. There are steps to minimize the pests you bring in and I will cover that in more detail sometime before fall.
Pictured are a few of the pests I always seem to bring with me indoors. The first shows a meally bug. The second white dot is an aphid. The two brown spots are an insect known as scale. Sorry the picture is blurry but these pests are small. There are more. Some of the bugs I bring in are not all bad, like this ladybug. I have not seen her in a few months and hope she is OK. In the black circle, I highlighted some scale enjoying a meal. There are sprays and other methods of controlling pests on your plants, follow the directions and you should be fine. Really, pests are not very scary you just have to be diligent in your detection and eradication. David also provides advice on this site about pest control
BECOME A MEMBER OF OUR STUDY GROUP.
Joining the “Fast Track Study Group” was not a huge challenge, other than relying on e-mails and photographs instead of one-on-one interactions. It is the internet age after all so everyone should be used to corresponding via e-mail and other methods of communication. Using the internet allows David and the far-flung group members to interact with each other and you. We all cannot live in Hawaii. The group is diverse and is getting more diverse all the time with the addition of each new member.
David has the groups divided into growing conditions. If anyone of us fit your growing conditions there is an e-mail address so you may contact us if you have questions. For instance, Jerry’s focuses on those who grow under lights and indoors year round and specializes in Ficus. Ryan can especially help those who those who can grow outdoors year round. I can help those who grow outdoors when temperatures are above 55 degrees and indoors when below. In addition to being involved in all areas, David acts as ringmaster of this bonsai circus keeping the study group on track and focused. I am sure there are more groups that will be formed in the future as the need to cover a particular category is revealed.
INTRODUCING MY CHALLENGES AND GOALS
I am facing numerous challenges as I convert from my “Michigan-On-Rock Planting Style" to "Hawaiian Root-Over-Rock”. You can read about my challenges in the October 2013 and February 2014 issues of this Journal. After experiencing the potential of Hawaiian Root-Over-Rock, I don't plan to go back to Michigan Root-On-Rock Style.
My biggest bonsai challenge thus far was joining the Journal editorial team. It was a huge honor when David asked me to write for the Journal. Writing for such a large audience, combined with my poor English grades in school fuels my insecurity. I accepted because this was a way to exercise one of my demons once a month. I hope I am living up to everyone’s expectations.
MY ULTIMATE CHALLENGE: A 360° COMPLEX LANDSCAPE!
Each article I write until May or whenever I finally finish my current 360-degree, rock-planting project will include an update. In February’s issue, I shared the challenges of using rocks from my local landscape supplier. Those rocks are much harder than we (David and I) expected and completing this project by May’s Journal would prove difficult.
A feather rock also collected on the original rock-collecting venture would now become the focus of my current 360-degree rock project. This begins with cutting this rock into slices about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Then numbering the rocks and taking pictures with measurements to convey the actual sizes of the slices to David. I created a “sandbox” so I could stand the stones upright to visually see how they looked from all sides.
You need to take inventory of all the interesting aspects of your pieces and try to highlight them. Do not worry as I could not see it either at this point. I took what Dave was telling me on faith. I would need his faith that this was going to work, until I could see it for myself. The first order of business is to have a vision that inspires you. My inspiration was Mt. McKinley. David helped me see what I could not see and provided ideas with a layout design. There is no point in cutting and sculpting your rocks without an inspiring design layout, which may evolve as other aspects come into play. However, there needs to be a unifying design concept to help tie the design together.
In my case, my stones are oblong in shape when viewed from the top. One of my unifying design concepts was to orientate the stones so they all faced the same direction and flatten the tops. This provides some harmony in the design so it looks like the same forces such as, wind, water, and plate tectonics acted upon all of the rocks. Without a unified design tying the composition together, what you end up with is a random pile of rocks. With a design layout and a plan, I went to work. It was a slow process as I had never attempted something like this before --- but remembered that faith thing. David had me slice a few of my pieces #1 and #2 into thinner slabs pictured standing in my “sandbox”.
After several consultations e-mails with David, I managed to get my first pass on stone 2A complete. As I look at it now David was probably biting his tongue, wanting to give me the whole by Michigan Standards speech. I eventually had to work this stone several more times before I was comfortable really carving what I felt the stone had to show me. Pictured here is the rough final appearance. The plan is to have this rock stand about 6 inches tall but right now it is just over 8 inches. I still have a long way to go and a short time to get there, so stay tuned . . .
It might seem like taking on a hobby like bonsai might be more than you can handle. If you can keep a houseplant alive for more than six months, you should do fine. Just remember to follow the cultural sheet provided, you can read it online here on this site to gauge their requirements. David provides a wealth of information and you just need to look it over, I have. Please contact me at Bonsaijay@outlook.com if you want to discuss this article or if I can be of assistance! ~~~Jay
SOME FINAL WORDS BY DAVID
During the first Journal year, the goal was to teach basic Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai concepts --- the three styling concepts of Sumo, Roots, and Hawaiian Dragons and how to use the Introductory Workshop Package to take young prepared bonsai stock with established character within one inch of the soil level and to move it into bonsai training using carefully selected components. With all having a same common experience and knowledge, we will be moving together.
As members complete the Beginner Study Group, those interested in greater continuing challenges are becoming members of the Fast-Track Study Group to move to custom individual projects, to become Journal contributing writers to report on their individual projects, as well as becoming available to assist those in the Beginner Study Group if their time permits.
I lead the Journal editorial team that currently includes Jerry Meislik, Ryan Chang, and Jay Boryczko. Others will be invited once they are comfortable committing to participation every month as this is needed to create continuity and setting a strategy to cover various subject areas from different angles to increase understanding.
Generally once we move past the basics, some will order older trees and larger conversion kits (or the new Premium Introductory Workshop Packages) to move into intermediate bonsai challenges. Others are moving toward rock plantings which is an ideal next step as the addition of the rock creates an interesting scenic concept. There have been a range of rock planting articles and the Ryan and Jay are exploring the most complex landscapes. The concept is introduced in this issue of the Journal posted at: www.fukubonsai.com/4a19.html
The idea of teaching True Indoor Bonsai via the Internet and email was intriguing and so we began. Ryan and Jay are not afraid to try, to redo something when they get it wrong the first time, redo again when necessary, and move on when they do well. They've been a joy to work with and so I'm taking a joint leap forward and in this issue introducing "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD!" which is a multi-rock, multi-plant complex 360° landscape.
In the 1960's, I was an instructor for the Painting Industry of Hawaii's Apprenticeship Program and also a food service instructor at the 4995th Training Battalion on loan from my outfit the 442nd Infantry Battalion, 100th Infantry U.S. Army Reserve. As an instructor, I've always tried to challenge my students as they tend to get bored if all is too easy. And that's my strategy with Ryan and Jay. I sensed that they are not quitters, and that they have enough pride to continue if provided enough support and assistance. So far this has proven true and I'm betting that when they look back that they'll be pleased and proud of how quickly and how much they learned. I'm hoping that they'll go on to teaching others and enjoy doing so.
I hope to develop the leadership necessary so Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai can grow and expand beyond what Michael, Edison, Myrtle I can do. Fuku-Bonsai has a very competent but small staff and in training others we will increase the overall teaching capabilities. I appreciate Jerry, Ryan, Jay and the other members of the study group and invite others to join us!