An introduction to Fuku-Bonsai's primary training technique:
The great majority of the finest bonsai are created from trees collected from the tree-line or other areas where harsh conditions cause trees to severely die-back. During kinder years, the trees grow back, only to get killed back again. This "grow-and-die-back" cycle produces trees with extraordinary character and such trees have exceptional potential. There's really no secret. Masterpiece quality stock material make masterpieces possible!
Creating bonsai is a process that parallels the development of a natural tree. Both can begin as seedlings. The natural tree passes through several stages beginning as a "whip," then an intermediate stage, then mature and decline. This are discussed in another section. Most bonsai depict trees in the mature or decline stages. Each tree specie has a different life-span but it may take 50 to 100 years or more for the tree to reach the mature stage. Collecting naturally shaped bonsai stock allows you to work with aged plant material that already has character.
Fuku-Bonsai's REDUCTION-BUILDING is a parallel technique that is especially applicable to growing tropical bonsai. Temperate climate trees tend to grow much slower but the Japanese use a similar technique in growing stout Azalea bonsai and miniature mame bonsai. This thesis begins with one of our earlier documented presentations that utilized Indian Hawthorne or "Kokutan" (Rhaphiolepsis indica) which was grown from a seed planted in 1974, pre-trained, then ground-planted in 1976.
Without the restriction of a container, the tree developed much faster and larger with a stouter trunk. The plant was dug out in the spring of 1981and was part of a demonstration given to the Bonsai Kenkyu Club of Hilo. This was part of a very active year in which we formed the Big Island Bonsai Association and began the 3-year project "Revitalization of Bonsai on the Big Island." Up until then, most of the Big Island growers were utilizing training methods more associated with Japanese bonsai. In the tropics, these methods produced results very slowly as seedlings were trained as bonsai with the entire process in pots.
REDUCTION-BUILDING uses accelerated growth techniques (to be covered later) and massive reduction, followed by strong regrowth, moderate reduction, and training primarily by pruning. It produces larger trunks with character and taper, interesting branches, and exciting highly variable bonsai stock with "individual character."
|Photo 1 was taken just prior to the demonstration to the Bonsai Kenkyu Club of Hilo where this technique was first presented publicly. The plant had just been dug from the ground and measured 30" tall and 75" wide. If the cuts are made next to a branch which becomes the new trunk, you'll achieve two cycles of Reduction-Building in one session. When collecting from the wild, reduction is usually done before digging out the plant to compensate for loss of roots.|
|Photo 2 shows the same plant after four cuts now greatly reduced to only 15" wide x 15" tall. The plant is in a 16" diameter aluminum pan and wired securely to prevent any shaking. It also shows another plant from the same seed batch. Both were trained by pruning. One was ground planted for accelerated growth while the other continued to be trained in a traditional size container.|
|Photo 3 is a close-up view taken from another
angle shows different ways to reduce:
Photos 1, 2, & 3; Reproduced from the Fall 1981 issue of the Fuku-Bonsai Review; © Fuku-Bonsai
|Photo#4: June 1994. Thirteen years after the Reduction-Building demonstration both trees have developed well. The larger tree still has a heavier trunk but the smaller tree is now growing faster because it's been planted in a larger pot. Note that Kokutan naturally produces very angular branches. While the trunks were developed by our Reduction-Building technique, branches and training follows a pruning method taught me by the late Haruo Kaneshiro. These plants were developed from seeds off his Kokutan bonsai that he gave me in 1974.|
The seeds were initially planted in 1974 so photo #4 was taken when the two trees were 20 years old. These are temperate climate trees that grow relatively slowly in tropical Hawaii. An updated report has been made when the trees were 30 years old to show the development, the options of training strategies, and how the principles of the basic Fuku-Bonsai Reduction-Building technique is applied. *** Go to "Reduction-Building II" (June 2004)