A June 2004 update on Fuku-Bonsai's primary training technique:
This thesis utilizes Indian Hawthorne or "Kokutan" (Rhaphiolepsis indica) which were grown from seeds taken from the outstanding Kokutan bonsai of the late Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro planted in 1974. Papa utilized very conservative bonsai training techniques and hated to remove heavy trunks or branches because of the scars it created. He excelled in creating beautifully "finished" or refined bonsai, but his success was primarily based upon starting with exceptional stock with established trunks and main branches. Kokutan was one of the exceptions that he began from seed and trained using "building" techniques.
The two trees shown began training thirty years ago. In 1976, one was planted in the ground to develop a thicker trunk while the "control" plant continued to be trained by conservative methods in a pot. "Reduction-Building I" reported on the initial major reduction in the summer of 1981 that introduced the then new training technique to the Bonsai Kenkyu Club of Hilo. In 1994, a presentation educational panel showed the original training sequence and the two 20-year old plants. With the exception of the massive reduction of one tree, branches continued to be trained using Papa's techniques.
At 30 years old, both trees developed as Papa's would, with the difference of one having a much larger trunk and the styling of both having more movement compared to Papa's traditional upright designs. The crowns of both trees continued to grow larger.
|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. The plants were developed from seeds off his Kokutan bonsai and are now twenty years old.|
|Photo #5: June 2004. Twenty-three years after the initial Reduction-Building demonstration, ten years after the previous photo, and now at 30 years old. The two are similar to Papa's in that the trees tend to be a bit large for the pots. Because Papa did not like to prune back heavily, his older trees moved into larger pots every few years. Compared to the above photo, the pot appears to have become smaller because the tree has grown larger. The smaller tree has almost doubled in size so the pot appears to have dramatically shrunk.|
|Photo #6: A closer view of the educational panel that includes the initial 1981reduction sequence on the left and the 1994 photo (Photo #4 above).|
|Photo #7: The larger tree has a fairly large crown and Papa would tend to pot up such a tree in a slightly large pot such as the one shown. The two pots are similar in having the same leg, corner, and bottom beam details. The primary differences are that the lower pot has a more ornate flaring pot rim, is a bit larger, and has a different color and surface treatment. If the tree was removed and simply placed into the larger pot. It would need only a modest amount of root pruning and over time, it would continue to develop a larger crown. Kokutan and Papa's favorite Japanese Black Pine are relatively slow growing trees so the increase in pot size is gradual and repotting is simple.|
|Photo #8: This is how such a tree would appear using Papa's graduation sequence into larger pot. But for faster growing plants like Ironwoods (Casuarina) and Banyans (Ficus), the growth rate is so rapid that without heavy pruning, trees become HUGE resulting in the need for extraordinarily large pots or having bonsai that are in containers that are aesthetically much too small and very difficult to maintain. At Fuku-Bonsai, our normal practice is to continuously prune heavily so a tree would never get into this situation.|
|Photo #9: The tree was very heavily pruned to bring it back to the original styling design. Even with this extremely heavy pruning that removed over 95% of the foliage and branches, the pot still appears to have become smaller compared to photo #4. By removing over 95% of the top growth, it was very safe to remove well over 50% of the root structure to create a healthy ideal root system and and to exchange about 75% of all media in the container to produce an exceptionally healthy tree. If only a small amount of foliage is removed, only a small amount of media can be exchanged and it would be difficult to get strong vigorous growth.|
|Photo 10: The upper section of the second tree was heavily pruned to create very strong lowest branches. The rootage had developed a dynamic design and this was cleaned out and exposed to move the slanting plant into a more rugged penjing-type styling which is more characteristic of Fuku-Bonsai trees. Papa Kaneshiro's bonsai tended to be more traditional formal or informal upright styling.|
|Photo #11: The two trees at 30 years old. Both are continuing along a design path that was charted over twenty years ago. The larger tree has maintained the original styling and it is likely that it can continue to be in that same pot 20 years from now if it is heavily pruned back from time to time. From the beginning, the second tree had several options. In photo 2 taken in 1981, it could have been pruned to just the lowest branch to create a dynamic cascade or semi-cascade design. The current styling that exposed the roots moves the tree in that direction while preserving the option to remove or incorporate some top growth into a future styling.|
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 are no secrets. Masterpiece quality stock material make masterpieces possible!
Fuku-Bonsai's training techniques create bonsai utilizes a process that parallel 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. For slower growing trees like Kokutan, it may take 30 years to create a bonsai that has a clear distinctive personality.
Fuku-Bonsai's REDUCTION-BUILDING is especially applicable to tropical bonsai and uses accelerated growth techniques, 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."
Training bonsai requires development of long-term training strategies. The two Reduction-Training sections trace how this concept was applied to two Indian Hawthorn bonsai over a 30 year period. To get a better understanding, two website stories are related. The first titled "The Pre-styling Session" shows how stock with interesting potential are prepared for the major training session. During this session, a long-term training strategy is devised, the primary trunk base is selected and positioned, the major roots pruned, and the tree brought to optimum health. All of this effort will create the basis for success at a future training session to follow. Although Fuku-Bonsai's training concepts require more careful preparation, over time, it consistently produces plants that have exceptional health and which develop into outstanding bonsai. In these areas, there are no shortcuts! *** Go to "The Pre-styling Session"
Training can also be learned based upon another set of fundamental principles and another learning path is posted in the "TRAINING INDOOR BONSAI" portal section. Lesion #1 is based on "Potting." Lesson #2 is "Developing the Form." Lesson #3 is on "Pruning." This is similar, related, and parallel to "Reduction-Building." *** Go to "Lesson #3 PRUNING!"