Adansonia grandidieri, baobab from Madagascar; Sunset baobabs Madagascar; 
                     Photo by Bernard Gagnon (Wikimedia Commons)
By Ryan Chang,  MPBF Journal Contributing Writer (Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii)

              As I was growing up one of my favorite movies was “The Lion King”.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie was when they showed “The Tree of Life”, the African Baobab tree.  There are many types of Baobab trees and I decided to style my plant #7 modeled after the Grandidier’s Baobab, a very tall and  majestic tree with a single huge trunk.  But I'll try to create a version in which the single huge trunk is created with many roots that I hope will fuse together with age! 

                The tale of the "Tree of Life” is from a land where many people perish looking for a special tree. Some say it has mystical powers. Others say healing powers.  Many travelers have heard the tale and many never returned for this land is an unforgiving one --- no water, no food, no shade. 

                One day a group of unlikely survivors who had been traveling for days were losing all hope of finding the mystical tree when their vehicle broke down.  They were surviving on the last of their strength. The sun was setting and they were ready to camp for the night  .  .  .  AND THERE IT WAS!

                 One of the young and able, whose eyes have not yet played tricks on his weary mind, wondered if his eyes were starting to fail him when he saw a dark figure in the distance.  The dark figure cast a shadow that was not only the first they saw in days, but it was the biggest shadow they had ever seen.  

                  With each exhausting step, their excitement built and they noticed it was a tree .  .  .  a tree that provided shade from the sun, and fruit for food.   By the time, the group reached the tree, it started to rain.  The young man used the long fibers of the tree to make ropes.  He used the rope to climb up the tree and pick fruit for the group below.  Rain poured down from its branches and the people sat under the tree and feasted while others used what dry leaves and wood they could find to start a fire. The tall tree, like a light house, can be seen from far away giving hope to those looking to find their way.   _________________________________________________________________________________

              NOTE FROM DAVID  :  This is the first of a new series of articles by Journal Contributing Writer Ryan Chang. Previously,  he provided reports on specific Fuku-Bonsai Introductory Workshop Packages, the all day workshop at Fuku-Bonsai, and redoing some of his earlier trees.  Ryan is in a unique situation in that he lives in a suburb of Honolulu is able to fly over to the Big Island from time to time.  He grows his collection outdoors year-around and has enough space to incorporate an extra "grow-out" training strategy.

              Fuku-Bonsai develops its basic prepared bonsai stock in 2" nursery pots using a huge number of training techniques employed at different times of the year,  applied in a full range of conservative to radical applications, with multiple transplanting so plants grown upright, slanting, or even with rocks on them!  Some are single trunked trees that may have first branches very low with others having longer trunks and higher branches.  Some are very short and stout with two or three trunk thicknesses and taper.  A very few are thinner with elegant curves.  Many have two, three or more trunks.  All of these efforts are attempts to create a full range of trees with character!

              Plants are graded and those with insufficient character and branches are culled out. Some become lava plantings, others go to be Introductory Workshops, while others enter "GROW-OUT" training to become larger older plants including Custom Collection.  In appreciation for his contributions and willingness to help others,  Ryan Chang, Ron Davis, and others in the Fast Track Study Group are getting access to these premium starter plants to use for their own GROW-OUT efforts. They've agreed to share their stories and ideas!         ________________________________________________________________________________

By Ryan Chang



              David is trying to teach me that to produce a high quality varied bonsai collection, that each and every bonsai should be treated as an unique individual and have a long-term training strategy or concept BEFORE starting the first training session.  I've numbered each of my plants and creating a folder for each to include the earliest photos,  analysis and ideas, and photos and notes from the initial training session as well as future sessions.  I'll try to come up with one interesting article per month but will be working on all other trees and keep building up the content in each tree's folder. So a year from now,  I may be able to introduce another of my bonsai, tell the story about the inspiration for the styling, show my original idea sketch, and may even be able to share dated photos showing the progress towards development.

              I selected plant # 7 to interpret "THE TREE OF LIFE" because of its strong roots that were thick, but aiming downwards.  There were others that had stronger roots, but would be too wide for the tall slim trunk-root line.  This is where my creativity burst free.  The root structure would be wild and tangled, creating multiple patterns and not just grow straight down!   I would like the roots to form a tight yet uniform trunk-root column. To do this I’m thinking of using tooth picks to interrupt and off set the downward growth.  The tooth picks will be inserted through the holes created in the aluminum body and I hope this will create good character within the plant. 

          I started from the top and pulled down taking careful measure not to cut through major tangled roots.  This picture shows the side/bottom angle after straightening out roots and removing media from above the roots.  I had to break the bottom in order to straighten the longest root which was crossing the bottom. Another smaller root on the top left still needs to be pulled down.

          I then tried to leave as much of the media and fine roots beneath the trunk as possible, the roots were not that long, so I ended up only using a narrow aluminum cushion strip made by folding the foil several times. I had placed it a little higher because placing it lower would break when I tried to tighten it. 

          David suggested uses a corrugated cardboard strip about half an inch to ¾ an inch wide to compress the older roots more to a downward direction.  He also recommended that I use a temporary aluminum cup/collar filled with sphagnum moss around the top of the trunk base area. I ended up trying to keep twisting to tighten the cushion.


       This part seemed easy when thinking about it, but actually applying method to form was another story. I found it easier to tie the rock in place first and then sticking the ends of the wire up beneath the roots;  I just hope I haven’t damaged too much of the roots by doing so.  I was a bit clumsy with them because I wasn’t sure how to stabilize everything.  It all came together once I started to add the body and course mix along with the nutrient granules.  (The aluminum became unleveled when tightening, so you can see a piece hanging at the bottom of the roots area, I later fixed that). 


       Since the structure was about 10 inches, I just wanted to make sure to cover that.  I laid the plant down and kind of like making/rolling sushi.  I added all the ingredients: body, coarse mix, and the granules, mostly covering the roots and the immediate growing area.  Then I started to roll like sushi, taking care to choke around the neck of the plant so the media wouldn’t fall out.  Added more from the bottom

     After doing a few attempts at Roots, I noticed that most of them seemed to be developing vertical marks, brown/black stems, that looked dried up.   The leaves turned lighter in color and some have dried to the point where they fall off or easy to peel off during watering’s during the week.   David recommended I build an area to better humidify my plants. 

      I was able to stabilize the plant and form the tall, slim, baobob looking tree.  The foliage will be in a form of a china man’s hat or a bell like shape.  The trunks lend a hand to the future shape of the foliage; I’ll just have to manage them and make sure they keep its basic structure.

        The plant is now in a standard 8” nursery pot, a good 1/3 of the bottom is planted in the ground media, provides strong support so there's no need to tie down. I wrapped the bottom area around with plastic and covered that with the black material to provide a little more humidity and to block the wind from drying out the roots from the bottom.   

        Note: using the method from Ron Kalt.  I tried to create a little surrounding with the plastic wrap around my baobob style plant and placed most of them on humidity trays with gravel/red cinder.

        I think only the ROOTS over Rock that I did with you on the Big Island is the only ROOTS that I didn't have any trouble with other than the IWPs.  Its thriving in FULL SUN along with the SUMO. I've updated my rack enclosure to create a better atmosphere for the ROOTS.  I think I solved the problem with the ROOTS.  I believe the ROOTS were drying out too much, which is why I believe the ROOTS over Rock is doing well because of the keto-tsuchi keeping everything damp. 

        This setup has been holding its moisture and not drying out.  I don't water every hour like Jerry, but maybe three times  a day , I'll let the misters run for 15-20 seconds.  It creates a small puddle of water on the bottom for extra humidity, and I usually drain it daily.

                I hope to see some new growth which will tell me that I’ve laid the ground work, now that I've to created a relationship with the specific tree and I'll do my best not to let it die.  The photo below is a print out of tree I found on Wikimedia that matched my story and future “Tree of Life”. 
                    Adansonia grandidieri Morondava by Olivier Lejade (Wikimedia Commons)

                    Plant # 7 has gone through many changes during its initial workshop.  It's another one that I had to re-do a few times either because I wasn’t satisfied with my own work, or when David advised some helpful tips.  I’m lucky to be able to have feedback as David’s helpful advice always benefits the design I want to create. 

                   Seeing the potential of the older Dwarf Schefflera bonsai in the Fuku Bonsai collection in Kurtistown, I recognize that this plant has a great chance to become whatever form you can imagine and this is realistic once you know what is possible and what is not. I need to learn the details and pay full attention to the media, watering, and the intermittent care.   In order for this rare tall and slim design to develop, I need to have discipline.  One day I hope to gaze on this bonsai tree in awe with a majestic mystical feel of the Grandidier’s Baobob! 

                  A NOTE BY DAVID:  It's rare to find a person with the energy, interest, and enthusiasm that Ryan posseses and he's a great addition to the editorial team.  From time to time the editorial team distributes drafts and have a chance to make input.  Jerry Meislik told of his misting system and within a week, Ryan had his up and running!  Ryan has a generous growing area and with his interest needs a larger collection to give him enough activity.  So we're putting together an "advanced growing-on" project that will use some commercial bonsai nursery techniques to more develop and create advanced stock prior to major training sessions and he will have articles about these techniques as they apply to specific plants in future articles.

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