(Left) Using the clunker type rocks sent by David, I created what looked best to me.  Note the special character rock with a nice natural bend.  (Right)  The rocks glued together still didnít make a big enough rock for planting, and also needed stable base.  I used a rock I found at a golf course in Waipahu, and in this picture, Iím trying to imagine, how I will start building.
By Ryan Chang,  Journal Contributing Editor (Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii)

                One of my objectives is to learn how to build rock formations to be usable for rock plantings.  The previous report shows how to sculpt the lava rock using tools.  Basically, I wasnít able to use tools on this one because the rock was too hard.  Instead, I tried to build a tapered structure.  It became my biggest rock to date, standing about 16Ē and the finished planting 22" high.  I used a cutting been training as a roots, to plant ďthe cowboyĒ. 

              The Cowboy planting represents bull-riding.  The rock is a tremendous rock.  A bull is a magnificent animal with strength and agility in motion. The way the plant sits on the saddle brought out the idea of a cowboy riding a bull.  The branches extended in the air as if the cowboy is raising a hand above his head while enduring the ride of his life.


              A champion bull rider beyond his prime can be close to death many times. But this time is different; his illness will bring out the best of him.  Although he can hardly walk, he dreams of riding one last time. He's no ordinary cowboy, winning back-to-back championships on multiple champion bulls.  He wanted to go out in a blaze of glory instead of waiting for death to come for him. 


             One morning before the sun had shown its face, he dressed in his best outfit suited for a day like this.  He made his way out to the open wild in search for a perfect ride.  He rode out on his horse until the sun just peeking over the mountains, and he witnessed the most beautiful sunrises ever saw. That day everything seemed more nostalgic --- the smells were stronger, the wind a bit cooler, everything perfect. 


             Then, a single massive bull grazed freely.  The cowboy slowly made his way towards the bull sending his horse free.  The tale goes as soon as the man approached the bull; for a brief time, he looked like a cowboy again, riding the incredible animal gracefully with such violent movement below him.  He managed to stay on for longer than 8 seconds and kept riding until he could no longer tell if he was in this world or the next.  With that image, the cowboy planting was born --- a moment captured in this bonsai tree. 


            I decided to name the rock creation ďINTENSE FINESSEĒ as all champion bulls should have a name!










           (Left)  Using more rocks glued together to make bigger pieces, I went for it and created a piece that looked like half a mountain.  (Right)  his was the back view of what I thought was my completed first attempt.  I then received a critique from David which showed how much more I could accomplish. 

            This is one of the side views that David showed me how to advance the rock from that point.  I must admit part of me kind of wanted to plant it on the smaller looking rock, but I knew better than to argue with experience, and so I gathered up my remaining rocks and did a dry build. 

                  I was then able to modify Davidís plan after seeing how the rocks I had left looked in the dry layout.   Note: Davidís plan was more tapered than mine; I sort of flared out the top while still trying to keep the top smaller than the bottom to achieve a tapered look. 









         (Left)  The front view with the remaining rocks to be glued and used along with the figure 8 bonsai wires for anchor loops.  The loops will be glued into crevices to be used to help secure the tree and its roots to the rock.  This proved to be very helpful especially if you have a rock with little to no crevices or  channels for the roots to grasp.   (Right)  The front view after being glued together with liquid nails.  I strengthened the structure by making sure each piece touched and connected to another piece.  I also made use of the bind wire keeping the form tight.  3 black plastic pipes were used to help stand the rock up. 









             (Left)  After the liquid nails dried, I applied the Quickcrete over the glued areas and also some weak areas just in case.  I used crumpled aluminum in the open spaces to prevent the concrete from blocking any openings.  With the Quickcrete, this is the perfect time to shape some crevices and channels while it is still wet.  However, I only realized once it dried that couldnít drill into the Quickcrete surface.  Donít forget the bottom needs to be wider than the whole rock to keep everything above it stable.  (Right)  After 2 weeks in shade, the rock was ready for painting.  I took a suggestion from David and went with a silver and black two-toned rock.  On the surface, you can see silver, while from bottom angles, the rock is totally black.  This is the back view.









           (Left)  This is the back view at an angle from the top, showing movement in the rock.  (Right)  A side view of the swaying bull trying to buck the rider off its rocky ledges.









          (Left)  Another front view, catching a dark hue from the bottom areas.  It really gives the sliver a boost.  The plan is to plant the tree on the arc on the top with the hole.  Itís a little shorter than the arc to the left.  (Right)  This view can be compared with the second sketch and shows the completed version of the colored layout.  Note: the cave like structures from top to bottom.










         (Left)   Showing the bottom of the half flat with the anchor wires tied down securely.  (Right)   My plant #11 was used to complete this rock planting.   









           (Left)  Jumping ahead, I realized I was moving a lot quicker and had to take a photo.  Using the damp sphagnum moss, I trailed out a course for the roots and sprinkled Nutrient Granules as best as I could trying to tuck some in beneath the moss.  I also used the modified spoon to layer some fine media and pushed everything down to make it compact. Using bindwire, I made use of the anchor hooks and tied the plant to the rock. Securing the roots were much easier than expected.  The tiewire helped hold some of the sphagnum moss that was falling off.  I may have to one day maneuver them and add some body media to mimic a pot planting within one of the openings.  However, Iím confident that growth will follow where I lay the body media when forming the body. 

           (Right)  A close up of the saddle area.   A good amount of body media was used, so Iím confident that the roots will grow where needed.   The anchor hooks proved to be very useful.  I chose to plant against the rock instead of more in the middle because this way I can use more body media on the saddle area for a better chance of maximum growth.









            An overall view of the planting.  Starting from the inside, I form the aluminum base and make sure I have the body media started where I want the roots to grow once it hits the bottom. By pushing the collar firm to the bare rock, it gave me freedom to pour enough body media in places that needed it.  I worked my way up to the roots and made sure there was damp sphagnum moss to coat the top and some fine body media added as well.  Nutrient Granules was used throughout the planting and created air holes in the body and taped everything to firm tight.  Iíd like to train the lowest branch to do a kasa/cascade to mimic the cowboyís wild ride.  The rest will be trained upwards; I think it will be an extreme look to match the extreme lifestyle the cowboy lived.




:          SOME THOUGHTS BY RYAN.  After doing so many re-dos and plantings, Iím finding a rhythm when doing working on the trees.  I have an easier time picturing what I want to do, and then attacking that plan. 


            David helps and gives his thoughts.  I take what he gives me and run with those ideas.  I still try to ask questions when Iím confused about something and David has been kind enough to simplify things for me when he starts throwing out ideas.  Iím excited about the holiday season, even though in warm/cool Hawaii, these last few months of the year are my favorite.  Much Aloha!   - - - Ryan (ryan_a_chang@msn.com)                 


          THOUGHTS FROM DAVID:  We on the Big Island of Hawaii are very fortunate to have an abundance of ideal rocks for bonsai.  When I lived on Oahu I was always hunting for rocks and from time to time found interesting rocks.  I recalled that I once planted two Japanese Black Pine seedlings in a cavity of my prized rock, and when it became time to move to the Big Island, I either had to leave that Black Pine Rock Planting on Oahu or cut out the trees,  clean out the cavity to pass inter-island quarantine requirements, to bring that rock to the Big Island.  But once here,  that rock that I had treasured was surpassed by just most of the rocks on the Big Island! 

           So I've been encouraging Ryan and others to learn how to effectively create rock formations and Ryan has contributed some nice ideas.  He's introduced me to a type of paint that is sprayed on and foams to have an interesting texture.  That may be used to reduce the porosity of some of our easily sculptured rock that is an unattractive reddish color. 

          Using a construction chaulking called Liquid Nails,  we've glued together hard rocks.  We use colored cement to reinforce and hide the joints and an article is posted at www.fukubonsai.com/4a16.html in this issue.  Ron Davis of Montana used that technique to create an interesting "rock pile" of rounded rocks.  So this technique should be useful for those who don't have natural rocks and I look forward as Ryan further applies his concepts to create more interesting formations!  CONGRATULATIONS RYAN! 

   ***  Return to the November 2013 Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
   ***  Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
   ***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai website
          © Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai 2013