(left)  One year after I began with Fuku-Bonsai, my growing area is shrinking.   Note: the painters plastic tarp is ready to be replaced and I plan to use just regular shade cloth from now on.  Iíll only use plastic when I need to build a shaded humidity tent for sick plants.  There are a few more racks to my right with more Dwarf Schefflera plantings.  (right)   My other growing area; 2 racks provides shade for the bottom recovery plants and also to root cuttings.  The plants on the very top catching the most sun and wind.  Shade cloth surrounds and lines the racks.  The empty fish tank I use as a humidity chamber covered with a piece of wood to keep the moisture in.  A few of my Chihuahuas keep guard. 


By Ryan Chang (Journal Contributing Editor)  Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii
(With comments by David W. Fukumoto of Fuku-Bonsai in bold italics)

              One year ago, I was golfing pretty much every day, walking twilight and catching 9 holes a day was satisfying for me.  I loved being out on the gorgeous fairways.  I would often stop to look at the scenery and the trees.    It was this love of nature that brought me to bonsai, and it's been an up and down fun year of successes and failures. I hope readers enjoy the articles.  It's been great sharing bonsai and everyone has a good attitude as we seek advice from others.  So, it's been a joy getting to know everyone.  Mahalo David, Jerry, Ron, and Jay!  One important thing I learned from David is subtle and direct, like the quote below.

ďA creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.Ē - Ayn Rand

              (From the very beginning, Ryan had the energy and poetic soul of a promising bonsai evangelist! He ordered multiple Introductory Workshop Packages and sent an email that he received them.  A few hours later another email told of his first effort, then another and another!  There was no time for me to respond, to advise, or assist.  So I emailed him to stop and follow my rules or not to ever write me again!  I got his attention.  ~~~David)

             JANUARY 2013 (Showing 10 months growth)  My first Roots Introductory Workshop Package.   In this photo, you can see the left branch really outgrew the others.  I added a higher lip of aluminum to help keep moisture in as the old foil decayed.  Roots were going straight down into pot, goal achieved. 

       (So the first task at hand was to teach discipline,  to take the time to plan,  and the basics of how to create exceptional growth.  He's done well.  Learning training techniques can wait!)

                FEBRUARY 2013  (Showing 9 months growth)  The second IWP "Skinny Sumo" looked great in this photo.  A small rock lies under the small right branch.  The aluminum collar secured to push root growth into the pot.  Just 2 or 3 leaves are on each branch. Look at the growth!  The media emerging out of the pot and roots thicken or multiply.  I had to replace the aluminum collar as the previous one fell apart.  The trunks have thickened nicely and foliage grown out, aerial roots growing wildly.  Even the pot is battered from the water and sun.  There is a 3rd trunk behind the left one growing outwards.

       (Initially Ryan was the boo-boo king making rash progress that needed to be re-done.  He learned that bonsai is not just a matter of cranking them out.  He learned that creation of unique trees that would become special friends with mutual dependencies. He flew over to the Big Island and took three challenging Fuku-Bonsai 1:10 Project workshops. From that point on,  progress was rapid!)


                   MARCH 2013 (Showing 8 months growth)  Another roots planting.  Note: the opposing branches almost directly across from each other.  I didnít notice it until now, but I let it grow out anyway.  I used little aluminum wrappers around each of the roots, at the time, it was a mistake, but David advised lets see what happens!  I also added another foil collar as the roots were just ripping the old collar off.  Since, it was growing out of the pot, I just covered it all with aluminum and pushed it inwards towards the pot.  Note: the 2 opposing branches grew out nicely and now one is clearly lower than the other.  The three IWPs have grown well, and Iím excited to advance them into the next level.

        (By the end of the third month, Ryan had developed discipline and was ready to take on large challenges.  What he lacked in skill and technique,  he more than made up with enthusiasm and the willingness to learn from his mistakes.  We set the course for him to learn all aspects of bonsai cultivation to be able to help others in the future. He enlarged his collection with a number of young plants to develop and a few promising older trees to set high standards.)

                   APRIL 2013 (Showing 7 months growth)  This photo shows how much the plants were drying out in the 2Ē pots during the day in full sun.  It is under watered and leaves burning off from the sun.  This is my Baobab style planting, and I wasnít sure if it was going to make it.  The leaves seem to be drying up daily, so I got some advice from David and Jerry. Jerry uses a misting setup to keep his plants nice and moist.  I implemented this idea into my racks.  I covered all sides with painters plastic tarp and even wrapped the bottom.  I started misting 3 times a day and reduced it to 2 times a day for a few months.  Towards the ending of summer, I removed all plastic and lined the bottom with shade cloth to keep the wind from blowing up into the pots and also hoping to keep humidity at the pot/saucer level.   Once I believed it was strong enough, I moved it into full sun, and thatís how I got the foliage to reach up towards the sky.

          (I think this was a break-through tree for Ryan and when it survived, he took on a whole new level of confidence and began to believe that it was possible to one day master bonsai.  So we began to develop extraordinary prepared bonsai stock utilizing Fuku-Bonsai's accelerated growth technique which produces stout trunks, strong low branches, large buttressing roots, and a very shallow root system ---  in a system that requires very little attention.) 


                     MAY 2013 (Showing 6 months of growth!)  My little samurai planting shown here surprised me with its growth. It uses Fuku-Bonsai's "Accelerated Growth" technique.  When completed, he advised me to put it somewhere and forget about it.  I put it in full sun on the sunniest rack as the roots were protected by the shade cloth and blue chip rocks. You can see that the trunks have grown to almost an inch wide.  The growth is just as strong as my other sumo in the 1:10 project.  Iím looking forward to uncover what has developed under the blue chip rocks. 
          (At this stage,  I taught Ryan my "Book-ends Concept"  that if you are making a Sumo, make it extra stout with HUGE masculine trunks,  powerful growth with dominant impact.  But also learn how to create tall delicate Root designs that have a feminine elegance!  His assignment was to create a full wide range of all forms of bonsai,  but especially Roots, as these will be needed once we move into rock sculpturing and planting.  From the very beginning,  I urged Ryan to study rocks as besides Sumo, Roots, and Hawaiian Dragons, Root-Over-Rock is another distinctive True Indoor Bonsai styling direction.)
                    JUNE 2013 (Showing 5 months of growth) Standing about 20Ē, after recovery, I put this one in full sun against the winds as well.  The leaves are a bright green texture is a bit soft, clearly grown in a bit of shade.  The trunk has turned white and even showing some crackling from the sun.  The foliage has strengthened and now standing up towards the sun.

         (Ryan began to become more comfortable in thinking long-term and learned what we call the "preparation stages" of training bonsai.  Unlike traditional Japanese temperate climate bonsai that keeps all trees neatly trimmed and attractive at all times, I taught Ryan to do major training after analysis, strategic planning, followed by a complex workshop.  Between such major sessions,  encourage vigorous rampant growth to allow the tree to build the strength to be able to quickly recover.  As he develops more skill, he will be able to pre-trim and nip early so that desirable growth occurs where he wants it.)


                  JULY 2013: (Showing about 4 months of growth)  After defoliating the tree, I put it in 30% shade with the winds, I watered it twice a day, (which now I consider over watering).  Note: just 1 leaf left on each branch. Iím pleased with the tree's progress in just a few months.  The foliage is a bright yellow/green, well fertilized, but not to the point where the leaves are wrinkling.  It should starting throwing out new growth points in another few months. 

         (In July, Ryan visited and participated in a major presentation at Fuku-Bonsai that utilized a hollow rotted trunk planted with several older bonsai in a manner that they will develop into a single large bonsai.  We had time to discuss the critical stages that a tree goes through and the criteria and actions needed at each stage.  We discussed how the greatest bonsai in the world were developed by nature over hundreds of years in harsh environments and the shapes that resulted are an accumulation of random major catastrophes. The magnificence of such trees are an appreciation of individual character that is absent in nursery trees trained using traditional Japanese bonsai rules that tends to create bonsai that all look alike.  So the challenge of each grower is to know what to create and how to do it rather than follow rules!)   


                AUGUST 2013:  (Ryan's overall collection with the two lower photos showing about 4-5 months of growth between the two photos) The roller coaster/waterfall tree after its defoliation.  I left quite a few more leaves on the branches on this one.  At this point, I already removed up to 80% of its leaves. From June 2013 to now, the growth is showing me its love by growing in a heart shape.  Once I placed it in full sun and withheld watering for days at a time, it really took off. I admit I never allowed it to wilt and always watered at least 2 times a week.  I rotate the tree every couple of weeks.

        (In spite of his early difficulties,  Ryan very quickly mastered the Dwarf Schefflera horticultural requirements. Some Hawaii bonsai growers refuse to grow this tree as bonsai as they claim it's too easy!  They struggle to grow Japanese Black Pine which is difficult in the tropics.  I still can't understand why they prefer to grow poorly developing extremely slow-growing trees that easily die instead of trees that grow beautifully and suitable as gifts to friends and family!)

                   SEPTEMBER 2013:    (This is the month that Ryan led the Fast-Track Study Group to begin rock sculpturing and planting.) This tree will one day be a kasa (umbrella) type crown as it's already crossing over and going in all directions.  I will try to keep it low and wide, using the clip-and-grow method.  This tree really thrills me.  Knowing what the rock looks like, I canít wait to one day discover the root growth around and within the blue turtle rock.  In less than a month, the recovery is the fastest of all, how ironic that the turtle won the race and growing out new leaves so quickly!  I watered it twice a day while it recovered in the empty fish tank shaded by shade cloth wrapped around one of my racks.  Now, it grows amongst the sun dwellers. 

         (Six months or so from our start,  I felt that Ryan needed another major challenge to sustain his interest and attention as I wanted to continue that extraordinary learning curve that he was on.  So I introduced him to the concept of Hawaiian rock sculpturing and he naturally fell into a destined niche in which his personality would express itself.  From the very beginning, no matter what he did, I encouraged him to be bolder! I never thought of sealing and painting rocks to make them stronger and have more attractive texture.  So I was delighted when I saw his first results and encouraged and urged him on!)

                 OCTOBER 2013:   This was an 8-month 1: 10 Project report that began in February when I flew over to the Big Island to do a workshop with David.  I continue to learn from these plants.  Just when I thought I was making a leap forward, I was kicked back hard with another death to the family.  I didnít account for the root loss and the major cut back, so the fact is I should water less.  However, after just taking out the root over rocks and seeing how well they recovered.  I figured it would be a quick recovery if I follow the same method with my Sumo that I had just done multiple re-dos.  And boom a week later, I started noticing my new growth points dying out.  Thinking that it was just stressed, I made no changes, then all the leaves started showing signs of over watering.    The second photo shows the updated trees just a few weeks after the October report that compared with Davidís three 1:10 trees.  His has done well with steady growth on all 3 plants.  I obviously have some work to do and much to learn from my plants.

           (The 8-month report of the three 1:10 Project from the February workshop was a major test for both Ryan and Fuku-Bonsai.  We don't like skinny beginner trees in deep heavy pots and to produce more attractive results, we've created stout short trees with trunk character and low branches within one inch of the soil line and a shallow compact root system within 1/2" of the soil line.  The 1:10 Project is a major initiative to prove shallow potting is both possible and desirable whether you are growing True Indoor Bonsai either indoors year around or outdoors whenever night temperatures exceed 55įF.  While Fuku-Bonsai had no problems,  Ryan struggled.  So Ryan will be creating a new round of 1:10 Project plantings to be in future reports.  We are developing more sophisticated ways to create the aluminum foil collar and adjusting our potting media and procedures to better control the surface contours in the shallow containers.  Stay tuned!) 

            NOVEMBER 2013:   For the past several months,  I've been privileged to be an observer as  Ryan Chan moved forward in a major new direction ---  the creation of exciting rocks to be planted with "Root-Over-Rock" methods.  This type of planting has the greatest potential to become a long-lived bonsai as the tree can be rejuvenated with periodic repotting as it becomes pot-bound.  Ryan lives on Oahu which is not known to have exceptional rocks for bonsai.  So creating exciting rocks using creative techniques provides opportunities for anyone who likes the challenge of rock plantings but does not have a source of such rocks!
            In September, his first rock sculpturing article was very impressive in terms of original design as well as in his outrageous choice of color!  But that's the mark of a truly gutsy innovator.  He shared with me some of his options and while he came up with selections that could have fooled or pleased even the most conservative bonsai grower,  I'm delighted that for the November article, Ryan coated first with black to highlight the holes and textures with a silver overlay on the upper edges.  While non-traditional,  the rock planting will likely weather well and be distinctive.
             I recently sent Ryan a carton of rocks for him to work as time and inspiration becomes available.  Ryan will be here in December and I've asked him to sculpture and finish a medium size rock that will be planted to be a part of Fuku-Bonsai's permanent collection.  If I sound proud of him it's because I am.  Ryan was never my student as I squashed it the first time he called me "sensei."  At Fuku-Bonsai,  no one is called sensei as it an honorific title that has a lot of traditional cultural baggage that continues for life.  We've been equals and friends and he's fulfilling the faith that I had in him from the start.
             I was pleased that Jerry Meislik supported my recommendation that Ryan Chang be a Journal Contributing Editor.  He brings a lot of energy and originality on the next generation.  Bonsai is evolving and Ryan will help us to keep at it.  In November,  we welcomed John "Jay" Boryczko as our fourth Journal Contributing Editors and now there's a growing camaraderie of diverse individuals to lead the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai!  As we close out our first year of publication, I thank everyone and invite more to become involved!

          ~~~David W. Fukumoto  (david.f@fukubonsai.com)

              And for the first time,  Ryan gets the last word! 


             YEAR-END CONCLUSION:  Every morning, I sit at my desk looking out the window as the sun inches over the distant Koíolau mountains touching the shoulder of Diamond Head.  Sometimes the colors canít be ignored and the cool morning breeze and the scent of gardenias and jasmine take me into another world.  I make my way to the edge of my fence line --- the most south eastern corner of my yard --- still dark with a light morning hue.  Pointing and adjusting my camera, I snap a few photos. 

              As the sun gently covers the top of the plants I take a journey from east to west and look over all my trees; they are talking and standing up ready to make another climb towards the sky.  A few may still be slouching in sleep and sometimes require a little water in the face to get their bodies standing strong. 

              I visit my trees all throughout the day ---  I canít even count the occasions ---  just wandering around --- walking back and forth --- letting them talk to me telling me their dreams and goals --- what they want to be when they grow up.  In a way, these trees are my children.  I want them to grow up to be different from each other, to have their own identity.  I want them to outlive me.  I found this quote and thought it summed up my year in one sentence. 
             ďThe best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.Ē -Abraham Lincoln
    From: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_time.html#hk8uR0ZhMowO0hFA.99

             So, now is the time for me to plan their future, and I will enjoy every minute of it! 

             - - - Ryan Chang  (ryan_a_chang@msn.com)


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