By Ryan Chang, Journal contributing editor (Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii)

               With the movement into mame or mini bonsai, I did some research, and there are quite a few people who have achieved great looking small bonsai.  Some of the nicer ones I’ve seen, have been in Brazil or at least they have done a good job in promoting it.  Of course, they are obvious results of professionals.  I believe it is possible for anyone to create a beautiful small bonsai.  David and Jerry have led the way with their stories.  We have seen Jay accomplish the start of the first of many small bonsai.  Here's my first attempt in training a small bonsai. 

               David teaches that you can do bonsai with minimal and inexpensive tools.  I’ve learned to use modest things as well --- shears, root rake, mnofilament tape, nutrient granules, and paper covered bindwire.  I picked up an inexpensive plastic pot saucer that  measures 4” at its widest and just under 1” deep.  It has built in feet, so I was thrilled I didn’t have to create any.  The feet are important because it will allow the water to drain out and not let the roots sit in water which will cause root rot.  I have a small piece of lava rock that I plan to use to accent the tree as well as stabilize it when tying down to the pot. 

             The lead photo shows the bottom of the plastic saucer.  I drilled holes to create a well drained pot.  It has six feet that lifts it enough to allow drainage.  I plan to use regular body media because I want to thicken the roots as much as I can in a year or so.  At the same time, I will allow the branches to grow and also will control the growth by removing the bigger older leaves at it grows.  Next year, the tree should be ready for more refinement.  I’ll move it into a cut down 2” pot and use smaller sized body media such as Jay did with his 2” pot potting. 

             The tree is a nice looking sumo with choice branches already growing new branches.  (Plant is a Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock available to Fast-Track Study Group members.)  There is one branch that is not growing any at the moment, and I could possibly chop it off because its technically directly across of the other major branch.  It looks as Jerry once put it “too symmetrical” and I tend to agree, but I can’t ignore that it helps with bulking up the base and would look nice if I could get lower growth to sprout lower to the ground. That way it wouldn’t look so symmetrical as one branch would be going up and one would be going straight out.  I’ll keep it for now. As David would put it “leave yourself options” for the future. 


        This photo shows me holding the main thick root.  A lot of smaller finer roots are showing taper potential.  Nice white root tips showing healthy growth.  I used a single root rake and from the top inside pulled outwards over and over until it became easier to separate the roots, then continued to turn and separate the roots leaving the small root ball directly under the trunk, the root ball is made up of tiny small fine roots.  You can see that it is mostly broken up, but still largely intact to promote strong re-growth.  The main thick root went down as it by-passed the small plastic separator and dominated the growth.



        This photo shows the rock being tied to the weaker side of the tree.  It will also help with keeping it upright in the position I want it.  Otherwise, it would tilt too much in one direction when the tree will be tied down.  The rock is important in this one as it provides balance for the tree. 




         This photo shows the tree tied down.  It is important to push down when tying and securing the tree to the pot.  If not done properly, you will notice a lot of slack and movement of the tree when you pick it up.  You can see the rock is below the weaker branch and also supporting the main trunk as it lies on top the rock.  The body media easily packs in the 4” circle plastic saucer.  It already looks like a great little bonsai growing on a mountain top.  I chose to name it "Little Lion" because I feel it's roaring at the top of that mountain. 



            To give readers size perspective, I placed a cut-down 4” square pot and a 2” square nursery pot on each side of Little Lion.  I added the aluminum collar and continued to add body media in the collar and used a screw driver or chopstick to dibble the media firm and taped it with the filament tape.  I’m excited to see how well I can keep the growth going and start stretching out the branches and adding new ones.  I’m also excited to see how the root system will develop in this pot.  Little Lion will show its mane in a few years and will then transform into a matured little lion. 

            - - - Ryan Chang (ryan_a_chang@msn.com

               "A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more."

Rosabeth Moss Kanter  (http://www.wisdomquotes.com/quote/rosabeth-moss-kanter.html)



                I congratulate Ryan on his first mini-bonsai!  By my evaluation,  he's doing everything right.  He starts with choice plants that already have impressive character and positions the tree using an accent rock in a common sense manner.  Although he's probably using the same amount of media in the low and wide small container as the original 2" nursery pot,  the roots will develop better as planted and growth should be very strong to add both bulk mass as well as additional growth points.  In a year, he'll be able to further reduce the potting mass and increase efforts to create a nice mini-bonsai.  Nice work Ryan! 

               At Fuku-Bonsai, we are making strong progress in utilizing the Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock both as mini-bonsai and in extra small cut-down pots in an effort to reduce the size of the leaves.  By pruning off larger leaves and keeping only 2-3 leaves per growth point, leaves reduce quickly and we'll put together a more detailed article once we fully understand the principles.  Our trials are being done outdoors and we'll need reports to find the most effective methods to produce small leaves indoors. 

*** Return to the August 2014 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, 2014