This series began in February 2013 when Ryan Chang first visited Fuku-Bonsai.  We worked on three "1:10 Project" trees that were shallow potted into 9" diameter x 1" deep saucers in Sumo, Roots, and Root-Over-Rock stylings.  The photo above was part of the 8-month report in the October 2013 Journal issue posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a96d.html   This second update just one month later shows strong vigorous regrowth with trees at optimum growth.

                  The Roots  and the Root-Over-Rock trees threw out strong regrowth and they are now being allowed to grow out.  Rampant growth was encouraged and last month (after 8 months of unrestricted growth), branches were reduced based on the guideline:  "Branch stubs are twice as long as the diameter of the branch."  If the branch had become 1/2" thick,  a stub of only 1" long was allowed to remain. This is our standard that staff follow to create tight character.


                  Strong reduction produces highest potential plants.  But drastic reduction is just a part.  The trees must be in very strong growth and even so, the risks are high.  Consistent ideal results are not guaranteed!  Is the gamble worth it? Consider the rationale for this practice.

                  The finest bonsai in Japan are trees that are collected from harsh natural environments where "Nature's Bonsai" were shaped by the elements over hundreds of years!  During years of favorable growth, the trees grew strongly until a natural calamity decimated the tree;  whether a typhoon with winds approaching 200 miles per hour,  or a severe drought, or repeated combinations of all disasters! Such trees with distinctive character totally dominate and visually overwhelm trees grown in nurseries that are older than the lifetimes of the founders!  Age alone will not produce outstanding trees! 

                 In the case of tropical True Indoor Bonsai, the genetics of each specific tree will greatly influence whether the tree can withstand the rigors of bonsai training, can adapt to a range of different homes or offices throughout the United States, and flourish in the great variation of care that the trees will receive by different owners!  To provide the best possible odds of success, it was necessary to establish a professional system to cull out weak or inferior trees.  We don't sell young trees because they just don't have character and are not strong enough! 

               Our youngest trees are at least 3 years old and survivors of 3 or more dramatic reductions.  That's what it takes to create character within one inch of the soil-line and a shallow compact root system within 1/2" of the soil-line!  To get to that stage,  we will have killed off more plants than anyone can believe! It's better to cull out weak trees while they are very young.  We do what no soft-hearted hobbyist will do! 

                 All trees are not the same.  Sometimes when radically reduced, the tree will send out one replacement growth.  When again radically reduced,  if it sends out just one replacement it is culled out because it is either too weak to send out multiple growth or is genetically a plant that branches poorly!  There are really no magic techniques --- you just need to establish standards and cull out and discard plants that don't meet those standards!   But you also need to consciously learn to grow tough trees! 

                Many believe trees provided ideal conditions are the best.  These are grown in climatically controlled greenhouses where the optimum amount of light, temperature, humidity and nutrients are carefully and automatically monitored.  In these nurseries, beautiful plants are grown in huge quantities with impressive uniformity in a record amount of time with the least amount of labor!  Plants grown in this manner are never stressed and have very different records as to how they will react to stress. 

                Some simply die quickly.  Others take longer.  Some cannot survive being radically pruned.  So when asked, we prefer not to comment or advise how to train plants grown by others.  We just don't know!  As we branch out and encourage growing our Dwarf Schefflera both indoors year-around and/or outdoors whenever night temperatures are above 55F, I've asked our contributing editors under the leadership of John "Jay" Boryczko of Michigan to help research the valid concise guidelines for growing Dwarf Schefflera indoors and out.  We need to have input from as many as possible and I invite you to join this study.

                  This photo shows the strong regrowth of the Sumo tree.  At this stage, LEAVE IT ALONE!  Our major rule is:  "NEVER WORK ON A TREE THAT IS NOT GROWING STRONGLY!"  Wait to allow each growth point to develop two to three leaves.  Each major branch that has been radically reduced has thrown out at least three new growth points and more are developing.  Note how each branch was pruned. 

                    This view best shows the stoutest Sumo trunk base.  So it made sense to prune the primary apical growth toward the back and down so you don't see the scar and the most desirable new growth will emerge forward.  At this point there are two primary training options:  1) Allow the highest growth to become the new apical growth and the other growth points to develop into branches.  Or,  2) Select a lower growth to be the primary new leader resulting in a stouter more dramatic Sumo trunk and taper. 

                     The middle right branch was given a flat cut and although it is producing a right facing branch, it is also developing what can be the tree's second apical growth.  Those who were taught traditional Japanese single apex-tier branched concepts may not understand tropical bonsai styling that values stout multiple apex and arched branched structures which results in a rounded crown.

                     On the left,  the growth came out of the base of the tree so it could be considered the tree's second apical trunk.  It was given a vertical "dive-bomber" cut.   Toward the back and to the right,  there's another low branch that was reduced and resprouting at multiple points. This tree is only about three years old.  At Ryan's February 2013 workshop it was already choice workshop material as it had began as a "character cutting" that already had some interest and was growing very strongly. 

                     After eight months of rampant vigorous growth, the four major growth points had created a plant that was growing at an optimum rate throughout the best growing season.  Here in Hawaii,  growth is still strong in October, so when heavily reduced, I got strong regrowth. The tree has a lot of promise and a lot of options.  There are now a total of 15 growth points and most of them are in position that they can all be retained to create a very short, stout multiple apex, multiple trunked arched branched Sumo Banyan Bonsai! 

                     The tree has exciting potential!  Although it is recovering slower than the other two trees, the multiple regrowth at optimum positions is very satisfying and all three trees are considered successful. The three trees are heading toward different futures and future reports will provide details as development continues.  To get to this stage,  there was a lot of professional nursery practices and concepts.  But it's important to emphasize that the results were only possible due to optimum growth!  While our Hawaii climate gives us a large advantage,  every grower of True Indoor Bonsai should place obtaining optimum growth very high on their list of priorities.  Such trees develop nicely and are a joy to work with.  They grow past minor problems and don't need a lot of care.

                      The Journal editorial team will be working toward creating optimum growth guidelines.  As we go through the resting period for most plants, dream of the growth of the coming year and try to think of ways to get healthier trees in your situation!

             Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013