MY THIRD IWP - SUMO!
By Ora Scott (Huntsville, Alabama)

                    This documents the completion my third IWP and was happy again to see healthy roots.  This plant had a much more developed root system.  The root ball was very dense and completely filled the pot.  I didn’t break up the root ball to the extent that was done on the previous two plants and only worked it to the point that the roots could be un wrapped and spread out.  The included rock was placed on one side of the plant in attempt to help balance the plant out, while widening the base.

                    My plan was to spend a little more time evaluating the plant, both before and after I got it out of the pot.  I had in mind to do a roots project, but seeing the width of the plant in the pot, and then later the width and characteristics of the root system, I elected to go with what I hope will later result in a plant with a very wide base and a broad canopy.  The first picture shows the plant still in its pot as received from Fuku-Bonsai. A close up of the roots can be seen after removing the plant from the pot.  The roots had completely filled the pot, including taking on the contour of the pot. 

 

                This plant as well as the first two projects had become very tightly packed into the old pot and the media was quite dense.  I did not break up the root ball completely with this plant.   I did however spend a fair amount of time attempting to untangle the roots as I could.  Some had wrapped themselves completely around the inside of the pot.

 

                In preparing the new pot, I did sift the body media for this planting. I noticed on the 2nd IWP that there was a significant amount of fines present in the bag of media.  I imagine this had developed during shipment.  For this project, I first sifted the body media through a piece of window screen which I think will benefit the plant in the long run.  The picture on the right shows the fines that were collected and removed.

 

               The picture on the left is the plant after some working to untangle the roots, and oriented close to as it was in the original pot.  The picture on the right is with the rock added on the left side of the plant, with the roots on that side being pulled back and secured over top of the rock to help balance and widen the base.  The plant is also tilted over to the right slightly, to give what I think is a more balanced plant.

 

                The picture on the left is the plant after some working to untangle the roots, and oriented close to as it was in the original pot.  The picture on the right is with the rock added on the left side of the plant, with the roots on that side being pulled back and secured over top of the rock to help balance and widen the base.  The plant is also tilted over to the right slightly, to give what I think is a more balanced plant.

 

                The foil collar was prepared, by folding and pleating.  I always seem to loose the pleated feature when installing the collar.  It was installed around the plant, with the plant upside down.  The roots were spread out in the collar as much as possible and filled in and around with media.  The new pot had been prepared earlier with the tie wire, the larger bottom layer material, the plastic separator and the initial fill of body media. Again, the body media was screened before use.  I used the plastic bag that the bottom layer media had come in to cover the bottom of my foil collar and flip the plant over.  It was then placed in the new pot, and the bag slid out.

                The collar was flared at the top, and I used some of the top dressing to fill the voids that I could see.  I tapped the pot at this point in attempt to get the media to settle some and find a home.  During this, I watched for any fine material coming out of the drain holes.  None was observed as on previous IWP’s, so I believe the screening I did helped.  Drain/ventilation holes were added in the foil collar, and the plant was then soaked in water up to the rim of the pot for 30 minutes.  I used a turkey baster twice during this process to soak the media in the collar. 

                 I’m happy with this third project.  I feel that I again made good use of the foil collar, as well as trying to “see” the future of the plant and what it could become.  The plant is now in its home under my new lighting, which I recently upgraded to a dimmable 400W metal halide. 

 

                I travel quite a bit for work, so I have a challenge ahead of me on determining how best to care for the plants that come with us in the motor home, as well as those that will be staying at the house.   I have now worked out how to care for the trees that are left behind. 

               I have a pump on a timer which can flood an ebb and flow table.  This will soak the plants for 30 minutes, and then drain.  Besides automating the watering when needed, I am also tracking the weights of the plants between waterings to monitor the moisture loss, watching the PH of my water, and experimenting with some different media on some other plants obtained from a big box store.

              David continues to be a very big help to me, and I'm anxious for his feedback on this workshop.  Plans have also come together for a Hawaii vacation on the Big Island.  We plan on meeting with David and working on a project while we are there.

             - - - Ora Scott

 

SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID

             I'm looking forward to meeting Ora here at Fuku-Bonsai to show him the techniques that we use as I have concerns that he's over-reacting and removing an excessive amount of fine media.  It may be that he is not properly packing down the coarse bottom, or the way he's installing the plastic separator, or the way he may not be firming up the body mix!  Fuku-Bonsai probably has the fastest draining potting media in the entire bonsai world.  It's almost customer-proof.  But if you tap  the pot when dry, you loosen both the body media and the coarse bottom. If you do it long enough and loosen it enough,  you'll get a fair amount of fine material filtering through the coarse and out the drain holes.  But to what end?  It may make more sense to physically pack down the unpackable gravelly mix!  Then water saturate to more effectively lock the fines in the upper part of the pot.  Even if all bottom and body media was mixed up and used unscreened, it is very likely you'll have adequate drainage.  The mix is that fool-proof!  But for optimum growth as much of the fines should stay in the top part of the pot.  Without the fines,  there is less hair root production and without that, other root growth is not optimum. 

             I suspect that Ora believes that Dwarf Schefflera likes a very loose organic type potting mix like when you purchase young mass-produced rooted cuttings from the volume discount nurseries that sell their plants as soon as possible.  So their potting mix is still very loose and there aren't many roots.  But for bonsai, you want dense roots and tightly packed media! 

            Dwarf Schefflera is not an ordinary plant.  It's a relatively rare natural epiphyte that thrives in very little soil growing high in another tree's structure.  Roots are exposed to the air and plants don't easily die if they dry out.  Our Hawaiian Lava Plantings have no problem surviving for many, many years with roots restricted to within a relatively small cavity in the rock. The media in that cavity is certainly not loose!  I may have my work cut out for me to reverse a mindset!  Look forward to your visit!  With the exceptions of these concerns,  Ora is doing very well and believe he'll be making nice contributions once he's got his basics lined up! 

            Regards,  ~~~David

© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014