By Ora Scott (Near Huntsville in northern Alabama)

               This report documents the completion of my second IWP.  I received the plants back in early December, and was happy again to see some white roots.  Although with this plant, I did see some roots that were dead.  I donít think that they died off recently, as they were very much decayed.  Those that I saw were removed.  This clean up I suppose that is one benefit of repotting.  That as well as giving the plant a new home in some looser packed soil, as this plant as well as the first project had become very tightly packed into the old pot and the media was quite dense. This plant had some moss on it that was still green after over a month here in Alabama.  I tried not to disturb it, as I liked the look and hoped to keep it.

               My plan, as recommended by David was to perform a roots project for this second workshop.  Either using a rock in the center to help spread the roots, or pull the existing roots together to give some additional ďtrunkĒ or height to the plant.  Either way a foil collar was to going to be utilized. Also per Davidís recommendation, on my first project, I went back and added a foil collar to provide a place for the plant to put out some additional roots to build a strong wide base, and to keep the media near the base of the tree.

               The first picture shows the plant still in its pot as received from Fuku-Bonsai. The long straight growth in the left side of the photo must have been an aerial root that has thickened up significantly after making contact with the soil.  Also shown is a close up of the roots and the character of the plant as received. Iím not sure how old the plant is, but was excited to see what lay below the soil line. The plant also had some smaller aerial roots, which can be seen in the second picture which I was careful to try and keep during the repotting.

         These next two pictures show the plants root system as removed from the pot.  I could see that some of the roots were quite thick, and was already doubtful about being able to pull the roots together and tying them to give height and additional ďtrunk to the treeĒ.


             These two pictures show the show portion of the plant with the potting media broke up and the roots untangled and straightened out some, in particular where they had wrapped around the inside of the pot.  Based on the stiffness of the roots and their size, I elected at this point to go with using the rock in between the roots and centered under the plant.  A collar was made of aluminum foil.  It was pleated at the top and wrapped around the base of the plant.  The bottom was flared out to make a cup for spreading the roots out and for filling with body media.


          The first picture looking down into the collar, (the plant is upside down at this point) doesnít show the rock.  I actually had to back up some, add the rock after spreading the roots and the refill the collar.  The second picture, viewed more from the side, has the rock in the center with the foil collar near completion of the filling.  The collar was completely filled after that. Of note to fill the collar, I used the recycled material from the plants as received pot, as well as a small amount of body media that I had ordered separately from David.  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. 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 pot, and the bag slid out.









           After placing in the pot, I then used the wires to secure the plant in the pot.  Body media was filled in around the base of the collar, covering the longer roots that were sticking out around the edges of the collar.









            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 material to settle some and find a home.  During this, some very fine material came from the drain holes in the bottom of the pot.  My body media was used as-is out of the bag that came with the workshop.  Looking back I should have screened the material before using it.

            The plant was then weighed, while the media was still completely dry, and then soaked for in water up to the rim on the pot for 30 minutes.  I used a turkey baster twice during this process to soak the media in the collar.  I plan on watching the plant weight and see how this changes over the one week period between wateringís.

            Iím happy with this second project.  I still lost some of the fine roots while untangling the roots on this plant, but did not get quite as aggressive with completing breaking up the root ball.  I feel that I made good use of the foil collar, although I could have gone slight higher, maybe another inch I think.  The plant is now in its home under some new lighting.  I recently upgraded to a 400W metal halide.  At Davidís suggestion, this plant, my first Sumo project and the 3rd project yet to be completed are out of their terrariums.  As he stated, I donít want to turn the plants into wimps.















           (COMMENTS BY DAVID.  These reports as published in the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai are usually greatly condensed.  It excludes sometimes numerous email exchanges prior to the member of the beginner study group actually starting.  Some new members are really beginners who have never ever grown any plants before and sometimes the first few emails cover really basic container gardening points. Some reports by beginner study group members are not published as they may have photos that will not reproduce well or only have extremely brief captions that do not provide useful information.  But as the number joining the beginner study groups increase, my workload was starting to get a bit too heavy for me. 

            So I am appreciative that those in the editorial team or the advanced members in the Fast-Track Study Group are volunteering to assist those in the growing Beginner's Study Group.  These include Jerry Meislik,  Ryan Chang, John "Jay" Boryczko, and Russ Mann.  They will be joined by others in the future and I hope that together we will be able to create a team and method to effectively assist more and more who are joining and creating a Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community. In asking them to help others,  I believe that they also will learn too, and I'll be available to assist if help is needed. 

           This article by Ora Scott is the first that includes reproduction of some of the feedback materials that I send.  I usually move a submitted photo into a graphic editing and publishing program to adjust and enlarge the photo and provide comments as shown in this article.  Sometimes I create drawings, scan it into the graphic program, and add text with details.  Sometimes articles that appear in the Journal are really a dressed up version of recommendations in response to situations facing our more advanced fast-track study group members that require a more detailed set of photos and resource information. 

           The basic principle that determines the amount of detail in my response is the amount of effort that the study group member has invested in his or her email to me.  Much too often,  I get several very short email questions that provide little or no information ---  not even their names, where they live, or even what kind of tree!  It takes me several emails just to get that information and when I finally receive a photo,  it's of some cheap junk pitiful mall bonsai!   Without losing my temper, I try to suggest that they get answers from the person or store that sold it to him.

          But I also get to work with a full range of really nice people. I tend to do sketches before I begin work and asked Ora to send a sketch to give me an idea before he started on the revision.  He sent the sketch on the left and I was impressed.  From his first IWP, I knew he did his homework and the areas that I could help were primarily because he did not fully understand the unique qualities and traits of Dwarf Schefflera which is trained using different adaptations of standard bonsai techniques.  With my engineering background, I was delighted to work with another person who uses analytical reasoning. I predict that Ora will become an important part of the Fast-Track Study Group and hope he increases his interest in True Indoor Bonsai!













              By chance,  Ora received a very unusual tree that had several note-worthy features including: 

        1) An exceptionally heavy trunk base due to dramatic reduction of the main trunk and equally dramatic reduction of the first major branch.  It would have really created an extraordinarily stout "Sumo" if just that main left first branch with new growth was retained with the rest of the growth (with the aerial root) severed and rooted as an additional tree.  In the first photo with my comments in red,  I was more concerned about getting the two very different types of roots into a compatible design. 

         2)  But when I saw the second photo with what appears to be a root that somehow circled the trunk, enlarged, and fused to the trunk, I recognized this as a very uncommon challenge and opportunity.  From my comments in green, I was still focusing on the odd combination of different types of roots and although I didn't mention it,  that sharply angular branch is also not common. 

          So I hoped that Ora would consider a redo and select a training strategy that would preserve,  incorporate, exploit, and feature these odd traits.  In other words, if you get lemons, make lemonaid! Bonsai is man and nature in harmony.  Just as each of us is different based upon our genetics, life experiences, our environment, etc.,  each bonsai should be unique too and recognizing unique traits and developing a complimenting design and training strategy is often the essence of the challenge of bonsai!  The following is his report of the revision.)


            Davidís feedback on my initial report, focused on the fact that I had two distinctly different styles of roots at work with this plant.  Curved roots running in different directions, and also a distinct previous aerial root that is now very straight.  He recommended that I pick one direction for the tree, and not leave it conflicted.  It wasnít apparent in the first report I sent to David, but the second root, being pointed to with the green arrow, ended up being part of the trunk, and could not be changed.  A follow up picture that I sent to David after receiving his initial comments showed yet another curved root on the back side of the plant.  Using a majority rules approach, I elected to go with a non-traditional curved roots design, which could as David later points out, end up being not a roots but a dragon styling in the future.









               I worked the root, trying to be gentle as David described in some of his feedback to me.  I worked the root back and forth, while working the entire length.  I gradually increased the amount of movement, until I could pull it to the side.  I secured it to another root with the paper covered wire.









        The left photo shows the next root to be worked.  This root was curved, but in the wrong direction.  It took a considerable more work to get it to change direction.  I used two pieces of the paper covered wire to keep it in place.









         Other roots were positioned, the rock added at the center of the plant and everything wired into place, while keeping all of the other smaller roots all going the same direction as the larger ones that I had worked.









            The foil collar was added, and the plant repositioned back in its pot. I tried to make sure I packed the collar better,and added the air holes.  At Davidís suggestion I will allow it to grow out some before doing any pruning.  He also changing the apex, and turning the tree over on its side a bit. This will be the next evolution for the tree.  Overall, I feel that, with Davidís help, I now have this tree positioned for a much better future.


            Bonsai is a new adventure for me.  I live in northern Alabama, so I think the plants will enjoy spending some time outside this summer.  I also travel quite a bit for work, so I have a challenge ahead of me to determine how best to care for the plants that come with us in the motorhome, as well as those that will be staying at the house.  I am working on caring for what is left behind and will be testing with the next watering.  My paying job is as an engineer, so I am likely to over analyze my working with the bonsai.  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 thus far, and I'm anxious for his continued feedback on this workshop and with moving onto the next roots workshop.  Also hope plans come together for a Hawaiian vacation on the Big Island to meet David in person.

           - - - Ora Scott   January 14, 2014


           SOME FINAL COMMENTS BY DAVID.  Congratulations and mahalo on a great article!  I'm looking forward to Scott's visit and hope we can complete workshops before he comes as the more of the basics that he understands, the more I can teach him here.  There are many forms of bonsai and True Indoor Bonsai is the easiest and most successful form for anyone, anywhere who want to grow bonsai indoors year-around in home or offices or outdoors when night temperatures are over 55įF.  Every tree grown as bonsai really should be guided by a single bonsai book as trees are very, very different! 

            A general bonsai book that tries to teach "everything" only succeeds in getting beginners hopelessly confused.  I cringe every time I'm asked to teach a person who brags that he's read every published bonsai book and studied under a whole string of "bonsai masters!"  I generally asked that he not join our study group especially if he's opinionated and argumentative! 

            True Indoor Bonsai is based primarily on Dwarf Schefflera which is the only known proven durable houseplant that replaced the common Schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla) that was our original specialty.  Jerry writes of both in an article in this issue.  Dwarf Scheff grows faster than any other tree grown as bonsai.  It can be trained into more shapes than any other bonsai tree.  It is the most forgiving if you do not overwater it and can often be revived if you underwater it.     

           Dwarf Scheff was introduced into Hawaii in the early 1970's and our bonsai are probably the oldest Dwarf Scheff bonsai in the world.  Each year I learn more about this unique tree and as I do more teaching, I'm learning more too.  So it's very satisfying to gather interesting people into our growing community and encourage you to get involved and invite others!  ~~~David (

*** Return to the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
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© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai 2014