It really is a pleasure to meet our study group members,  especially just after they graduate from the Beginner Study Group!  As a mechanical engineer,  Ora travels a lot and the Scotts have an  interesting lifestyle where they take their mobile home to spend weeks and months at a job site.  So a part of their plant collection is at home cared for by friends or family but as much as possible with automatic watering, lighting, and other equipment. 

               Having completed his Beginner Study Group workshops,  it was a good time to brief Ora on the challenges of the next level and the concepts of the Fast-Track Study Group.  This is an informal group made up of our more active and advanced members who individually are pursuing their own different projects with us providing as much support and assistance that they need or request.  Within a year after their beginning, most have a pretty good grasp of all of the basic horticultural requirements to produce strong vigorous growth,  understand the basic "Sumo" and "Roots" techniques and are ready to address new challenges. 

                If their goal is to keep just a few bonsai, the focus will be to develop their small young plant first into a medium young plant.  Over the years it will become an older medium plant and one day be a mature older bonsai.  To many, that's the logical preferred bonsai progression.  The problem is that it may take 25 to 35 years to reach the goal (which is still fast because these are fast-growing tropical trees)!  There's not a whole lot to do with the most exciting thing being watching it grow (too slowly) until it's time to prune train (which takes just a few seconds)! So while having a single or even a few bonsai is really great to provide you with the beauty and serenity of nature,  it can be difficult for a person who enjoys bonsai activity!

                A second route for those who seek more activity and rapid progression is to graduate to larger older plants to be up-potted into larger containers.  This route uses much of the same techniques learned with the Introductory Workshop Packages.  But because you're working with a more mature 4LL8 Living Lovable with a lot more character and going into a larger 8" diameter x 2" deep pot,  there's a greater challenge and these are part of our "Intermediate Workshop Package II."   These are available in "Sumo,"  "Roots,"  and "Hawaiian Dragon" stylings.  

              Within a few months of completing this level,  some are ready to tackle their primary objective to train still larger older bonsai and order our "Advanced Workshop Package III"  that are also available in "Sumo,"  "Roots,"  and "Hawaiian Dragon" stylings. These utilize high-quality older medium size 8LS8 Potted Bonsai that are up-potted into #17 Conversion Kits that feature a 17"x12"x2" oval Fuku-Bonsai plastic pot.  By following this increasingly larger-older plant and container progression,  within one year from beginning, a very active bonsai hobbyists will be working on 10 to 15 year old trees that are moving towards our Custom Collection standards! 


               I try to steer Fast-Track Study Group members toward "ASSEMBLY" techniques as an alternative to move toward training more complex bonsai that incorporate other elements including rocks.  As Ora was planning his Hawaiian vacation, I asked him to bring with him small rocks from Alabama for an evaluation and critique.  When he called after arriving in Hawaii, I asked him to pick up some Hawaii rocks and he did.  He brought small pieces of clinker lava that are ideal to be used to be joined together with glue and colored cement and he was shown how to and the examples from our collection. 

               With many projects at various stages, we discussed alternative routes if naturally beautiful rocks were not available in his area.  Members of our Fast-Track Study Group are advised to look for coral, are supplied with softer Hawaiian lava that can be sculptured, and encouraged to explore other rocks that may be available. We discussed hypertufa to completely create his own rocks. He had found and brought with him a small tennis ball size coral and this was used to show rock sculpturing techniques with masonry drill bits. The principles of preparing rocks for planting were discussed including positioning, suitable top rock profiles,  selecting and creating "saddles," root trail crevasses, and the use of aluminum foil collars.

              Teresa would be planting the coral that had been prepared.  Being a bit small,  a hole was drilled near the bottom and wires were installed to add to it's height. Ora selected a rock that would fit into the same  8" diameter x 2" deep pot and both would use the older more developed Premium Introductory Workshop Package pre-trained plant.  The top photo shows the materials as we started.                 



              Teresa had a more interesting challenge as this was the first time I had tried to increase the height of a rock by using wire to give it more prominence.  Once we figure out how, it was a simple matter to teach how to bare-root the plant, to figure out how to position it on the saddle, how to create the "cushion" where the plant would sit,  and how to secure it.

             We struggled a bit but figured out how to set up the foil collar and firm up the media into the container.  Watering may require a bit more care, but if all goes well,  the roots will extend, become strong and established, and eventually she'll have an interesting nice keepsake bonsai to remind her of her Big Island vacation.



               Ora had a much easier task as the rock already had generous size "root trail crevices" that would allow the roots to follow down into the media in the pot.  He quickly learned how to use those generous root crevices to create healthy vigorously growing plants by inserting sphagnum moss,  media, nutrient granules, etc. Then he learned how to separate the roots to find the ideal position for the tree, how to secure the tree to the rock, and to guide down the roots into the crevices.

             With most of the roots in only some areas,  partial foil collars were used, then an overall foil wrapper around the entire rock.  It was a lot simpler to secure the rock to the pot, to complete the planting, and to make the needed air holes. 

               In a relatively short time,  the aluminum foil collars were completed, taped tight, air holes made, and the workshop was completed.  Compared to the smaller Introductory Workshop Packages that were part of the Beginner Study Group,  these upscale Premium Introductory Workshops that featured rock plantings produced what will become impressive results.  We finished off by reviewing the concept of saturation watering and air/water exchanges. 

              The older more developed premium prepared bonsai stock have a lot more character and a much higher bonsai potential!  It is poised for a faster growth rate and is ideal for moving into "accelerated growth" for larger future bonsai, or to be "grown-on" using different techniques for future bonsai training.  Part of the discussion was the value of using older bonsai with more mature established longer roots that already reach the media in the pot.  Preparing plants in this manner is a more effective advanced route instead of planting smaller trees on rocks and using the foil collar to protect the roots while they lengthen as these two workshop plants will develop.

               To give Ora an insight into the differences,  I asked him to assist me in completing the planting of a special rock that had been properly prepared with a pre-trained plant that had been in preparation of this rock for a few years.  The details of this planting is also posted in this issue and I've asked Teresa and Ora to add comments to complete this article,  to give feedback to their workshop visit to Fuku-Bonsai, and to tell a little of their bonsai plans for the future.  The report of the stalactite and wire-ladder planting is posted at  




              Teresa and I very much enjoyed our visit to the Big Island the first of February.  It was our second trip to the Hawaii, with the first being to Oahu in 2011 when our youngest daughter graduated high school.  In amongst the sites and tours that we took, we spent most of one day with David and his wife. 

               The chance to work on a potting with David was also an added blessing.  One that I will always remember and appreciate.  I learned from working with David, that I was still treating the plants too delicately. We spent a quite a bit of time packing in media and fertilizer while working the lava stalactite planting.  In doing so, the plant and roots were pulled down and tied quite tightly.  I think that for some of my first workshops, I failed to pull the plant down and tie the roots tightly enough to get the form I was looking for.  The result was making some sacrifices that I didnít have to make, by being too delicate with the plants.

                 The beauty and varied landscape of Hawaii is the most amazing that I have seen.  The picture above is of Pololu Valley.  We had hiked down to the beach earlier in the week, and this picture was taken during our lunch on Hawaii Forest and Trailís Waterfall Tour.  In contrast, parts of the island look much like what you would expect the moon to look like.  Other areas transport you to a deep rainforest.  Add to that, the volcanoes, whales and other sea life, and you end up with more than we could see in the week that we were there.

                And oh the sunsets  .  .  .


                We are back from Hawaii now, and in Houston, Texas with the motor home. My job here kicks off tomorrow, and a few plants are with us, while our daughter and the watering system and lights take care of what remains at home. 

               I added a shelf by one of the long windows which gets sunlight most of the day.   The dwarf schefflera get more natural light here than at home.  There is already some new growth on the plants that I had not noticed before, so hopefully that is a good sign. 

              The kitchen window also has a small crowd around it of some other plants I have picked up.  Included here aresome aralia that I am trying my best to not kill.  I had a major leaf drop about a month ago, but they seem to have recovered.


              By the bedroom window is the last group.  Amongst them is a recent acquisition of a ficus that a big box store tried to kill.  It's a challenge that I'm trying to nurse back to health.  Iím a little worried about the retusa in the middle whose leaves have yellowed. 

              The weather here in Texas is great with highs in the 70ís and higher humidity.  I am anxiously awaiting a comeback.  I have one cutting that I think has still got a chance from my earlier reduction experiment.  Awaiting on the right is the next victim, a pot of four plants from a big box store which are soon to have a reduction and more experiments of rooting cuttings.

             Again, I want to thank David and Myrtle for their hospitality and the opportunity to spend the day with them at Fuku-Bonsai.  The history he shared, the stories behind the many trees that he showed us, all of it made for a fantastic day.  Iíve enjoyed my bonsai journey with David and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I canít remember the exact words David shared, but Myrtle had challenged him with what is next.  You canít just live off past glories.  You need to plan and look forward to the next big project.  It is much like the plants themselves.  Either they are growing and changing, or they are dying.  As for me, I would much rather be growing.   - - -  Ora Scott 



             I've totally enjoyed working with Ora as we both are basically engineers and he has a great desire to challenge himself and is proceeding in a very logical and commendable manner.  He has a wonderful wife in Teresa as I do in Myrtle!  Myrtle keeps me from having a "big head" and keeps asking:  "So what have you done lately?"   You can't live on old glory and with Myrtle and the wonderful members of the Beginner and Fast-Track Study Group I'm now facing a lot of new challenges as I try to stay in front of them to advise as necessary.  I am confident that Ora has an exciting bonsai future and look forward to working with him.

           In 1989 we sprayed defective Benlate contaminated with weed killers that caused over $30 million of losses.  It prevented us from growing our original Brassaia and it was necessary to totally reinvent the company, the product line, the business plan, and became a 25-year battle for survival.  The total net proceeds of the 1994 product liability and the 2007 DuPont fraud settlements after taxes and legal costs was less than 10% of our losses.  Life is not fair but we survived.

           With the support of the community, our customers, and all associated with Fuku-Bonsai, I am increasingly confident that we will enter a new era of recovery and growth in 2014.  I am humbled and grateful for the support and assistance and thank everyone.  Now its payback time and I hope that by teaching and training a new generation,  that Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai will develop into "Popular Bonsai" in which everyone can be successful!  In partnership with the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation, Fuku-Bonsai is committed to provide educational resources,  supply highest potential plants,  and personalized assistance.  You're invited to join us!   ~~~David (


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