As the newest member of the study group,  I asked John to take some photos of what we now send to those who begin our Beginner Study Group.  All arrive in a single carton with plants individually wrapped, bagged, and strapped down to a cardboard filler that is stapled to the bottom of the carton.  Open the top, slit two corners, and the side drops down to reveal the cardboard filler.  John removed the filler with plants strapped down on the right and the kits and a few unlisted complimentary items. 

             Besides the three plants that for 1)  Sumo workshop, 2) Roots workshop) and 3) Root-over-rock workshop,  we included a recently rooted cutting.  Note that when we stick the cutting, it has just a single leaf with leaflets trimmed in half.  The one sent John has two complete leaves so was recently rooted.  Sometimes we tag which plants will be for which workshop.  The three IWP kits are packed as units so they can be easily distributed for group workshops.  We also included a sample of sphagnum moss,  paper-covered bindwire that is not available in many areas,  and a small lava cinder rock to sculp for the third workshop.  Sometimes we include pertinent printed information about topics that may have come up in introductory emails. 


       John's really not a beginner as he's been doing bonsai for 23 years, but not continuously.  He was a member of Ann Arbor Bonsai Society,  Jerry Meislik's original club and has a ficus from one of Jerry's workshops.  Now with more time,  he's starting up again and appreciates the higher potential prepared bonsai stock that grows rapidly.  John grows his bonsai outdoors and includes various trees grown by traditional bonsai growers.  So I look forward to his comparison of the growth and development rate of our Dwarf Schefflera True Indoor Bonsai that will be grown outdoors at his beautiful Farmington Hills, Michigan lath house whenever night temperatures are above 55°F.


By John Boryczko
(Farmington Hills, Michigan)

          Completing the first two steps in the directions proved nerve racking trying to create a mound to set the plastic tent on.  Then like in bonsai, I realized I was taking the directions or rules in bonsai, too literally and just needed to have the soil mounded higher in the center like the picture.  With bonsai repotting, you should create a raised mound under the base of the tree, this removes the possibility of a large air pocket under the base of the tree.

            The next step was to add the body media around the mound you created.  It helps if you use one hand to hold the plastic tent in place while adding the body media with the other.  Some may ask and I am surprised no one else commented on the use of the plastic tent. I believe the plastic tent, which I found in the nursery container of my sumo, is used to force the roots of the tree to spread out and not get root bound around the base of the tree this method also creates nice nebari (surface roots)



             In bonsai, one tries to find the most desirable viewing angle for their tree.  Photos above show four views of my future sumo.  The first picture is what I thought was going to be the front on my sumo.  Bonsai is like a painting it has a front where it should be viewed from.  However, unlike a painting bonsai are three-dimensional also having two sides and a back, which are not the desirable viewing angles.  As I have read the newsletters, at some point we will have to draw out our plan on how we wish to see our future tree when finished. Bonsai is a living plant and will continually grow and change.  In reality, a bonsai is finished when it is dead.  So one will have to try to see what they envision for their future tree.


         I chose to plant my sumo on the side of the rock because most of the roots were on one side. Imagine climbing a mountain. You reach up and grasp the peak and have to pull yourself up.  I imagined this tree pulling itself up over the peak towards the sun and its struggles to get there.  The photo depicts what I choose to be the front of my sumo before un-potting it. 

      As luck would have it after getting the tree un-potted and against the rock, what I thought was the front now becomes the back. This became the back because of to many long straight roots.  Long straight roots and branches seem less elegant and less interesting.  The idea is to highlight the good and hide or deemphasize the bad.   In addition, at this stage the tree would not survive if I pruned both off at the same time.  Maybe a few years under the foil they might become attractive roots, or at least prune them back to make them more interesting.



          I provided pictures of the four views, the first shows what I believe to be the front and this is purely subjective.  As you look through the photos, you will notice the tree planted off center in the pot.  It looks like it is pushed back into a corner.  Usually in bonsai, you plant in the center when the pot is round or square.  Planting off center allows the usually thicker bottom branch (not this one yet) to balance the composition by filling the empty space.  Remember this is living art, while you are manipulating the plant, the pot, and the scene, you just do not want it to look like it was manipulated intentionally.  The other three views show long straight almost un-natural looking roots for a tree that had to pull itself up over the peak to thrive and grow.  Someday what is the back of this tree may once again be the front.


        NOTE FROM DAVID:  When John send in his first report, he mentioned the tree was wilting a bit so I recommended putting on an aluminum foil collar for a while which he did.  He came up with a neat suggestion to use a "U-shaped wire" to hold the foil in place.  I asked John to include a photo of him with his baby tree, photos of his collection and the lath house where he will be growing the Dwarf Scheff when night temperatures are over 55 degrees F. as well as make comments and I especially asked him if he thought the kit was too easy!  

        I welcome John and look forward to his sharing his ideas based upon his experience with traditional outdoor temperate climate bonsai.  There are differences and it's good for everyone to know so they can adapt the option that best fits there situation.  Like most who do traditional outdoor bonsai, John places a lot of emphasis on positioning for a "front."  In True Indoor Bonsai,  plants usually get directional window light so they must be regularly turned for even growth.  So in young trees,  we don't put much emphasis on a "front" until the tree is more mature.  At that point, the view that looks the most attractive is the front,  especially if growing in a round pot! 

        Sumo serves as an introduction to True Indoor Bonsai.  The next Roots focuses on pre-training a young plant to position it as premium prepared bonsai stock to be used for a large Roots or a Root-Over-Rock bonsai and that will be John's next task.  He should pick up a few new concepts and sail right through it.  There are relatively few temperate climate bonsai trained with Roots styling so we look forward to his comments on this tropical bonsai concept.  ~~~David



            From the photos one can see the bonsai bug has bitten me over the past two decades.  I have built several lathe houses and have a grow-light for the tropical trees I own.  I enjoy the opportunity to work on different types of trees.  It is obvious that a great deal of time has been devoted to the growth and development of the trees in these workshops. Having instructions and access to David makes this workshop very doable for someone with absolutely no experience in bonsai.  One just needs to try…

           - - - John Boryczko  (Michigan)

*** Return to the September 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation home page
*** Go to Fuku-Bonsai home page
© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013