"ROOTS RE-DO" a third IWP report
By Ryan Chang, "novice-in-training" (Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii)

             For me, roots intrigued me the most about bonsai trees.  I don’t think I ever saw one or if I ever did, I was most likely too young to remember.   One night I stumbled upon pictures aerial roots type trees.  It really became clear to me that these growers/trainers are really artists.  The way they manipulate the roots to grow here or there, then carefully root pruning to sculpt the art.   I like the way the roots develop years down the road when they develop into strong trunks that taper off on the bottom, so it looks like the tree on their tip toes.    Even the larger real size aerial roots trees are amazing to look at. 

              I’ve seen pictures of aerial roots on bridges, over roads, on buildings, and I am left to wonder “how?”  How did the tree grow and how long did it take to look like that.  Building emphasis on assessing the tree, I tried my best to study the tree.  In my first attempt, I just looked at what view look and felt good to me, and then I would hope for the best.  Now, I look at the tree and see what I what to accomplish.  For example, I want to secure a strong base with nice strong aerial roots.  To do that, David introduced the idea of using aluminum rods around the roots. 

              With stunning character already set by the careful growers/trainers at Fuku-Bonsai.  I have a great looking tree with potential to grow strong aerial roots.  The triple-trunk tree joined at the base has really developed over the years.  The main trunk has good straight growth but also gives a nice backwards bend then shows two awesome trunks growing west and east directions.   They seemed to be on their 2nd or 3rd tapering to form thick trunks. 

             Just below them are future aerial roots already in twig like form.   Continuing along the main trunk with another nice slight bend with two more branches with good apical growth and seem to be crossing over, which at the angle I planted it gives it the effect of “fingers crossed”.  When I look the tree and try to imagine a scene, it always changes, which is the beauty of creativity, but there is one image that keeps popping into my head.  

              I keep thinking of a hula dancer; those special solo performances that seem to captivate the beauty of the islands.  The roots being their long silky dress, the branches; their arms gracefully holding up the sky, the foliage represents the hair waving in the winds.   The high planting of this tree utilizing a 4 inch collar and aluminum rods for the roots will give the tree a nice looking finishing pose as the hula dancer will hold their pose at the end of their performance.  This tree will be inspired by those beautiful island dancers and the roots will play a dramatic role in the look of the pose. 

             (NOTE FROM DAVID: WOW!  Compared to that young upstart that I first made contacted on December 30, 2012,  as I edit and install this third report on January 21, 2013,  it's been just three weeks!  This may be just his third report but he's already has a lot of experience!  He was so enthusiastic that after submitting his first report (which appeared in the premier January 2013 issue of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai), he completed two more Introductory Workshop Packages AND TWO ADDITIONAL INTERMEDIATE WORKSHOP II!

             Unfortunately he demonstrated high enthusiasm but limited skills!  I generally try to find things to compliment and encourage, but I felt that Ryan needed some straight candid talk and I laid down some ultimatums! He accepted my terms and it has really been a joy to see his progress!  His basic techniques are improving, but there has been a remarkable and wonderful explosion of creativity and an openness of vision!  This is the basis of good bonsai where a person "connects" with a tree and develops a unique one-on-one relationship to the tree.  From that point on,  bonsai becomes a wonderful hobby relationship of "Man and Nature in Harmony!"  That's much more important than being the most skilled impersonal trainer that can produce "technically perfect bonsai!"  Bonsai is a very personal hobby and very few can really enjoy the hobby until they develop that bond.

           I was fortunate to have had the counsel of some exceptional bonsai masters and amongst these, the greatest was Japan's Saburo Kato.  He expressed it very poetically and I paraphrase:  "For a bonsai, the greatest sound in the world is the sound of the foot steps of the owner-trainer to care and nourish the tree, to train and guide the tree, and to share an honest friendship!"  Kato had the opportunity to work with the masterpieces of bonsai, but he really loved the Hawaiian bonsai community. In the beginning, we were humbled in his presence but he very kindly encouraged our efforts to expand the bonsai community and to innovate and form more popular and more successful forms of bonsai.  Here was a master who walked his talk.  His major address, THE SPIRIT AND PHILOSOPHY OF BONSAI has been a major part of this website and is strongly recommended.  )  

By Ryan Chang (slightly more experience novice)
          I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to do two wires in one hole, but I opted to go with the “X” formation and use a single wire for each of the four outer holes.  I took out the plastic separator to be able to allow growth to enter the soil.
         I used cut squares of aluminum foil and wrapped around sharpened pencils, shaping one end to a point using the tip end of the pencil.  I also show the raffia covered bind wire holding the aluminum rods already made earlier.  The back piece of aluminum is the 4 inch pleated collar.

        David's note:  I suggested creating "aluminum foil rods" about the size of a pencil but tapered at both end with the idea of inserting these rods within the root column so when removed, there would be vertical air spaces between the roots that formed like a taller exposed root banyan.  But Ryan misunderstood me and set them up to be root channels for roots to go through.  It will be interesting to see what happens! 

         After removing the accent rock, I used the aluminum rods to thread the roots.  Next, I will fill the gaps of space with more body to give a natural look, so they don’t clump together.  At the same time, I will be forming the 4-inch pleated collar to form a cone.
          This view shows the body media being filled.  I noticed that the rods would pinch when making body media firm, so I used a chopstick to re-open or straighten out the rods from being totally pinched.
      Because I was having difficulty keeping the body media in while holding upside down, I added a temporary single collar around the top to prevent media from falling out.  This way, both hands are free to do any filling from the bottom.  It also makes the plant easier to flip once ready for placement in the pot.  Just take it off and flair out the top when done.
        I placed plant in pot and once I found a good scene, I removed the temporary collar, flared out the top, and tied the plant down to the pot with the bind-wire.  Then, I filled the remaining body media into the pot surrounding the aluminum collar.
         I used masking tape to tighten and firm the aluminum collar, then tested by lifting the whole unit by the bind wire.  The plant should not feel loose or shaky when picking it up. I soaked the pot in room temperature water for 30 minutes to complete.  Note that I have also trimmed the leaves to offset any root damage.  I left 2-3 leaves on every branch, taking off only the bigger older ones. 

        Compared to my first effort, I moved the plant from the corner to the middle.   I've created a strong base with the future roots that are being protected by the aluminum rods.  There is still much unclear of what path this roots tree will take, but I at least know where I want to go with it.



                    I ended up with 2 roots and 1 sumo.  In completing three Introductory Workshop Packages, I learned how to prep a pot for re-planting and how to properly loosen the media.  Too much removal of media from the root ball is not good. Just expose the top of the roots but try to leave the root ball intact. Just untangle any circling or elongated roots that may be cluttering the bottom. 

                      I learned how to plan ahead and not to just jump into the action.  In order to obtain the best results, you must give the best care you can.  I’ve been pretty rough with these tough little plants. Hopefully, I haven’t damaged them too much in the process.  I think most importantly, I’ve tried to heighten my awareness when it comes to identifying the trees potential and current state.  The more David reveals the more I learn. 

                      I didn’t know what type of characteristics to look for until I read what he was looking at.  Now, when I look at a tree or plant, I try to dissect them into sections to see how they grew.  I’ll look at the trunk and work my way up.  I try to figure out which side or branch grew before the other, which one is bigger than the other or lower, higher, etc.  This will help me to determine my own shaping in the future.  Being able to identify those types of details is something I never really did.  I used to like to look at the tree itself, but never pictured it growing before my eyes. 

                     I know there is still much to learn.  These Introductory Workshop Packages were full of fun, I found that the brochure that it comes with it does a good job at covering the basics. But for helpful tips and suggestions, David provided both with clear direction.  If, I had followed his directions, I would still have had 2 sumos and 1 roots.  I learn from my mistakes, and I hope those who read this will learn from my mistakes too.  All in all, everyone learns differently. In a way, we all are teaching each other.  I know I enjoy reading other growers/trainers stories and learning what worked for them and what didn’t.  The learning never ends.

                   ~Ryan Chang (January 21, 2013)



                 The above report is a second re-do as his initial effort left a lot to be desired. Prior to his redo, we exchanged emails to explain areas to improve and to clarify details. Ryan completed redoing his second and third report in time to include it in the second February 2013 issue of the JOURNAL OF TROPICAL AND TRUE INDOOR BONSAI.   Completing three sets of Beginner Workshop I level plants gives him the basic set of knowledge and skills and as the trees recover and begin growing strongly, he'll develop the confidence to acquire the horticultural skills until it's time to address pruning and training techniques. Because he has already been growing some bonsai, I am confident he has the cultural part under control.  

                  Normally I would advise new trainers to grow their first three trees for several months or at least for enough time for one part of one tree to grown out at least 7-8 leaves and this will allow us to run through the first pruning.  Until then, I don't advise starting with the Intermediate Workshop II plants.   But Ryan lives in Hawaii where there is strong growth and we train year around. He'll be growing them outdoors where he's already comfortable and successful.  The temperatures in Hawaii in the first two weeks of January have low temperatures between 60°F to 65°F with temperatures rising about 10 degrees for 70°F to 75°F during the day.

                That may be close to the temperatures maintained with heating even in the northern states, and if so if there is enough light, it may be possible to train True Indoor Bonsai year around. I would appreciate hearing from those who have grown Fuku-Bonsai's potted trees indoors for several years as to whether indoor training is satisfactory during winter.  I am under the impression that most prefer training during spring, summer and fall but would like to hear directly from those with actual experience over several years with request for reports from all parts of the country please.

                Ryan has proven to be a good sport and good student who has made exceptional progress in three weeks in his reporting, his photography, his developing a bonsai attitude and sensitivity!   He's prepared to fly over to the Big Island and spend a day with me and we've scheduled a date where he'll fly in on an early morning flight and fly back to Honolulu in an evening flight that same day.

               I have in mind to set the bar higher and to introduce him to the challenges of our 1:10 Project that uses special shallow saucer-pots that is part of the in-house training for Fuku-Bonsai staff. Currently we do not offer such workshop packages and the cultural sheets have not yet been written. There is a possibility that "1:10 Project Workshop Packages" along with individualized email instruction and assistance will only be offered to individuals like Ron Davis, Ryan Chang, and Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation members who are willing and able to participate by writing, photographing, and allow publishing of their efforts to be shared with readers of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.

              "FAST-TRACK BONSAI" includes custom personalized assistance. If you are interested, please email me at david.f@fukubonsai.com It begins with the purchase of three Introductory Workshop Packages and a commitment to follow a disciplined route of pre-study, preliminary conceptual report, photographing and making notes, and submitting a workshop report. After critique and adjustments the same procedures will repeat for the second, then the third plant.

               This offer is limited to those who are truly interested in learning and can handle candid and direct critiques with the objective of teaching the basics in one continuous short period. It is not suitable for those who like to argue and do things their way from the start but there's no reason they cannot begin experimental trials later. I hope others will utilize this opportunity to get started successfully and go on to a satisfying bonsai hobby career!   Congratulations Ryan! ~~~David

The Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai is published monthly by email and is a benefit of Foundation membership. Annual dues are just $12 per year. For more information about becoming a member, go to www.fukubonsai.com/MPBF.html