By Ryan Chang,  contributing Journal writer (Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii)

              I feel like a hockey player scoring a goal in the wrong net during the playoffs!  The cost was much too much to bare  --- no championship tree for me!  I had a great opportunity and was finally making strides in my growing efforts.  But I reversed the design and wasted the efforts of the past two months after bringing the tree back with me from Fuku-Bonsai.  One day I decided to re-plant the ROOTS/ROCK.   What was going through my mind?  I was cleaning everything up,  imagining the lesson I learned at Fuku-Bonsai. BUT I FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON!  

              My ROOTS was already had exceptional potential, but what I did was just take it back a few years and switched it to be a SUMO in the future!  I put my head down in shame while I walk off the playing field. But like Rocky, I got back up, armed with Davidís critique and new plan B, I quickly and confidently re-did the workshop, to claim an amazing future SUMO!  However, lets start from the beginning with the beautiful ROOTS planting.  It was gorgeous to look at.  Roots had spread everywhere and created in itself its own piece of art. 

             Then, the massacre began! Here's my problem  --- I saw there was a rock hidden within the roots and thought it was a rock planting!  All the roots that blocked the view of the rock.   Therefore, cleaning up the roots  would make the rock planting look better.  However, David pointed out that, while it may have started out as a rock planting, it was not a potential ďRoots TreeĒ When I removed all the roots, it basically went back to being the original rock planting! 


        The plant when taken out of its current training pot, the plan is to keep the root ball, and straighten out. This shows the roots straightened out and the bottom of the root ball/mass of small roots were left untouched.  This is where I should have stopped and thought about the planting more.  I was so focused on dialing it back, I didnít even know I was dialing it back.  I thought I was restoring it to what it was supposed to be. 
          Little did I think about what it could beÖso lessoned learned.  Keep looking forward towards the future of the tree and not so much the past!  I knew the sacrifice of taking the roots off, so I can live with it, but knowing that it wasnít even the correct plan for the tree, was my fault indeed as well, and thatís what is going to stick with me.

         Massacre reduction, however, at the time, I was please at how it was turning out.  So, naÔveÖsee how the thick roots grasp the rock, I was like yea, oh yea!

    This is was going to be my slightly tilted version of a volcano in the wind actively spewing lava year round, like the volcanoes on Hawaii island.

            I opened the foil collar and showing the small hammer I will use to smash the bottom.

                David was a good sport and didnít really lay it on me as he did in the past.  Maybe he knows that Iím trying my best, but I need to start communicating more.  I learned that this plant continues to surprise me at how versatile it can be.   I mean come on, its one species, yet, all of them are different, which is amazing to me.  Its kind of like us when you think of it.  Each of us are raised/trained by someone, and that someone would be in relation to the bonsai grower/trainer.  And, we are all different in our own ways. 

               In the future, I canít be shy about asking David for help.  So, if I run into a problem, Iíll put the tree aside and email him; he always responds. So I should ask for help instead of trying to impress him.  So, moving into the re-do, it was obvious what I wanted to do.  The plant would be a sumo, however, there were certain angles to choose from.  I choose the one that gave the trunk the thickest looking base and nice taper for the apex.  But first I need to create a story so I and everyone can visualize it.

               Upon a tiny island that no one has ever seen before, lies the most beautiful landscapes and mountains that stretch from east to west, with large patties of water running and streaming down the land into the ocean.  Flowers never smelled so sweet, and the air never felt so crisp.  Even the grass beneath your feet wouldnít be too wet or too dry.  It would feel as if the land is feeding you through your feet.   

               It wasnít so big. You could travel all around the island in three days, and you could travel to the top of the mountain and back down in two days.  One side of the land which was flush with trees and green cover.  It protected the other side which was rich and full of delicate beauty. 

               The ancient land was mystic, mysterious, protected by the moonís light during the day, and home of sea creatures.   To this day the island has not been seen. But a green shield can be seen from any horizon.  When the sun reaches the ends of the world, the ray of light is so strong that it focuses all its light power into a tiny spot.  For a second, the island absorbs all the light in the world and the strongest of the sea creatures would form a gigantic green shield.  In a second a reflected green flash sent all the light back to the other side of the world.  All precious life which thrived on the island is now safe and the beauty of the island is never ending.

               The story points out that the island is the source of all life that which ends in the sea.  Behold my green shield tree!

          The bottom of the rock has been smashed and split, ready to remove the cinder rock.  Gently tugs, and what doesnít come off easily, give a little jiggle and tug and it will budge enough where it will come right off.

           Cleaned up the roots and straightened the curled roots.  This photo is showing whatís left of the Root massacre. With less than a handful of sphagnum moss, I sprinkle some nutrient granules on there and cusp the bottom most roots.


           Moved the plant to a corner and let the foliage set to one side.  I pointed the apex straight up and spread the roots in all directions and pushed down.  I covered with more media and tied down using the bind wire pull tight method. 

             The aluminum foil collar style I chose to use doesnít have holes because Iím experimenting after seeing how some of my other plants roots are shooting out of the air holes.  This way, the roots that do grow, will be pushed down into the open areas, then I can have an easier time manipulating it in the future. After reducing the foliage and re-planting, I soak it with water and put it in a shaded humid area for recovery.

              CONCLUSION.   Even when making progress, its always important to get a 2nd opinion, thatís where we are all part of a study group to give each other opinions and help.  Thank you David for always giving me helpful opinions and showing me the way. Iím sure others have received similar help and would agree, that there is no substitute for an open and experienced bonsai trainer.   David has had to keep me on my toes and keep my head pointing forward.  Experimentation is the key and also part of the reason why I chose to give it such an extreme look.   Got to take it where no man has taken before!  As always, I continue on the journey.  Peace all!     - - - Ryan


             SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID.   As everyone can see from the first photo,  the advanced study group members are getting access to advanced older plant materials that are not otherwise offered for sale to regular customers.  They are often more challenging and were created with techniques that may not have ever been publicized.  Ryan's tree began as a small lava planting that was potted so the roots grew over the rock.  Such tree have a trunk with a lot more character than a tree that is directly potted.  When the rock is removed,  these trees develop very heavy trunks and make exceptional Sumo. 

              But with such exceptional roots,  it made sense to create a styling that shows off and exploits the outstanding characteristic.  Having been a rock planting was part of what made the tree special so by taking off the restrictions of the rock,  the tree would grow vigorously!  But Ryan got brain-washed because he is still impressed with rock plantings and he lost his bearings and took the tree backwards.  He's recovered and the new now has a more interesting future.  So I asked Ryan to move some of the other high potential trees to the next level and another workshop follows!  ~~~ David

*** Go to the August issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
***  Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai's website
       © Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013