AN INTRODUCTION BY DAVID.  Russ is amongst the most detail-oriented of all in the study group and he's a real joy to work with him. He completed his first three Introductory Workshops in record time and did extremely well.  Normally the next step in terms of difficulty is the Intermediate Workshop II series to up-pot older and more developed 4LL8 Living Lovable Potted Bonsai into 8"diameter x 2" deep pots.  This would produce something comparable to our 8LS8 Living Lovable Potted Bonsai. But I think it would not be challenging enough.

         The next  more difficult challenge would be the Advanced Workshop III series that starts with the 8LS Potted Bonsai to up-pot into the 17"x12"x2" oval pots and these would upgrade the trees into bonsai comparable to our Custom Collection. But I hesitated to recommend that series as it involves purchase of three more costly plants that are too far matured over his previous workshop. By following this our standard beginner, intermediate and advanced progression, within one year, a person can progress from being totally inexperienced to be able to work on trees 10 to 15 years in training.  Making that route possible for those with the interest as financial resources is a major breakthrough.  Some of our customers have already very successfully gone through this route. 

          With the goal of raising bonsai standards,  we began the "1:10 Project" in 2011.  The project introduction is posted at:   This is not for everyone and we still have not yet mastered all needed procedural techniques. The 1:10 Project is especially designed to exploit and enhance the massive root systems of tropical banyan-like plants.  The two major plants in this category are Schefflera (including Dwarf Schefflera --- Fuku-Bonsai's specialty)  and Ficus (the fig family of plants that is the specialty of Journal contributing editor Jerry Meislik).   So when anyone even hints at wanting to take on difficult challenges, I introduce them to the 1:10 Project. 

         Ron Davis of Montana started two years ago. At the end of March,  Russ indicated he was ready to take on the 1:10 Project!  But we were not ready. Russ In the past month, through emails, pdfs, and referring to information already on the Fuku-Bonsai website.  He's already mastering the basics and this is his first 1:10 Project starting with Sumo concepts.    Three workshop sets were sent at the beginning of April and a large number of emails clarified different concepts. He sent a short report that was posted as part of last month's Fast Track Study Group Report posted at  His latest 1:10 Sumo report omits the errors, getting off and back on the path,  corrections, etc. and is being presented as if we went right through.  It wasn't that simple and the report is really heavily edited to share what Russ and I learned as the first major 1:10 Project Report!   


         April 6:   Aloha David, I received the shipment Thursday Fed-Ex. The box was in perfect condition.  I am surprised and so happy with the quality and quanity of new Bonsai !!!!!! I had high hopes, but am blown away with what I have received!!!!   

        April 8:  Aloha and greeting from Montana!   My name is Russ Mann, I am writing this to describe the recent shipment I got from Fuku-Bonsai. I have been interested in bonsai a long time and recently found this wonderful resource. I ordered and completed their "Workshop I series". It was very good, informative, complete and a pleasure to do!!! My new trees were doing GREAT and it was time for my next step!!!

        I call Fuku Bonsai and spoke with David Fukumoto about my next projects. He recommended the "1:10 Project,"  using even better bonsai stock. I ordered it, I received conformation of the FedEx shipment with conformation/tracking numbers.....waiting....waiting...what will come?  How will the trees look?   Will they be what I expect?  Will I be up to the challenge?

        The FedEx van pulled into my driveway 3 hours before the shipment estimate! I am so happy!! Like Christmas and my birthday in one! The box was in PERFECT condition. I took photos to record the event. I followed the instructions on the web site, cutting the box open carefully. then cut the sides of the box to open sides. The plants were bagged individuality and taped in place. the trays were wrapped also and taped in place. The packing job was amazing, the care taken was very impressive! I carefully separated each packed plant, then opened them one by one.

        I can not describe how happy I am with the incredible quality of what I received ! My expectations were not only met, but completely blown away!!! I unwrapped each plant and each was better than the last, plus some added complementary!! My interest and commitment to my bonsai is cemented and will stay from now on. This is because I now have the resources I have always needed. I have "True Indoor Bonsai" and the information so I can take care of them. I can get all the supplies I need and the inspiration and training. I wish I would have found this long ago, but there is no stopping me now!  So once again I say MAHALO to Fuku Bonsai, David, Myrtle and the staff !!! You all are amazing, your COMMITMENT to your customers is obvious!!!!  

       Russ Mann (Polson Montana) 


SUMO 1:10 REPORT by Russ Mann

        First, examine your tree front all sides, note strong points and any weakness. It is VERY important to not limit yourself by the current container-THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!!!!!!!  For example the angle of my new plant will be significantly different when in it's new home. The top or apex will be changed to reflect the best position of the plant, with the end being "sumo" style.

        My first drawing was incorrect, it could not work. I got input and tried again, much better. Then the best plan was explained to me! The prep and plan is the most important step!! This has to be a primary focus!!

       NOTE FROM DAVID:   Each study group member is learning and taking on new challenges and in requiring strategy planning sketches before any work is done,  I can see whether they fully understand the horticultural and design concepts.  I strongly believe that those who are willing to teach learn the fastest and a deeper understanding of the details.  THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT I REALLY WANT TO TEACH!  In asking study group members to make reports as if they were teaching others, they think through and learn it better!  They also come up with new ideas and everyone wins!  When they hit a mental block,  I'll forward to them information sheets that are not yet on the website, they review it to see if it answers the areas of confusion, and we learn together! 

       Start by getting all supplies together and ready. Pot, bind wire, course bottom and body media, aluminum  foil, reinforced monofilament tape, tools and a nice clutter free area. Double check that you have everything needed,  as once the plant is out of the pot and roots cleaned, you don't want it to sit out a long time. 

       Before you start, examine your tree and plan out how you want it to be situated, think of a nice, pleasing scene. Try to imagine how it will be when grown --- have a end result in mind. Think of how it will sit, the planting angle or tilt and examine all possibilities!                    

       Begin by preparing the pot. Install the X-tie wire from  under the bottom.

        Add the course bottom materiel, about 1/2 full. The coarse material should be tamped down and the fit firmed,  I used a tablespoon.

        To help make a steeper hill like my drawing,  found some small plant starter cups formed with coconut fiber that are designed to deteriorate over time. The cups are about 3" tall, 3" at the top and funnel down to 2". I cut off the bottom and trimmed the cup to about 2 1/4 inch in height. Then used a paper hole puncher and add breathing holes about 1/2 inch apart and from top to bottom. I think the holes are important so the roots can travel through the sleeve.  This sleeve support is very effective in building a higher more dramatic plant base.

        Build the center hill to raise up the tree and to form massive buttressing roots.  Then fill with coarse material, leaving a little room at the top.

        Next take the plastic separator and fold it half one way, then the opposite way to form a "tent".  Place on the top of the coarse material.  I used a white and blue piece of plastic for the picture. This will prevent the coarse bottom material from ever clogging up, aid in drainage and keep the roots healthy!! Drainage is very important!!
        Then add body media on top of the "tent" to completely bury the cup. The media must be added slowly to form the hill. Firm using a spoon (or what ever you are comfortable with) Make sure to center the hill in the pot.

        David recommended that I rescreen the body media to take out the coarse to get some finer body media to add to the hill to be a "cushion" for the plant.



       I used that finer material to slightly increase the height and allowed it to flow and cover most of the hill.

      STOP, visualize.... at what you're creating! This is something to enjoy, to nurture and grow with for a long, long time!!!


      Cut the tie wires from the bottom and remove the tree carefully from the pot. Gently rock the tree and media side to side and it will lift free easily. I use a paper plate to contain the media as it is removed as it can be used on other projects.


       Once out of the pot clean most of the media off the roots and gently examine roots.


       Group roots into small bundles, forming a cone to fit over the hill. I used taffeta colored bind-wire going in and out of roots, forming small groups to best fit the hill...and to grow into a pleasing arrangement. I misted the roots lightly while working on this.


        Place on the hill in a pleasing position and press down firmly. Examine from all angles for best look....SMILE, this is fun! Wrap the tie wire over the trunk and tighten it up...from both directions. The tree should be firm and not shaky when lifted by the trunk.

        I used sifted finer material to fill in around the roots, misted and filled --- tamped down with the spoon --- filled and misted again.  OK, looks good! (smile!!)

       CREATING THE ALUMINUM FOIL COLLAR.  Tear off a sheet three times the container width. The one I am doing is 9'' so I measured out 27''.  Take the 27" x 12"  aluminum foil,  and squish it down to about 1/2 way (6").

      Next along ONE side "finger flute" along one side only for a depth of about 3".


       Wrap the foil cover along the rim of the pot, I used small strips of tape to hold it in place. Then I firmed the foil cover in place, forming the hill and choking at the roots of the incredible tree.

       Then I taped starting from the foot under the pot and over and across to the next foot --- under to the next foot --- over and across again --- under and over to complete taping down securely.  The tape is reinforced monofilament packing type tape which is strong and will last. Choke the top around the trunk and form a area to a funnel shape, for watering purpose.  ( Stop --- SMILE...)

        I use a twisted nail to create "breathing" holes in the foil, about 1 inch spaced and all over the cover. This helps the roots for watering and to breath and grow vigorously.


       David recommended that I only prune the former apical growth to convert it to a branch and to keep the new apex as straight up as possible for strongest growth.  Trim some of the older leaves to help off-set the loss of the hair roots.



        Water by immersion, in a container, water to the level of the pot. Water for 30 minutes, once a week.  Use a turkey roaster-baster to run water into the top water funnel. I use a mix of rain water and water from my aquarium. The water from partial water changes works excellent for all plants.

         I hope this report has been helpful.  The project was quite a challenge, but I feel it will be well worth the effort and when I look at the makes me smile!!!

         Mahalo !!!   Russ (BONSAI) Mann


        SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID.   At 22 photos and captions, this is one of the longest how-to articles on this website.  BUT I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THERE WILL EVER BE A MORE DETAIL INFORMATIONAL SUMO 1:10 PROJECT REPORT!    While the report is long it really is a condensed version of the much greater number of drawings, emails, pdfs, and photos that went back and forth!  That Russ is still very much a novice was able to accomplish this challenge is amazing!

        When I first came up with the concept, I thot it was going to be far too difficult.  But I pursued it as I believed that it would set a new higher standard for all of us to strive for.  So it was extremely satisfying that a novice can accomplish this just a few months into bonsai!  I know not everyone can  do it, but that the result is really due to Russ's willingness not to give up!  He redid the drawings a few times before the light came on.  He folded the aluminum foil collar several times,  ran several trials before he figured out how to use that fiber pot and punch holes to effectively build a hill that will one day be an impressing buttressing base!  But I think part of the success is due to the chemistry that we've developed and I share in his satisfaction of a job well done! 

         If you look at the early photos of the tree, the primary apex was moving left.  It took a bit of a mind shift to understand the concept of converting that apex to a branch and to switch to a new central apex as the basis for a heavy future banyan foliage crown.  I recommend that when branches are trimmed, that they be rooted and you start your future bonsai.  Your skill will increase with the number of plants that you train and by propagating your own,  it's somehow easier to prune more radically.  The only thing I can think of at this point is to remove three of the four leaves on the cutting and trim 50% of the leaflets on the remaining leaves.  This will increase the odds of rooting and when you see uncut leaves, you know there also are roots.

         It's still cold in Montana and Russ sent a beautiful photo for our Mailbag.  He's got more lights, thinking of putting some outdoors during the day, and coming up with a comparative trial of growing them indoors and out.  He's enjoying his bonsai journey and I am too.  I hope readers enjoy the reports and will contact me when you think you can take on the bonsai challenge too!


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Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation & Fuku-Bonsai, 2013