THE FUKU-BONSAI LOGO TREE. Dwarf
Schefflera grown from a cutting rooted in 1976.
This was our first successful effort at training
this durable proven houseplant into the
multiple-apex arched branched structures of the
giant banyans with lofty rounded canopies.
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI™
Proven durable houseplants grown in the bonsai
Our interest in bonsai began in 1962 as
newlyweds. To add life, we decorated our spartan apartment with two
Schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla) that had grown in a pot in dad's orchid
house. A year or two earlier while rushing to complete my chores to go out on a
date, excessive water force had knocked the pot on its side and now the two plants
each had an interesting bend as it turned to grow upwards. We transplanted it into a
nice, shallow ceramic pot and got compliments on our "bonsai." We went to
the library and read every book on the subject and got hooked! When we moved to our
Kaneohe home, we began raising outdoor trees as bonsai and within a few years our
backyard was filled with bonsai in various stages of training. I began sharing what
I knew as one of the first English speaking teachers at Aiea High School's evening Adult
Education. The emphasis was on a Hawaiianized version of traditional Japanese
outdoor bonsai. But our original house plant bonsai was always our "fun
tree" even though it did not fit the then traditional definition of bonsai.
By the late 1960's Hawaiian Bonsai was dividing into those who wanted to stay with their
version of Japanese bonsai and the "young Turks" who wanted to share and create
a more populous form of bonsai. Dr. Horace Clay, Ted Tsukiyama, Michael
Uyeno, and I founded the non-profit Hawaii Bonsai Association. In the beginning,
it was open to anyone upon payment of membership dues and a commitment to teach
anyone everything without charging. We outlawed competitions and had exhibitions
that included a lot of educational exhibits. We gave team-teaching classes. No
one accepted the title "sensei" (teacher) as we wanted to create a fellowship of
Over the years I've participated in all aspects of bonsai; having over 50 of my
bonsai articles published, participating in and headlining bonsai conventions,
and growing a huge personal collection. I helped to develop the Hawaii State
Burrowing Nematode Nursery Certification Program and once approved, the Fukumoto
family moved to the Big Island to begin construction of Fuku-Bonsai as the first such
nursery in 1973. As a bonsai professional, I've tried to support in a
behind-the-scenes manner. I've had an opportunity to live a bonsai lifestyle and to
work with some of the giants of modern American bonsai: Ernesta Ballard who wrote
the first major book on growing bonsai indoors, Dorothy Young who edited the
American Bonsai Society Journal for many years, Connie and Horace Hinds who
were amongst the founders and early editors of Bonsai Clubs International Bonsai
Magazine, Connie Derderian who curated Arnold Arboretum's historic
collection, Elizabeth Scholtz of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Ed Potter of
Florida, Chase Rosade of Pennsylvania, and John Naka of California.
We host the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center & Hawaii State Bonsai Repository in Kurtistown
including all forms of artistic pot plants and the exhibit collection is the most varied
in the world. They are treasures to share with visitors and are not for sale.
Everyone is invited to visit the collection during normal open hours between 8AM to 4PM
Mondays to Saturday. There is no admission fee, but donations to the
Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation are gratefully accepted. On the second Saturday of
each month, the foundation sponsors a bonsai demonstration. Phone (808)
982-9880 to schedule a private True Indoor Bonsai introductory workshop.
Creating and maintaining a perpetual repository requires an organizational commitment with
sufficient resources and capabilities. The center and repository are co-sponsored by
Fuku-Bonsai Inc. and the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation. Maintaining a
collection of ancient bonsai demands the skills and discipline of a professional and we
are fortunate to have Michael Imaino, who is Fuku-Bonsai's plant manager and the
president of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation. He joined Fuku-Bonsai in 1983 and
formally became the full-charge curator in 1997. The center's collection is a
celebration of past and present. But the future belongs to TRUE INDOOR BONSAI!
Bonsai can be reasonably successful if you understand basic concepts. To keep them
alive, you must provide the horticultural needs of the plant. Some plants are
very durable and most people are successful. These should be the prime candidates
for a first bonsai. Too often, beginners want something that is very rare and
fail to understand that such plants are rare because very few people are successful in
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI are suitable for gifts for anyone who can grow house plants!
Growing bonsai indoors can be reasonably easy or impossibly difficult. There
currently is no "house plant bonsai" book. This website will be
continually expanded to include more information about this new field and will one day
become a book to be publish. We, therefore, copyright the contents of this
site but allow non-commercial reproduction provided Fuku-Bonsai credit is given.
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI is an American innovation. It reflects our independence and our
values. We're not talking about tropical plants that need a strong amount of
greenhouse lighting conditions that are grown outdoors when the weather is warm.
While we respect and admire the beauty of traditional outdoor bonsai, we want to
grow these plants in homes and offices throughout the year. To be successful,
these must be proven durable house plants. If you can't find it in house plant
books, it will not likely be an easy care indoor bonsai!
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI is the latest major evolution from Chinese penjing to Japanese bonsai
to Hawaiian bonsai. Traditional Japanese bonsai tend to utilize a "single
apex-tier branch" structure, or "pine tree shape." In contrast,
tropical bonsai tend to be "multiple apex-arched branch" structures
with luxuriant, wide canopies. They often feature banyan-like aerial roots.
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI are the result of training proven, durable house plants utilizing
the tropical bonsai structures and forms.
Bonsai is an art, a craft, and a hobby. Each person has the right to determine
what it will be. Some love to discuss and adhere to rules, but I believe this
is senseless activity. I believe each person has the ability to recognize what is
attractive and what is not. Bonsai an art and it is not important that we all agree
as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Bonsai is a craft and it is important to
learn the horticultural requirements and learn some of the technical factors to be
successful. But most importantly, bonsai is a hobby to be shared and enjoyed!
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI is relaxed and more closely related to the aristocratic, artistic
Chinese penjing rather than the disciplined, codified traditional Japanese
bonsai. Without rules, training is freer. If you like it, leave
it alone. If you don't like it, carefully study the tree to identify why you
don't like it . . . then fix it!
TRUE INDOOR BONSAI is part of a casual populist hobby.
It's like raising children. Each child is an
individual that must be nurtured and guided. It
doesn't matter if the bonsai is a prize winner or how
valuable it may be. What's important is that it's
YOUR bonsai! YOU are the only important critic!
I've been growing bonsai for many years and I've learned a lot, but I still have a lot to
learn. I enjoy talking with visitors from all over the world who make the effort to
find us. I hope that by sharing my knowledge, that I repay my debt in being
able to live a special bonsai lifestyle. Mahalo (thank you) to everyone who made it
David W. Fukumoto, founder,
- *** Continue to next section
- November 1999 FUKUBONSAI.COM
© Fuku-Bonsai,1999 & 2015
NOTE: The Fuku-Bonsai website went online in
1999 and this was one of the original articles. in 2015,
it was edited to update it.