| In 1962 when I began my hobby, I was lucky. Then I
was a newlywed in a plain apartment that cried out for plants. I
grew up surrounded by plants and I found a pair of Brassaia (Schefflera) that had
begun growth in my dad's orchid greenhouse in an empty clay pot. It had
begun to grow, then the pot fell over and the pair of plants had grown
upright producing a nice bend in the trunk. I took it home, potted in a
shallow pot and over time began to get compliments on my "bonsai."
So I went to the library and got hooked into a lifetime hobby. Very soon I was asked to fill in as an instructor for a beginner bonsai course at an Adult Education Evening Classes at the local high school. The students had a very difficult time finding suitable material and Fuku-Bonsai began as a part-time backyard nursery to supply prepared bonsai stock for my classes.
It's a very common and durable houseplant. My first bonsai continues to flourish and its the first bonsai when you enter the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center. It's over 50 years in training and shows no sign of "old age decline." We no longer offer Brassaia due to the Benlate contamination that continues to prevent us from growing it. Our specialty is now Dwarf Schefflera and I believe we now produce the finest and most successful gift bonsai. Here are the reasons:
Whether you want to purchase your first bonsai or send a bonsai gift, the rules for success are very logical and are easy to understand. This page introduces the three basic rules and the background information about each.
RULE #1: "Choose plants that will grow vigorously in your environment or change your environment to fit the needs of your plant!"
First know that there are many kinds of bonsai with the original traditional bonsai trained from stunted collected trees that already had a lot of character and interest that Nature had pre-trained over many years. But whether the juniper was collected or grown in a nursery, it is still an outdoor plant and must be grown outdoors to thrive. It does not become a houseplant just because it is a bonsai.
Outdoor bonsai are extremely varied and realistically, every different type of tree grown as bonsai needs a book to teach how to grow that specific plant. If you read and study a general book about bonsai that tries to teach how to train or care for ANY AND ALL PLANTS, if will be very easy to get confused! General guidelines don't apply to all outdoor bonsai plants. They do not apply to True Indoor Bonsai which are proven durable houseplants.
So first of all, consider WHERE you will be growing your bonsai, then learn what plants will grow in that location. If you select a plant that is not suited for that location, there's very little that anyone can do to help and the plant is doomed to die.
For those who want to grow indoors, Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai are the easiest and most successful because we began with proven durable houseplants!
RULE #2: Start with as much character as possible to avoid the most difficult early training challenge!IT TAKES MANY YEARS TO CREATE "CHARACTER!" Trees collected from high elevation "timberline" had grown well during the good years, then died back to the trunk base. When good seasons came, new growth emerged from the surviving stump and growth resumes only to face another die-back. This growth and die-back sequence happens naturally and the finest bonsai begins with successfully collecting these ancient dwarf trees trained by nature.
In contrast, bonsai trained from average nursery stock have limited potential. "Character" begins with the bottom 1" of trunk and the spread of the surface roots. If the roots were not properly trained very early, it is very unlikely that there will be a good distribution and strong surface roots. If the trunk is not pruned early and heavily, it will not likely have character or strong low branches.
The success at the end of the first bonsai training workshop is directly proportional to the quality and interest of the stock plant. It's really common sense: "Outstanding results are possible with outstanding prepared bonsai stock." Put another way, if you want to create masterpiece bonsai, start with masterpiece quality stock! High-quality bonsai are the result of healthy prepared bonsai with high potential.
If you have only enough space or time for just a few bonsai, try to start with the best material you can find. But this is also true if you have a lot of space and time because quality not quantity should be the goal!RULE #3: "Learn to create vigorous plant growth!"
BONSAI ARE HEALTHY TREES THAT WILL GROW AND DEVELOP BEAUTIFUL SHAPES. They are not sickly stunted trees! If you selected proper plants that can grow in your environment and able to get promising plants that have good roots, trunk and branch character, you're just at the start and must learn to create vigorous growth. Learn the needs of the plants ... how much light, water, or fertilizer does it need?
Anyone can tell when a plant is sick and struggling or growing with vibrant health. There's really nothing others can do to help you if you are not willing and able to create healthy growth.
There really are no secrets. If you have limited knowledge, select common healthy plants rather than rare plants that are very difficult to keep alive. Find trees with character to inspire the creation of a beautiful future shape. Then give it the best possible care so it will grow well!
If you focus on these three simple rules, you and/or your gift recipient have a very good chance for success!
I've been growing bonsai since 1962 and have come to really enjoy it and have made it my life's work. I want all of my customers to be successful! I really hate to learn that so many bonsai that are purchased online or in large discount stores are dying.
At the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center, after greeting visitors, another of the first questions we ask is: "Would you want to learn to grow bonsai?"
Usually, the answer is "YES!" But after giving a basic introduction, the visitor usually starts buying plants for themselves and as gifts! They like knowing a lot about how our trees are trained, but realize that with their busy lifestyle, that they don't have enough time or interest to make a lifetime bonsai commitment!
BUT THEY LOVE TO GIVE OUR TRUE INDOOR BONSAI AS GIFTS, KNOWING THAT WE'LL DO, AND WE HAVE ALREADY DONE, ALL THAT WE CAN FOR THEM TO BE SUCCESSFUL!