Burton Flake originally contacted Fuku-Bonsai to order plants while he was on deployment in Bahrain. Instead, he decided to visit to learn to possibly teach bonsai. Here's his first report:
INITIAL ROOTS INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE REPORT
My name is Burton Flake from Arizona and currently deployed in Bahrain. Iíve been in the Navy for three and a half years as a Mineman and just extended for another year. Iíve had an interest in bonsai as a young child but had no idea of how to get started. About 8 months ago I renewed my interest and bought a tree online. While shopping at a local garden shop, I spoke about my bonsai hobby. A fellow showed me a recently transplanted Chinese Banyan and gave me a rooted cutting. I researched banyans, found the Fuku-Bonsai website and began communications with David.
I was interested in becoming an investor as they were accepting funds and it looked like a promising long-term venture. After a few days of emailing I became interested in their True Indoor Bonsai and their Fast Track Group workshops. I was on a short detachment overseas but became a sponge --- going through every section of the website, reading every article, and following the stories of folks like Ryan Chang and Ron Davis. I was learning so much and couldnít wait to get involved myself. In the end I took a few weeks off and went to go see David in Hawaii. Despite all of the photos of the nursery, nothing could have prepared me for the real deal.
I hadnít let David know exactly when I was coming so I bet he was little surprised when I walked in. I was completely taken aback by the trees I was seeing. I hadnít imagined that there were so many awesome trees there, but yet, there I was walking around with my mouth hanging open. David showed me the various trees that were a part of the repository. A Japanese Black Pine had been given to Hawaii over 200 years ago by a Japanese ship's captain in appreciation for hospitality! My favorite display was a mountainous landscape with real trees growing throughout the scene.
I had a good idea of what to do in my first roots introductory workshop package from the online articles. I knew that I was going to make some mistakes and went in with an open mind and willingness to learn. First I prepared the pot, made a small hill at the bottom and carefully placed a small plastic separator on top of the pile to prevent soil from clogging the bottom and to help the roots spread out. I added some finer media on top of the plastic. I have to admit I was a little cautious. After removing the plant from the pot the remaining media stuck to the roots needed to be teased from them using a pick.
I didnít really understand how to make an aluminum foil collar when reading about on the internet. Itís really a genius idea! Carefully the foil was wrapped around the tree and media was placed into the ďtubeĒ. Once filled to the brim I covered the bottom with my hand to cover and successfully placed the tree onto the pot. The top of the foil is bent away from the tree a bit to help water the plant. After that, the twine previously routed through the pot was used to tie down the plant. I look forward to working on the next workshop in a couple days.
SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID: Burton wrote a much longer report, but the primary subject is our plans and dreams regarding Bahrain. With his permission, I edited and condensed his reports with enough to give everyone an idea of what he learned during the two full days that he spent at Fuku-Bonsai. While we covered some bonsai techniques in the workshop, we spent more time discussing general bonsai concepts to give him a strong summary of the endless ways that Fuku-Bonsai had developed a totally new westernized approach to bonsai that is dramatically different from traditional Japanese temperate climate outdoor trees that are almost impossible to grow if you're not in Japan and in close contact to a Japanese bonsai teacher!
SECOND DAY'S WORKSHOP REPORT; FIRST A SUMO IN A SMALLER POT. I returned to Fuku-Bonsai with my camera and took tons of pictures. Unfortunately, I lost my tablet (and pictures) while I was in Hawaii. I guess that means I have to go back so I can take some better ones!
The second day was even more rewarding as I worked on slightly older, impressive specimens and I was excited. We had resources ready so when the roots become exposed, the tree would go into its new pot without unnecessary delay. I followed along with David as he worked opposite of me. We prepped the pots, set the tie-downs, mounded the hill, carefully placed the plastic separator and added and packed the body media before working on the tree.
COMMENTS BY DAVID. The four photos above summarizes the first workshop of the day. We had discussed that smaller compact plants would be easier for Burton to take a "shoe-box load" of bonsai to Bahrain. So the idea was to use slightly older higher-quality stock and a nice smaller ceramic pot and the result was great! The key to getting inspiring results at the end of the workshop is to start with high-potential plants and a common sense gameplan that includes supplying all needed components! At Fuku-Bonsai, our goal is to make everyone successful!
THE SECOND DAY'S SECOND "ROOTS" WORKSHOP. I folded the pieces of foil neatly and wrapped it around the exposed roots of the plant before placing the finer medium along with some nutrient granules into the aluminum ďcupĒ I had made holding the plant upside down. Fold the aluminum foil "accordion style." This makes channels to help the roots grow straight down. The aluminum collar is firmly squeezed to hold the media at the top. Twist if you want the roots grow in a spiral. Flair the top to aid adding water. Fill to the brim, invert onto the mound, position the tree, secure with tie-wire, and complete potting
I went into pruning and was quickly corrected by David. First determine the essence of the tree and visualize the design and shape of the tree you want before doing any pruning. I learned to focused on how each cut would affect the tree. I did it! While it probably wasnít at its maximum potential I was pleased with the results! David allowed me to explore the nursery in the back and see the heart of the operation. I marveled at the rows upon rows of Dwarf Scheflleras in different stages of growth!
COMMENTS BY DAVID. Teaching bonsai is really the best way to learn bonsai! It's the route that I took in the mid-1960's and I continue to enjoy teaching. I'm still enjoying bonsai and learning too! As you can see from reading the articles in the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai, learning bonsai is no longer impossible and for those with enough interest and who are willing to learn by making mistakes, it is possible to learn by email IF YOU HAVE ACCESS TO HIGH-POTENTIAL PLANTS AND COMPLETE WORKSHOP PACKAGES!
It's possible to learn with young untrained seedlings or cuttings, but the results will be very disappointing compared to working with pre-trained three to four year old plants that already have character and a heavy trunk (and multiple trunks and branches) within one inch of the soil-line and a compact, shallow root system within 1/2" of that soil-line. The difference is dramatic!
Fuku-Bonsai believes that if a person has a first bonsai experience that produces an inspiring result, that person is much more likely to enjoy and pursue a bonsai interest. While enjoying that first successful result, there will be enough interest to root that cutting and to do all that is needed in the next three to four years while enjoying the first bonsai to develop and improve.
With the components of our Introductory Workshop Packages, I believe that Burton has enough skills so his "students" in Bahrain will be successful. He has the energy and enthusiasm to address the following challenges:
1. Will it be possible to gain the support of the decision-makers in his Bahrain command to allow him to offer "Create Your First Bonsai" workshops to those on deployment there?
2. Will he be able to obtain approval to import bonsai plants into Bahrain from the local agricultural authorities as well as the needed information for USDA to allow release of the plants?
3. Can an affordable method of transportation can be found that will get the plants to Bahrain in a timely manner without damage and at a reasonable cost?
4. Will it be possible to introduce bonsai to the residents of Bahrain to test the them: "BONSAI; Bridge to International Friendship and Peace!"
5. If we are successful in all of these, can those in the service deployed in Bahrain bring back their bonsai to the United States?
In addition to giving Burton some bonsai basics, these issues were the bulk of our discussions during his visit and an update and status report follows!