A little over a year ago I was looking for a bonsai tree that could grow in my apartment. I had gotten what I thought was an ďIndoor BonsaiĒ online, a blood orange tree. The tree was bigger than I anticipated and while I didnít understand what features make a bonsai look great, I knew this one didnít look like a bonsai tree at all. I was able to find www.fukubonsai.com and contacted David about the company and plants. I became so interested that I flew to Hawaii so that I could see and do workshops in person. There, I told David about my upcoming 6-month deployment to Bahrain and that Iíd be interested bringing some trees with me that I could keep in my barracks room. We also thought that it might be a good idea to try to bring True Indoor Bonsai to the troops deployed there.
I told people about the cool tropical bonsai trees that Fuku-Bonsai had and how easy they were to take care of. I used it as an opportunity to put on bonsai workshop where people could learn how to take care of their own bonsai tree and bring some life to their barracks rooms. Over forty people in my command signed up for the workshop. I was also able to get our Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department to sponsor half of the cost to send them. While coordinating with David, I got permission from both the Bahrain and United States Customís departments and made plans to ship 48 plants across the world.
I coordinated with my chain of command to plan the workshop on a day we had off. I first taught a group of the most interested people to assist me during the workshop beforehand. When people arrived they were impressed with the trees, and admired the thickness of the trunks and branches on all the small sumos. I focused on teaching people how to plant, train, and take care of sumo style bonsai trees. I explained that these trees were young and had lots of potential to be great trees as they age and where to cut to encourage growth in the places you wanted. The workshop was a lot of fun and everybody got to take a bonsai tree to have in their rooms.
I wasnít able to start a second workshop by the time I was returning to the states from my deployment despite the growing interest. However, many people passed their trees on to a person who was coming out to replace them. One of the trees donated by Fuku-Bonsai is in the HM-15 Operations room and many other trees were scattered throughout various shops and working spaces. I also did a personalized workshop with Ahmed Saeed Ahmed, a Bahraini official that worked at the Municipality of Agriculture and helped approve the trees to come into the country. Fuku-Bonsai gave a tree as a gift to him and I taught him how to take care of it and the other trees he ordered for himself and his colleagues.
Iím now out of the Navy and re-starting in the Fast-Track study group with premium prepared bonsai stock. Iím beginning with a standard sumo planted on an accent rock working my way to sculpting a rock for a root-over-rock project. Iíve met Paul Bakerman, (who lives nearby in Phoenix, Arizona, saw his awesome collection, and we hope to work together on workshops here. Next month, I plan to go to Hawaii and possibly work on a project together while visiting the nursery, I hope to see Paul there as well while he is competing in the Kona Ironman Triathlon.
(EDITOR NOTE: Burton's Bahrain reports began in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai with articles consolidated in www.fukubonsai.com/2d1.html which serves as a the Bahrain Portal Page with links to the various articles. It includes a chronology that began with his visit to Fuku-Bonsai, the details of getting agricultural and international air freight, and his actual workshop in Bahrain.)
FIRST FAST-TRACK REPORT
I gathered the main components for the workshop so I wouldnít have to stop what I was doing to go find something. I also had scissors, aluminum foil, a spoon, and a thick piece of wire to tease out the roots.
I first began looking for the angles of the rock that had the most visually appealing features. Then I compared the rock to the tree and imagined where the sumo would be growing around the rock. I noticed the strong root growing down the right side of the trunk and thought that I might be able to place the rock between the trunk and the root.
The mound is made by using course media and piling it into the pot like a hill. Using a spoon I made the mound as tall as I could and firmed it by moving the spoon back and forth to pack the media. Before I poured in half of the body media a thin piece of plastic was placed on top of the mound to ensure that water is able to drain from the pot and not get clogged by fine dirt.
Giving my tree one last look I made sure I knew where I wanted to put the tree and began to bare root the sumo. Using a thick piece of wire to break up the roots and loosen up the soil, I began to expose the root system so that it could be reshaped and wrapped around the rock. And then this is about where I freaked out.