By Burton Flake (Mesa, Arizona)  Journal contributing writer

            My second fast-track workshop is a mid-height roots styling using premium prepared bonsai stock.  The goal is to increase the length of the visible roots and create a taller exposed root banyan.



          This is the second plant in fast-track series and is my first mid-height roots. The plant Iím styling already has thick roots coming down from the top of the trunk and branches.





          One of the sources I used to familiarize myself with this styling technique wasRyan Changís articles ďRoots Re-DoĒ. In the article Ryan uses aluminum foil to create root paths by folding them into tubes. I had thought that made sense and almost did the same. Reading further David explains their purpose, the aluminum keep the roots growing apart and creates space between them for more root exposure once removed. I made aluminum tubes with foil rolled into different sized tubes. I thought varying the thickness of the tubes might make the roots space out in a more pleasing manner.




        I prepared my mound with the course media and I prepared my wire for securing the plant. I prepared this one a bit differently than I usually do since I planned to tie the tree down by the aluminum collar. I routed each wire through the corner holes and then twisted two pairs together.





       While breaking up the old soil and combing the roots, I tried to manipulate as many roots as I could to be pointing and growing down. I used an awl as my root pick which worked well as I broke apart the older media. All of the media from the plant was recycled and used to fill the pot.




         The collar was made using a 7X12 piece of foil folded accordion style and was wrapped around the base of the tree and the ends folded together. I put a bit of media in and then pushed my foil tube spacers in different spots. Twisting and tapering the ends of the tubes allowed me to just push them in place. The media already in the collar held them there fairly well when I put the rest of the media in the collar.





           I placed my tree on one side of the pot with the majority of the roots coming from the trunk facing center. I pushed down and squeezed to ensure the aluminum was wrapped tightly around the media tube and set firmly towards the base of the pot.






          I used a four point wire twist technique that I thought would work well for securing everything. Bringing the ends of the wires I already twisted to opposite ends, I was able to twist the wire tightly around the collar. I then used some thread to secure the top of the tree to the wire tightly.





          I made bigger holes in the foil than my last planting by pushing a pencil all the way through instead of just the point. Once that was done I made sure I could pick the whole thing up from the collar.






           I placed the accent rock in a nice position but Iím sure it will change in a few months when the foil comes off. Even with the foil on I like how the tree looks, Iím excited to see how it will look when exposed.




                     SOME FINAL THOUGHTS.    I think I may have gotten a bit overzealous on the height, Iím not sure if the foil collar is too tall. I ended up using a lot of media filling up the collar and I wasnít able to fill the entire pot up. I still havenít placed the fine media on top as I feel that the fine rock really sets the scene. With that being said, when I eventually remove the foil or if I have to repot it I have fine media to place on top. The aluminum collar is secured in place by the wire very well but my concern is, what about when I remove the foil? Iím not sure if the roots will grow all the way down the collar and into the pot and actually keep the tree secure. If not, Iím sure I will have to eventually secure the tree itself with the wire.

           Aloha for now  . .  .   - - - Burton Flake  (September 28, 2014)


            Burton is going to be a great bonsai trainer one day.  He really does his homework, plans well, and is laying a strong knowledge base.  Most of our beginner workshops are devoted to sumo and roots and although sumo can be trained into a large range of stylings to depict many banyan variations, I have to admit that I still haven't yet explored all possible variations of roots. 

            So I tend to encourage the Fast-Trackers to take a full range of roots into the "growing-on" stages even if you don't now have ideas on how you'll be training them.  Do some with large tall foil diameters, but also some with slender tall columns.  Make some thin and short to create miniatures.  But notice that the Fast-Trackers are now growing-on more developed higher quality Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock and that greatly enhances the potential!  In just a few years, these will be outstanding trees!   

            The one that Burton started will be ideal for rock planting on an 8" to 10" tall rock  ---  or be an exposed root design once he removes the foil spacers.  Ryan has one planted over a whole bunch of golf balls and he might one day have a unique exposed root tree with round holes in the root column!  Now's the time for Burton to dream outrageous designs and to start the growing-on stage so he'll one day have ideal stock for his creations!  Keep going Burton!  I'm  looking forward to seeing him again with Paul Bakeman and look forward to the two of them inspiring each other!   

             ~~~David (

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