BURTON FLAKE'S FUKU-BONSAI WORKSHOPS

                  With Burton now a civilian back home in Mesa, Arizona and meeting up with Paul Bakerman, he's playing catch-up and this month's issue features his article at www.fukubonsai.com/2d5.html  When he learned Paul was coming, he tried to also as his dad works for an airlines and his airfare is complimentary.  But he had a VA Hospital appointment that are hard to get and must fly standby.  So he arrived the day after Paul left to return home and they did not get a chance to do a workshop together.

                  While Burton is free and loose regarding time,  he's on a tight budget.  So he did what any young adventurous world traveler does --- he bartered some work at Pineapple Park & Campgrounds for a place to stay and partial meals!  He had a chance to spend parts of three days here.

DAY 1:  BURTON FIELD-TESTS THE NEW PREMIUM INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE

                  Burton used a number of the original Introductory Workshop Package (IWP) in teaching his Navy buddies in Bahrain (see www.fukubonsai.com/2d1.html)  so he was a good person to evaluate the new larger premium package with older premium prepared bonsai stock in basic Sumo.

                 Preparing the pot (1) is similar, but with a larger pot with larger drain holes a plastic hole screen (3)  is used and the x-wire(4) is threaded through with the wires bent out of the way toward the corners.  The coarse bottom (8) is made into a hill and the plastic separator(5) is creased diagonally twice to "tent" and prevent the coarse bottom from clogging. While holding the plastic separator in place body media (9) was placed around with additional Nutrient Granules (10) added and all tamped down.

                 Burton removed the tree from the 2" nursery pot, bare-rooted the tree starting with the top, then the bottom and finally the middle section to spread out and separate the roots, but keeping all media grasped by the root hairs from falling off.  Then he used a new technique.  He wetted the "Organic-Fine"(11) and added some on top of the larger accessory rock (7), positioned the tree with roots over the rock and secured it in place with bindwire (6).  He used additional organic-fine to cover over the exposed roots on the top and sides of the rock.  We are adding this step as we find that with a well installed foil collar, that an abundance of fine hair roots emerge and the tree quickly becomes established.  Note that all media removed while bare-rooting the plant is mounded in the pot where the tree will be placed.

               Press the plant on rock firmly into the media mound, position, then pull one of the x-wires up and over a part of the rock, pull up another wire from the opposite side, and twist tight.  I asked Burton to lift the tree by the trunk and having done it correctly, he easily lifted the tree, pot, and all media. He then used the other two wires to tie it again firmly an it clearly would not shake.  The tree is potted very high and the roots will grow strongly over the rock into the pot.

              The organic-fine would quickly wash away and a 6"x12" aluminum foil was folded in half to 3" x 12", crumpled, straightened out, and accordion-folded every 1/2".  The foil went around the rock, the edges joined by folding over 1/4" a few times,  the foil pushed into the rock in the middle,  then all around, the the top closed with the top of the foil flared like a water catching funnel to make watering easier.  We like to tuck a little sphagnum moss (12) into the top of the funnel.  To complete body media was added up to the pot rim.  It was compressed and smoothed with a spoon.  Air holes were made and the assembly was complete and ready to water. 

              For the remainder of the first day we discussed a wide range of subjects.  At 24 years old, Burton is seeking as much experience as possible as he decides what to do with his life.  He is very fortunate to have parents that support his happy-go-lucky current lifestyle without any responsibilities. Burton will use his travel privileges to fly to as many places for as long as he can.  He really enjoyed his recent trip to Alaska and  he came here to explore whether or not a bonsai career can be a viable option. So we discussed the economics of bonsai as a livelihood in Arizona or anywhere else.   

                CONCLUSION AND REMARKS.  The smaller Introductory Workshop Package (IWP) has been a great success.  It's a great complete package for an economical beginner workshop and it is being used successfully by individuals and groups. A good part of the success is due to the extensive written instructions, the articles in the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai,  and having contact so questions can be answered by email or phone or if clarifications are needed.

               The Introductory Workshop Package (IWP) introduced in 2007 utilizes prepared bonsai stock that meet the standard to go into our HS8 Small Size Lava Planting.  The Premium Introductory Workshop Package took seven more years to increase production and be able to meet the much higher standard prepared bonsai stock that is used in our HD8 Desk Size Lava Planting and up-potted and grown-on to be used in 4LL8 and all older Fuku-Bonsai products. A PIWP Sumo can be grown-on to greatly thicken the trunk and branches before being cut back to start refinement training of small bonsai. Sumo is ideal to create a low heavy  and wide crown with impressive trunk-root buttressing.  In the future, the accessory rock can be removed as the roots will be properly flared and developed.  The area could be filled with additional media for more vigorous grow to train a larger heavier typical banyan bonsai. 

               But there are several other major training options.  The tree can be heavily fertilized and allowed to grow wild for an extended period of a year or more, then severely and repeatedly trained by reduction-building techniques to create a much heavier trunked larger bonsai.  The tree could be cut back a few months later after it recovers to start refinement training of a mini-bonsai. Or the tree could be potted into a shallow saucer that is 10 times wider than it is deep.  More information is on the website in the portal section titled:  "10:1 Project." 

SOME COMMENTS AND EVALUATION BY BURTON FLAKE:     

It was a bit like Dťjŗ vu returning to the Big Island of Hawaii because of how many things reminded me of my visit last year. This year I came specifically to visit the Fuku-Bonsai nursery. I was excited to see the trees especially one of my personal favorites, a tree given to the Hawaiian people by a Japanese Naval Officer for their hospitality many years ago. After catching up with David he showed me some of the awesome innovations and styles he was coming up with. I was able to test one of the new Premium Introductory Bonsai Packages. The package includes a well-established tree, a unique lava rock to plant on, and an awesome pot to set the scene.

David and I quickly began to pot a chosen bonsai and I discovered that the preparations and material for this new package are very similar as its smaller version. The new Premium IWP includes a larger rock than the regular IWPís and the Organic Fine is a new addition. I hope to recreate something similar here in Arizona to help my newly potted trees because it protects and gives fine roots a place to grow, maximum growth, and a tree greater chance of returning to full strength. I was able to make a super cool root over rock style following simple instructions with all of the necessary materials in one package. I learned some new things about the dwarf schefflera and how much styling potential they have. David showed me a couple of his smallest bonsai and taught me how I can also make small little trees from the cuttings of the plants. These even tinier bonsai have me excited to prune my trees when the time comes.

 

DAY 1:  BURTON FLAKE EXTENDS ROOTS TO CREATE A RAINFOREST BANYAN

               Besides the original two Fuku-Bonsai Rainforest Banyans in our permanent collection (www.fukubonsai.com/4a24.html ) ,  the third effort was created in a Ryan Chang workshop (www.fukubonsai.com/4a24b.html )  and modified (www.fukubonsai.com/4a24c.html ).  The fourth effort was part of a Paul Bakerman workshop in this issue (www.fukubonsai.com/1a61c.html ). In this fifth Rainforest Banyan with Burton, the objective was to use a younger, smaller, selected 8LS8-Roots but to extend the roots proportionally taller with less aerial roots in a more elegant presentation.

               For this workshop,  Michael built two "over-lapping upside down U-shaped supports screwed together" to become a 4-legged support. One was screwed through the 17"x12"x2" plastic oval pot as the tree would be shipped to Burton.  Burton quickly removed the tree from the smaller round pot,  bare-rooted it, and with heavier wire,  and we suspended it on the independent 4-legged support. In the center photo Burton is showing one of the heavy buttressing roots removed to allow the longer aerial roots to fall straight down.  The right photo shows him untangling the roots,  and moving all to vertical positions.

               Arranging the roots is time consuming.  First,  using paper-covered thin bindwire,  guide the inner roots vertical against the main trunk.  Then with the bindwire, lightly tie the outer roots so all aerial roots are vertical and facing down.  The tree was then switched to the support that was attached to the pot which had plastic ribbon ties installed,  along with coarse bottom,  Nutrient Granules, and some body media.  A triple thickness 6" diameter aluminum foil collar about 6" high was placed below the plant.  A faster draining mix of equal parts coarse bottom and body mix was used to start filling the foil column and also completing filling the pot to the rim. 

              A double foil 4" diameter column was installed inside the larger column base and additional media inserted with the aid of a u-shaped open top funnel and dibbled in place, with efforts to keep the roots parallel and straight up and down.  In hindsight,  it may have been better to make two 6" extensions instead of a single 12" extension. As more material was dibbled in, the foil was continually compressed and monofilament tape was used in a spiraling pattern to further firm up the foil column. With plastic ribbon ties, the column was secured to a pair of supports first across the short side of the pot, then across the long side.  This held the column very firm and the stronger light green plastic ribbon ties coming through the holes in the oval pot as tied to the horizontal ribbon support ties to a point that Ryan was able to lift the entire arrangement by the column. Ryan did a light pruning and completed by adding air holes. 

             The last photo shows three workshop Rainforest Banyans at Fuku-Bonsai.  The left Ryan Chang tree was the first of this second generation of trees.  It was the oldest and best stock with about six times as many as Burton Flake's and about twice as many as Paul Bakerman's.  Both of these older trees will be "finished" in the 17"x12"x2" oval pots so the crowns were cut back heavily.  Ryan's is already throwing out a large amount of regrowth.  Although Burton's tree is the youngest, it will finish off taller and with a larger crown to compliment longer but fewer roots.  All three have huge potential to be very high-quality Rainforest Banyans.  This is the most difficult style to create as exceptional stock is needed and these are more costly.  In the past, Custom Collection trees that were trained using another technique  quickly sold out.  I believe that the techniques used  can be improved to allow us to produce more of these impressive Rainforest Banyans in the future.

COMMENTS BY BURTON FLAKE:

Iíve done quite a few workshops repotting and training smaller and younger trees but I havenít had a lot of experience training and styling older trees. The idea was to lengthen the roots of this tree that grew lots of aerial roots, and encourage it to begin to grow into a rainforest banyan. Roots and the rainforest style styles are amongst the most interesting trees to admire with the latter being more difficult to create. While a tree can be trained relatively young into a roots style with great results quickly, a rainforest banyan style is a hard style to recreate. It takes time for multiple aerial roots to develop and create a rainforest scene. If you want to grow one, aerial root growth must be encouraged with a humid environment that optimizes their growth.

It also helps to have a tree that seems to love to throw out aerial roots so that more root growth opportunities are presented. The wooden trellis Michael made for this project allowed the tree to be hung while working underneath it and then later provide support for the entire finished project. Once the roots are fully established, the trellis support and the aluminum foil can be removed and a new stage of refinement can begin. Working with this tree gave me some great insight on techniques that can be used to lengthen the roots.  This technique also gave me an idea for other ďabstractĒ styles that I plan to experiment with. Iím planning on working with Paul Bakerman and have an idea for a unique style that will require his help if I want to use it in my next workshop successfully.

DAY 2:  BURTON FLAKE WORKS ON LEARNING PROFESSIONAL TECHNIQUES

                    To give Burton a taste of life as a bonsai professional,  he worked alongside of Michael Imaino who was potting up new item 9RLS8 that is introduced in this issue. Item 8LS8 are older and more developed than the younger 4LL8, and amongst our most popular items.  The trees are moving well into refinement stages and with high quality features already developed,  most knowledgeable customers recognize that at $119.95 + FedEx US shipping, that this is one of our best values. 

                    In the past, the best and oldest 8LS8 were moved into larger Custom Collection 17x12x2 oval plastic pots with starting prices at $350 at the start of a major grow-out stage to create a larger bonsai. Customers are requesting a more finished premium potted bonsai (like the 8LS8)  that is a bit larger and the 9RLS8 to be regularly priced at $179.95 + $15 FedEx US shipping is being introduced.  This will make an impressive medium sized bonsai. 

                   Making the transition from trees in the "grow-out" stage to start moving into the more finished "refinement" stage requires the most professional skill and while I did it in earlier days,  Michael has largely taken over.  These are skills that are taught one-on-one to members of our Fast-Track Study Group for each specific type of older stock that they purchase.  Burton being a member was taught the fine points of developing high quality Roots bonsai.  Michael was well into the day's production when Burton joined him,  observed how several were done, and invited to do the easier finishing portions on several. 

COMMENTS BY BURTON FLAKE:

Iíve always been impressed with the character of Fuku-Bonsaiís dwarf schefflera trees, but itís really fascinating when you see how they are grown. Michael trains and takes care of most trees at the nursery. He has a real talent for creating an infinite number of unique trees so quickly. In moments he makes the decision of what branches to prune. Each cut is made for a reason and a purpose and once a plant is cut you canít put it back. But even with that in mind Michael has little hesitation making the right cuts that will produce successful results.

Several large roots trees were being repotted and I had the privilege of working with Michael on my second day visiting Fuku-Bonsai. One can learn a lot working with a single tree, but there isnít anything like working with a large number of them. Each tree looks different and needs to be pruned and positioned in a different way. Even when they are the same style; roots, sumo, or dragon, every tree has its very own apex and lowest growth area. By working with a larger number of trees I was able to practice the theories that directly impact maximizing a treeís potential. The apex, the highest point of growth on the tree, is an ideal place to start when determining what you want to do with the tree. From there you can draw a line straight to the lowest branch and cut growth above this line. The lowest branch also help identify the best orientation of the tree. Michael trained a few trees as I hovered behind him and helped him finish the trees before they were watered.

DAY 3:  ROCK SCULPTURING AND ROCK PLANTING

                   As mentioned in the Paul Bakerman articles,  Arizona has attractive bonsai rock resources so a class was set up for Burton to also learn the basics of sculpturing and planting. 

               Some believe that rocks should be used only naturally as found and these individuals generally are not successful.  Fuku-Bonsai is focused on developing very strong healthy plants that will thrive for its customers who have varying levels of bonsai skills and often less than ideal growing conditions.  So we believe that rocks need to be extensively prepared.  Hawaiian welded splatter lava is relatively soft that can be sculptured with a hand drill with a masonry bit.  The rock Burton is improving has already been partially prepared using a hand pick that created a more attractive shape and with a cement pancake base to assure it stands solidly upright.  Protective eyeware is strongly advised and required here.

               Burton was instructed in both the theory and at specific stages:  1) To improve overall rock profiles and establishing a planting plan to incorporate the unique features of the rock.  2) To create the planting location and saddle. 3)  "Reading" the natural "root trail crevasses" and digging and enlarging to allow roots to grow strongly to the media in the pot in a "root-over-rock" manner. 4)  Bottom holes to secure the rock to the pot.  The right photo shows the 4LL8 Roots tree Burton selected,  a sampling of my Oregon Pumice sculpturing demonstration,  and the fully prepared rock.

               The rock was prepared by lining all root trail crevasses with sphagnum moss, Nutrient Granules, and body media.  The saddle was built up with layers of sphagnum moss and body media, and the tree bare-rooted.  The middle photo shows the roots separated, spread apart and ready to drop onto the saddle.  It was pressed down firmly,  a double bindwire went over the tree and rock twice and the rock and tree strongly pulled together. The wires were tied near the heaviest roots and firmly secured the top of the larger roots to the planned position by going around the rock horizontally.  At this point, all roots are not yet into the root trail crevasses, but Burton had no problems picking up all by lifting the tree's trunk.

              From this point, a lot of careful tedious work is necessary to build out good materials in the root trail crevasses and then to guide all roots to be even with the surface of the rock.  The roots will quickly fill the crevasse and as it grows vigorously when the roots are in the pot, the roots will enlarge and totally hide the narrow sculptured crevasses and the roots will develop with a very natural appearance.  The center photo shows a large amount of "Organic-Fine" made up of equal parts of Hawaiian volcanic high-velocity pumice ejecta and fine chopped and shredded coconut husk (coco-peat) that passes through a 1/8" screen was wetted, and smeared over all roots with the planting complete.  A double aluminum foil collar was installed,  firmly secured with strong monofilament tape,  air holes made, and additional body media added to complete the potting. 

 

 

 

           The completed rock planting is already very attractive with excellent high-success potential.  The methods used for creating high-potential bonsai are not a secret.  But it takes a lot of professional skills to develop a lot of character and interest in the lowest 1" above the soil line and a complex, compact root system 1/2" below that soil line.  The Introductory Workshop Package and the Beginner Study Group is the ideal way to learn True Indoor Bonsai basics. 

           Upon completing and graduating into the "Fast-Track Study Group", members get access to special unlisted bonsai plant stock,  materials and supplies, and special assistance.  We welcome serious hobbyists to join us!  Please contact me for more information at david.f@fukubonsai.com  

 

 

ROCK SCULPTURING AND PLANTING COMMENTS BY BURTON FLAKE:

I drew up a quick sketch of a landscape planting idea I had for David a few months ago to give him an idea of what I was looking for in my bonsai. In my sketch I was trying to emulate a specific sense of scale unique to only the very best landscape plantings. A good landscape planting is able to give the viewer a sense that what theyíre looking at is bigger than it actually is. The moss growing is grass, the small plants are large plants, and the small trees are giants. David has helped me learn the theories and techniques to help me work towards creating my own epic ďliving landscapesĒ. Iím working to create parts of even bigger plantings and the more parts I have the more choices Iíll have to work with. I want to create notable plantings so I need high quality material and learn a variety of skills.

One of the skills Iím practicing is carving rocks with a drill and creating places for a plant to grow. From previous articles on www.fukubonsai.com  I got inspiration and ideas from others who have done rock plantings, especially Ryan Changís rock planting articles. There are quite a few others doing rock plantings and itís always interesting to see how other people decide to shape their rocks. The articles on the website allowed me to go a bit ahead of myself and I began drilling a rock for a medium sized root on rock before planting my earlier trees. However, Iím glad to have carved a rock and then planted a tree on it with Davidís help before I planted on the rock I already carved. Under his guidance we did a workshop with a decent sized rock giving me more practice working with a drill on Hawaiian lava rock. The lava rocks are soft and are easy carved into but are strong enough to not break apart in your hand and resist the stone breaking power of roots.

When carving a rock you want to remember that youíre creating something that is supposed to be greater than the sum of its parts. Keep the character of the rock while also giving the tree a place to be established. Carve the root lines as though the roots were already there and you can begin to imagine where they should go.  Itís important there is room for the media to encourage the roots to grow and mature around the rock when planted and the amount of nutrient granules necessary for sustainable growth.

 

DAY 3:  ADVANCED PRUNING OF A  LARGE OLDER BONSAI

               On this second visit to Fuku-Bonsai,  Burton was exposed to a huge amount of bonsai techniques, concepts, and professional activities.  As our newest Fuku-Bonsai stockholder, he is learning a lot.  In teaming up with Paul Bakerman who lives nearby, there may be more activity in the Phoenix area to report in the future.  Once trees achieve the stage of the large bonsai in the photo,  they are relatively easy to maintain.  This tree is one of the oldest in training since the early 1970's and from the start, it had a profusion of aerial roots and is the same age as the larger Entry Tree which is also a Rainforest Banyan.  Pruning these trees are relatively simple:

        1.   Follow the main trunk and locate the "Primary or theoretical Apex --- or highest central point of the crown.  Sometimes that point is an imaginary point between 2 or more apical points.  Older tropical bonsai may have what appears to be a single wide foliage crown.  But there may be 2 or more structural apex that influence one specific point. When teaching new staff, they tie a colored surveyor ribbon tape to mark this point.

       2.   Trim off any leaves growing under branches and shorten and determine the end of each of the lowest branches all around the tree. Beginners also mark these points with colored ribbon tapes.

       3.   Using a straight edge (or a yardstick with the ends connecting the apical point and the ends of the lowest branches and cut off all in-between growth along that line.  In this case, since the tree had not been pruned for several months,  the amount of foliage and removed branches filled a wheelbarrow. 

              Fuku-Bonsai is developing into a major visitor attraction with a smaller number of exhibit bonsai with each having an enhanced presentation.  We are recruiting volunteers who become members of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation to assist in maintaining bonsai,  giving introductory workshops, and assisting in various ways.  For those who enjoy bonsai who live on the Big Island who are interested in becoming volunteers at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center, please contact me at david.f@fukubonsai.com 

FINAL ADDITIONAL OVERALL COMMENTS BY BURTON FLAKE:

On the last of day of my visit I worked with one of the older trees in the Fuku-Bonsai collection, a tree over 40 years old! I was a bit overwhelmed when I started to think about how I would prune the tree because of how many branches this tree had. The apex and the lowest branches are key to determining where to cut so I moved thick leaves as I searched for the highest area of growth, and the lowest branches growing outwards. With so many branches to cut David encouraged me to apply the concepts quickly and not hesitate. If the pruner is brought to a specific point on a branch, cut it without hesitation.  Once the apex and ends of the lowest branches identified, a yardstick helped to expose unwanted areas of growth needing to be removed. I applied the basics of cutting at an angle that will encourage growth away from the center and discourage growth going up. It was amazing how much of the tree I cut off and Iím quite confident that the tree will come back looking even better than before.

The other trees near the mature one I pruned are a marvel to see. I get inspired walking past beautiful trees that have their own history and respect the patience required to care for a remarkable bonsai tree. I look forward to applying the techniques learned during the visit for future workshops and have a couple experiments in my head for my own twist, styling dwarf schefflera. I would like to thank David and Michael for teaching me so much. Iíd encourage any person who has a chance to visit the nursery to get a chance to do a workshop there because whether itís working with an introductory workshop package or a decades old tree, youíll have a lot of fun, learn about bonsai, and get to see a bunch of inspiring trees in one place.

SOME FINAL COMMENTS BY DAVID

                     It is almost always hectic here as we have a huge project:  "MAKING THE BIG ISLAND AN INTERNATIONAL BONSAI MECCA!"  That requires working closely with the Big Island community and especially those who are part of the visitor industry which is legendary for the warm hospitality and the high level of integrity. The Big Island of Hawaii is becoming the jewel of Hawaii State Tourism.  Unlike the other islands that are dominated by out-of-state investor financing, the Big Island was the last to be developed and many of us moved from other islands and we want to make this the finest place in the state to visit!  THAT MEANS TREATING VISITORS THE SAME WAY AS WE TREAT OUR RESIDENTS!  No one wants nor condones tourist traps or visitors being cheated. 

                    In 1985, Fuku-Bonsai was encouraged by the then Hawaii County mayor who often sent his VIPs to see us.  At that time, the visitor industry was just starting and he urged local residents to get involved and develop visitor attractions and activities and to try to develop a long-term sustainable visitor industry that focuses on giving good and honest value to earn repeat visits. The mayor, the county's managing director, and almost 200 mostly Big Islanders became stockholders!  It seems to work as the Big Island has the most repeat visitors who also stay the longest.  We also have the most bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals. 

                   Increasingly, repeat visitors are patronizing local restaurants and discovering that our local KTA Super Stores are great places to visit.  Their locations throughout the Big Island makes it easy for those who want to handcarry home our prepackaged, precertified most popular small size Dwarf Schefflera lava planting very easy. Their modest markup results in the same prices at Fuku-Bonsai and increasingly those who visit West Hawaii will find the KTA stores in Keauhou-Kona,  Kailua-Kona, Waikoloa, and Waimea.  Those who become interested come over to East Hawaii and visit us in Kurtistown. 

                  This is Burton's second visit and Paul's third.  They learn a lot by email and growing our plants but tell me there's nothing like learning here!  I can't do workshops with everyone and Edison Yadao does a really great job with beginners and I try to set aside time to work with members of the Fast-Track Study Group.  We consistently receive emails that the visit to Fuku-Bonsai was the highlight of a Hawaiian vacation.  If you'll visit one day and become interested, please consider first joining the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and our Beginner Study Group.  So when you visit,  you'll have a lot of knowledge about the basic principles and will learn a lot more during your visit.     It may lead you to becoming a Fast-Track Study Group member like Burton and Paul!  For more information, please contact me!  ~~~David  (david.f@fukubonsai.com)

 

*** Return to the November 2014 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
            © Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation & Fuku-Bonsai, 2014