4LL8 -  HAWAIIAN DRAGON into a shallow 9" saucer-pot
          This is the third in a series showing a possible result of a Bonsai Workshop II.  Unlike the earlier SUMO and ROOTS examples that were potted into 8"diameter x 2" deep round pots,  this example uses the more difficult "#9A Conversion Kit" that substitutes a shallow 9" diameter saucer (with drain holes drilled) that is just 1" deep! 
                   This advanced bonsai concept addresses a design criteria that the depth of the pot should be equal or less than diameter of the trunk of the bonsai.  Aesthetic principles suggest that attention should be on the tree rather than the pot. If the pot is deeper than the thickness of the trunk,  the pot would be more prominent that the tree.  This is the situation with the 4LL8 - D in the photo above.  This is difficult to properly address with younger plants whose trunks are still thin and does not yet have an effective shallow root system developed.  This series will move that plant into a new styling and into a larger but shallower saucer-pot toward becoming a promising future medium size bonsai. 
            Numerous holes had been drilled into the bottom of the 9" diameter saucer with more toward the center to promote good drainage.  Wires were formed into U-shapes and inserted from the bottom through adjacent holes and twisted with a pliers to anchor each set.  Wires from each set were twisted together to form a "wire armature" that will become a permanent part of the root system that will eventually completely cover the armature.
             The photo shows the completed wire armature and the bare-rooted tree.  When constructed in this manner,  the bottom is the wider and it narrows toward the top.  Once the roots completely grows over it, it will appear as a substitute trunk.  Within the wire frame, there will be potting media, spaghnum moss, and Nutrient Granules to provide a good environment for roots to grow vigorously.  It will be possible to bend or twist the root-trunk into a desires shape.
             Start by inserting the end of the armature between the base of the roots along with a little spaghnum moss, potting media, and Nutrient Granules.  Use thin paper-covered wire that will quickly rust off or thin cotton string to circle and hold all against the wire armature.  Place a small amount of spaghnum moss on your palm,  add the other items, grasp the armature,  add more to fill out the top and sides, then add spaghnum and wrap with the thin wire or string.  Continue until the entire wire armature is filled and covered.  Use the coarse bottom at the base to cover the center portion of the pot to assure good drainage.
             Cut a piece of aluminum foil about 8" wide, fold over to double thickness and position it to form the trunk-root base. This should be the widest portion to give the tree a solid stable visual appearance.  Add some media if necessary and join the ends by folding over the two top corners.  Keep folding until the foil is tightly holding all media.  The foil allows you to massage and squeeze all tight. Lift the edges of the bottom of the aluminum foil "skirt" to place some body potting media before installing the collar made from a portion of a nursery pot.
             Make sure the collar is sitting on the bottom of the saucer and add and firm the potting media. Add sections of aluminum foil until only the original exposed roots are showing.  Complete twisting and bending until you have your desired shape.  I used a round dowel to roll and massage each part of the  surface area and this compacted the material within the foil. Completion and watering follow standard procedures.

             From this point, the plant would go back into the nursery for as long as it takes to have the roots fully formed to cover the wire armature and to develop an attractive foliage crown.  It will likely take five or more years to reach 8LS8-R standards. 


             HAWAIIAN DRAGONS are our most difficult styling challenge!  Unlike SUMO and ROOTS which have natural trees to guide our training, Hawaiian Dragons are styled based upon a mental image of an active playful dragon!  We imagine all kinds of dragons! Our younger 4LL8-D are "Top Dragons"  with a sharp bend very close to the roots.  We tend to improve the bends each time we repot so all 4LL8-Dragons are interesting and potential for more complexity.

             When we "graduate" Dragons from 4LL8-D toward 8LS8-D there are often very dramatic changes as in this photo sequence.  At this stage we try to incorporate twisted roots to further add to an appearance of lively activity and we call these:  "Top & Bottom Dragons" with as many unpredictable twists and turns as possible! 



          Compared to the INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE  which pots a 2" prepared bonsai stock into a 5"x3"x2" pot,  BONSAI WORKSHOP II pots up a larger older 4LL8 Living Lovable into either a 8" diameter x 2" pot or a shallow 9" diameter x 1" saucer-pot that will start training of a medium size bonsai.  Because the workshop starts with larger, older advanced prepared bonsai stock,  it is a step closer to developing a medium size semi-trained bonsai.

          Training begins very early and weak or unsuitable plants are quickly and ruthlessly culled out.  Only those that achieve "prepared bonsai stock"  standards are used in our small and desk size Hawaiian Lava Plantings,  4LL8 Living Lovable Potted Bonsai, and in the Introductory Workshop Package.  Highest quality stock "graduate" to become the medium and large lava plantings or potted bonsai.  When training from seeds or cuttings,  the path to a nice mature bonsai is fairly well known and committed professional nurseries like Fuku-Bonsai efficiently grow large quantities of plants that are very carefully culled so only the highest quality plants move into advanced training.  So while our youngest smallest products are the highest quality available on the market at any price,  the medium and large older products are the best values because they have the best bonsai characteristics and have gotten a lot more detailed training.

          When I began,  Japanese bonsai books stated that it took about 30 years to create a nice medium size bonsai if trained from seeds or cuttings.  Having grown bonsai in large quantities since 1962, I tend to agree that traditional outdoor bonsai would take about that long for a temperate climate 9" to 12" tall bonsai to take on the grandeur of an aged tree.  But under good growing conditions,  tropical houseplant bonsai develop much faster and a 9" to 12" houseplant bonsai with good training and environment achieve mature bonsai standards in half the time or about 15 years.

          In 30 years,  it's possible to have nicely trained 18" to 24" tall bonsai and some of our older Custom Collection are now in this range.  Each year,  there is a greater amount of knowledge.  Initially we learned as much as we could of how the Japanese and Chinese developed their bonsai industry.  Japan's system includes basic volume nursery producers in the countryside who make sell some with the higher quality plants being sold to "finishing nurseries" in urban areas who retail or teach.  These nurseries have long traditions and maintain a full range of highest quality masterpiece bonsai in their collections.  They are very inspiring places to visit to view the prized trees and to learn from those who offer classes. Over the years, we've come to learn that there really are no short-cuts. 

          Fuku-Bonsai aspires to follow this model and in specializing in Dwarf Schefflera which is the most successful bonsai for anyone anywhere who can grow houseplants,  we are developing a multi-generational vertically integrated certified nursery to be able to ship highest quality plants nationally and internationally. We are committed to education so our customers will recognize the value of our products and the skill and efforts that have been invested in each of the plants.  In first creating the INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE, we emphasized the importance of starting with prepared bonsai stock that had trunk character and low branches within 1" of the soil line and a shallow, compact root system within 1/2" of that soil line.  By supplying all ten components we give anyone wanting to learn bonsai an excellent chance for success!

          As our customers became more knowledgeable, there were requests for more mature advanced material and this resulted in BONSAI WORKSHOP II using older 4LL8 Living Lovable and the larger 8D2 pot to start training the popular 9" to 12" medium size bonsai.  For those seeking more advanced challenges, we offer the shallower 9" saucer-pot as an alternative.  BONSAI WORKSHOP II is modestly priced and over time, customers will be able to achieve the standards of our 8LS8 Living Sculpture that took us 6 to 9 years (or more) to develop. 

          For our most advanced and knowledgeable customers or those who have some experience growing traditional outdoor bonsai,  there's a clear market for BONSAI WORKSHOP III that starts with mature 8LS8 Living Sculpture and a #17 Conversion Kit (featuring a 17"x12"x2" pot).  This is offered with an alternative shallower 12"diameter x 1 1/4" deep saucer-pot for those seeking more difficult challenges. 

          BONSAI WORKSHOP III is the most difficult current workshop offered.  At Fuku-Bonsai we move up the oldest 8LS8 Living Sculpture into training for larger older 18" to 24" tall bonsai.  These trees are usually over 10 years old and may have developed especially attractive features that may suggest a major change in styling and this session is the most detailed and time consuming and handled only by our top trainers.  While priced at $159.95 + shipping,  these are very high-value plants.  After detailed training and several months in the nursery,  they are priced at $350 and up.  These can be ordered as "17LS8" in either Sumo, Roots, or Dragon styling without photo.

         In addition to these younger entry-level "Custom Collection,"  there's an increasing number that are one-of-a-kind that I get to train.  Some started out as original prototypes as we were developing the new production styling concepts.  We have begun to start training taller rock plantings and major variations or combinations of our production stylings.  These are available primarily at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center or by special request mail order. 

         When I began bonsai in 1962, I never imagined we would pioneer a new American popular form of bonsai.  It is very satisfying to see the high quality of the products that were trained by our professional staff and know that we've developed the nucleus of our successor team to serve the next generation.  Myrtle and I thank everyone who made it possible for us to live a bonsai lifestyle.  Please email if I can be of assistance!  Regards,  ~~~David   (

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          *** Go back to BONSAI WORKSHOP II - Part I SUMO
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          ***  Return to younger INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE
You are cordially invited to visit the home of True Indoor Bonsai:
     17-856 Olaa Road (PO Box 6000), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
     Phone (808) 982-9880;  FAX (808) 982-9883
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              Fuku-Bonsai, 2011