"Playground of My Youth!"

               David W. Fukumoto, Fuku-Bonsai president and founder with the outstanding rainforest banyan at the start of the major training session described in the following article.  Although the tree looks impressive at this start, on close examination, there are imperfect bent roots, roots that have branching, roots that are not straight and not straight up and down.  Although the removal of these roots may seem to reduce the value, by removing these distracting roots, those that remain will be in ideal position to form the basis for an extraordinary bonsai.  The tree had been largely bare-rooted and is sitting high on overturned training pots on a turntable to be able to easily prune the roots.

                "Rainforest Banyans" are the most difficult and desirable Dwarf Schefflera styling in which aerial roots from high branches fall free of the trunk mass. It is about 35 to 40 years in training and only surpassed by the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Entry Tree which is believed to be the top Dwarf Schefflera bonsai in the world. Unlike the Entry Tree which is made up of three sections of a once huge ground-planted bonsai, this is a single tree grown under the Hawaii certified export nursery program throughout its entire history. It is, therefore, amongst the oldest and largest of its styling for shipping to all parts of the United States. Trees that drop aerial roots from high branches are rare and outstanding potential trees are only identified after being in training for 12 to 20 years.  Such trees are premium priced and any offered are quickly snapped up.

                     For those of us who grew up in the tropics,  banyan trees have am special place in our hearts.  This giant trees were where we spent wonderful hours playing with friends.  I've given this tree an informal name:  "PLAYGROUND OF MY YOUTH!"   Most “Rainforest Banyans” have a central multi-trunked grouping with soaring arch-branched structures supporting a wide dome-like leafy canopy. A mature tropical banyan bonsai may be twice or three times as wide as the height. The potential of this tree was identified many years ago. It has a very desirable wide spacing between the major trunks to create visual paths through the complex structure of the multi-trunked banyan tree. It is easy to visualize the energy and joy of kids in their playgrounds.

                        Although this tree has had several major training sessions, the training about two years ago greatly increased the health and growth rate of the tree. It produced a much shallower and compact root system to allow this training session to safely select and remove any and all non-conforming roots that did not compliment the theme of the styling. We have the ideal growing environment for Dwarf Scheffera to develop extraordinary root growth. This allows retaining only roots that occur naturally. This is a superior route as training roots not produced under optimum growth conditions are difficult and frustrating. 


                     At the start of this training session, the tree was mostly bare-rooted and it was decided that the center of the root mass should be 6 inches higher.  An overturned bonsai pot with wood block raised the tree to the proper height as shown in the introductory photo. In the 32” diameter fiberglass training pot, a conical mound was built up mainly with very porous and coarse 1/2” to 3/4” volcanic high-velocity pumice ejecta.  About ten gallons of coarse material formed a 6” high cone that was tamped firm. A ½” layer of finer potting material covered the mound with a generous amount of ultra slow-release, on-demand, citrate-soluble fertilizer added. The tree was placed on top.

                     To create the illusion of free-falling roots dropping free of the trunk, it was necessary to remove most of the original heavy trunk-root buttressing roots that grew outwards to widen the base. This was very time-consuming and took most of the first day. With those roots removed, straight roots that had angled outwards were brought into vertical positions. Roots that dropped from the upper branches now fell free of the buttressing roots to give a more dramatic interpretation of actual rainforest banyan vertical roots. Angled roots were secured into vertical positions. U-shaped wire pins tapped into the dense root ball held most securely in position.  In some cases, existing roots were too short. A longer heavy wire was forced into the dense root ball center and string was attached to a wire loop on the end.

                     The string was secured to the dangling root and several layers of long-strand sphagnum moss was woven around the string and secured with a second string spiraling in the opposite direction.  Fine paper-covered iron wire secured it firmly until the roots lengthened to attach to the potting media.  The iron wire will rot away before it can harm the roots. When roots seemed weak or not sufficiently developed, a little sphagnum moss was added to the finer potting media.


                     Bundles of aerial roots were guided as vertical as possible.  Pumice served as temporary spreaders. 2.5mm wire was used to pull roots together or used as spreaders.  The time-consuming work created the illusion of a rainforest banyan.  We don’t try to straighten heavy roots as results are disappointing and look artificial. We will often leave unsuitable roots to be removed later after the tree had recovered and growing strongly.  We create high-humidity conditions to produce an abundance of aerial roots using clear plastic sheets, shade cloth and extremely fine mist heads. Heavy fertilizing and shearing produced dense foliage crowns. When plants are close together during warm seasons, aerial roots develop.

                     It is important to assure optimum drainage as poorly draining media will rot roots. The best way to firm it is to use a modified mason’s trowel; pressing down firmly with a back and forth motion. Initially, the loose material moves around a lot; but if you work from the outside and keep pressing toward the middle, after a while the media starts to firm up and a 6” pile of loose material will compress down to just 3” to 4”. Once the potting media was fairly firm, the four sets of tie-down wires were secured to form a network to hold down the roots. This is important as shipping large bonsai requires a well-planned procedure to assure that all remains in place. This bonsai will likely not be shipped for several months until the weather warms up throughout the country.  It doesn’t make sense to risk valuable trees and we prefer to ship at the best time of the year which is usually late spring or early summer.

                     When packing, there will be a thick layer of crumpled newspaper securely taped down to hold all parts of the potting media in place. There will be shock absorbing material below the pot.  All will be securely strapped down to the shipping pallet and the wood and cardboard crate will be built around the tree.  We ship by FedEx and plants will be delivered to anywhere in the continental U.S. within 48 hours after pickup at the Kurtistown, Hawaii nursery.




                     This arrangement is consistent with our concept that premium bonsai should be attractive from all sides. I favor the view that invites visually walking through a large actual banyan.  “360° trees” are very effectively displayed in large shallow round concrete discs. I recommend the future container be a larger 48” diameter concrete disc --- about 1” thick at outer edge and 2” to 3” thick in the center where strength is needed when a 12” diameter turntable hardware is used.

                     At Fuku-Bonsai we make the concrete discs with a ¾” plywood for 36” and 48” diameters.  These are doubled for up to 8” diameter.  Several layers of sheet iron strips are wrapped around the round plywood and held tight with a cinching belt to make the concrete form.  The 12” diameter turntable hardware will support over 2,000 pounds.

                     Generally, the largest oldest Fuku-Bonsai Dwarf Schefflera were not intended to ever be sold as we ground-planted them for faster development.  This tree was grown as a certified plant mostly in 17” to 25” containers. We move them to larger containers only after the central portion has developed high potential and this informational sheet provides some details about the process and strategy involved for the transition toward larger, older showpiece bonsai.

                     The first major step is to raise up the central part of the tree and limiting the major roots to go straight down while widening and creating a dense crown.  With over 90% of the potting media new with most of it very coarse, the tree should produce strong growth and will not need repotting for several years. I recommend fertilizing very heavily with the new non-burning, citrate-soluble on-demand Hawaiianite fertilizer.  With a sharpened 1” diameter wooden rod, make a hole halfway between the outer roots and the pot rim, angling towards the center bottom of the pot.  Make holes every six inches and deposit two tablespoons Hawaiianite coarse at middle depth in each hole. You can safely fertilize in this manner three to four times per year and get strong growth.  For fastest development, keep at optimum growth and prune branches with largest leaves and trim off largest leaves.  This will encourage strong compact growth.

                     Creating stout heavy trunks and strong roots are essential to depicting an aged ancient banyan.  To create massive growth, it was necessary to allow the tree to wildly overgrow a number of times to thicken the trunks and branches which were then cut back hard.  When new growth points emerged, the ones in best position were allowed to grow out and thicken with disciplined carving to assure that there were minimal large scars and the heavy, tapering, branches were formed to appear as natural as possible with no straight sections. A major challenge was to create heavy undulating trunks and branches to contrast with straight, slender aerial roots that fall free in the humidity of the heavy, leafy banyan canopy.  

                     The training container is a 32” diameter fiberglass prototype that is 3 3/8” inches high.  Overall height of the bonsai from the top of the pot rim to the top of the woody tip is 23”.  Measuring from the two outermost branches, the bonsai is 29” wide.

                     In the tropics, banyans are gathering places where friends meet. The heavy shade of a dense banyan crown produces an environment where people feel secure.  Young children know the banyans as their playgrounds while their elders enjoy the protective security and serenity of such giant trees. 


                     This offer is for sale of our finest creations. Photo reproduction rights are reserved for our website, publication, etc.   Sale is subject to buyer qualification and Fuku-Bonsai reserves the right to approve sale only to those with demonstrated knowledge and success with our plants.  Sales will be considered in order of receipt of emails offering to buy, but subject to receipt of a non-refundable certified check deposit for 50% of the sales price sent by certified mail to Fuku-Bonsai’s postal address. 

                     Final pre-sale work will be completed as described and this tree will likely be ready for shipping from about the end of April 2018 subject to a shipping date approved by the buyer to allow for optimum weather at buyer’s destination.  The certified check for the balance of the purchase shall be completed prior to the shipping date. Information documented is true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge.     David W. Fukumoto, david.f@fukubonsai.com  

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