Ken requested maximum workshop time during his week-long Hilo vacation that included scuba dives. Initially the plan was intermediate and advanced workshops as he had already taken a beginner workshop at his home club.  But after seeing photos of his plants, I suggested he take our Introductory Workshop Package (Beginner Workshop I) and he agreed. We set two afternoon sessions on a Monday, October 8, 2012  shortly after he arrived, and others on Thursday to have some open time to improve his retention. 

                     But upon seeing a photo of his intended growing area, the plan changed to smaller introductory  2" and 4LL8 plants to be potted into shallow 7”diameter saucer-pots in the 1:10 Project concept.  This would require discipline and attention to detail to make possible a nice collection in his limited area which was one bay window to be fitted with shelves. The email describing my recommendations:

                   "Aloha Ken, I am much more comfortable now!  As you can guess, I tend to try to look out for my customers and would have felt badly if you had taken the intermediate and advanced workshop and ended up with larger plants than appropriate for you. Having limited premium growing indoor areas is a common situation and I know of a number that want to grow small bonsai because of this, but also because they are very comfortable with smaller bonsai.  I am too.  I believe my best bonsai are in the 6" to 10" height range.  But I grow large bonsai because most visitors enjoy them and cannot focus on the qualities of small bonsai.

                   May I put together a custom bonsai course for you using as a general budget the cost of a intermediate and advanced workshop?  Because we would be working with smaller trees you will end up with more trees but actually in more advanced stages.  The first would be a standard Introductory Workshop I that would teach you basic Sumo concepts.  I think I can customize a smaller workshop to teach Roots concepts.  But it may make sense to use the 4LL stock and a shallow 7"diameter x 3/4" saucer for the other classes I have in mind and still stay within the requested budget.

                  This is an area that I have not yet written up and I request permission to photograph and request you to also submit a report on each section.  I think this will be win-win and you'll pick up a full range of information at a cost-effective package roughly using the dates and times we had planned.  I think this will work well and hope you agree.  Regards, ~~~David"

                        Ken agreed and the following is a photo report of the workshops:


           Meet Ken Kieck of Greendale, Wisconsin at the start of two days of workshop sessions.  The first was a "warm-up" with a basic Introductory Workshop Package (Beginner Workshop I).  we chatted a while to cover the basics and Ken picked out a 2" prepared stock for the first workshop which would be a standard Introductory Workshop Package. Having previously done an intermediate workshop by mail order, I could see he had a fair understanding but picked up a few pointers.
          Ken did well in putting the standard Introductory Workshop I together (completed planting held in his right hand).  Due to his limited growing area and his confidence in growing the trees, he next picked out a nice 4LL8 Roots to be shallow potted into the small 7" diameter saucer that had a number of holes drilled with plant and saucer-pot on right.

           This would be per "1:10 Project" posted at and considered more difficult than our Intermediate Workshop II which pots a 4LL8 into a 8" diameter x 2" deep pot.  

             Intermediate Workshop II usually goes into a  2" deep pot so the challenge is to position, secure to the pot, and "building-out" the tree. But going into the shallow saucer-pot,  It was like a mature scale tree and greater discipline was necessary to prune back hard as the 7" saucer-pot is intended to be the final permanent pot. Such radical pruning could be above the first branch and upon rooting the large removed upper section, Ken would have two promising trees!  For most individuals,  I would recommend considering the next size larger 9" saucer-pot. Note that trunk-root buttressing is being shaped using a modified aluminum foil collar. 
        I showed Ken my experimental 1:10 Project plants.  This one began as an exceptional 2" IWP prepared stock a little over one year ago potted into a shallow 4.5" diameter melamine plate that had a number of holes drilled into the bottom. The tree was planted with the roots over the accent rock to broaden the trunk-root base.  At 3.5" above the rim of the "pot,"  it is already "full-size" in it's permanent pot. As it grows up and out,  trunks and branches will be pruned back hard to keep it at this overall height and size with the trunks and branches becoming heavier.  Ken's class included pruning concepts for "mature trees" and trees in "decline" stages.

          Originally Ken planned to be in the Hilo area for a week and as an avid scuba diver, also planned to go on several scheduled dives.  While he wanted to spend as much time as possible learning.  I discouraged and limited to just two afternoons;  one at the start of the week on Monday and the second on Thursday before he returned home.  Our workshops are intense and there is need to allow the lessons to "soak in" as continuous back-to-back lessons would produce a lot of confusion. 

          To help jog his memory,  Ken took home with him my drawings and notations that I was making as this was the first time that I gave multiple 1:10 Project workshops here that potted 4LL8 trees into the shallow 7" saucer-pots.  Here we grow some of our experimental plants in full sun and in spite of the shallowness, we have not killed any even with just normal watering!  We believe most pots used for houseplant bonsai are much too deep and that plants most often die from over-watering and roots rot.  So Ken would be amongst our pioneers conducting trials and reporting back. 

          I was very happy to spend a lot of time with him as he was obviously enthusiastic,  responded quickly and fully via email with good photos,  and was a good writer.  I encourage others with these traits to contact me for serious custom workshops!  The first day went well and the second day report follows:


           We began with a review that included the use of aluminum foil as my favorite form of "shapeable collar" or "interim custom vertical pot" to prevent roots drying out.  For the "Sumo" we used a plastic pot collar and to contrast with the "Roots" he did on Monday, I demonstrated how to adjust proportions and to create an "extra thin & tall" that would be attractive in that same 7" shallow saucer-pot.  We are continuing to expand the range of styling, but covered our three basic "Sumo," "Roots," and "Dragon" styling concepts and variations. The first day Introductory Workshop I tree was rediscussed, with an emphasis of developing vigorous growth, protecting roots from drying out, and basic shaping techniques. 
          The 4LL8 Roots really looks better in the shallow 7" saucer-pot and the basic challenge is how to firm the gravelly potting media and watering is best done by weekly sitting it in a wide dishpan with water up to the rim.
            Our 4" training pots are standard 4" plastic nursery pots that are cut down using a table saw.  The cut-off section makes an easy-to-use rigid collar for shallow potting the 4LL8 Sumo.  We used external wire ties to hold it in place but internal wire or even string would work.  The basic principle is to broaden the trunk-root buttressing.  Too often the result of beginner workshops using skinny trees with no lower trunk character or branches look like a "bonsai interpretation of a telephone pole in a meadow."
        The 4LL8 Dragon was done by extending the roots,  shaping a flaring aluminum foil cone, positioning it in the saucer, and securing it with heavier wires attached to the drain holes.  This allowed shaping the extended roots.  Another layer of aluminum foil included protecting and holding the surface media in place that was held in place with monofilament tap.

        We accomplished our objective of giving Ken experience with three styling concepts as well as standard and shallow-potting and I look forward to his reports.   

           During the time of the workshops,  there were numerous projects in progress and I just did not have too much time available for extensive custom instruction.  But the two afternoons separated by a few days worked out great and I was very pleased and impressed with the results and how well Ken was able to handle the much more difficult 1:10 Project using shallow saucer-pots that are 10 times wider than deep.  As part of the demonstration, I put together a very thin and tall Roots / Dragon to show the range of styling possible.  The plants were shipped and I asked Ken to send me a report that follows:


By Ken Kieck (Wisconsin)

          I have always been fascinated by bonsai when visiting botanical gardens or state fairs.  However, I never have been good at growing house plants or gardening of any kind and never considered bonsai for a hobby.  When visiting the Big Island in 2011 I noticed bonsai point-of-purchase displays at the local KTA Super Store and at Punaluu Bake Shop.  Still not ready to commit, I picked up a brochure and headed back to the cold March weather in Wisconsin.  After reading the brochure and visiting the Fuku-Bonsai website I ordered the Intermediate Workshop 4LL8 Sumo-style tree which was shipped in May when the weather became a little warmer.

          The instructions were easy to follow and the Dwarf Schefflera was given a prominent place in my kitchen window.  While the tree has survived it did not thrive.  Looking for help, I purchased books, subscribed to a national monthly bonsai publication and joined a local bonsai club.  The books were interesting but only covered the basics which applied to a wide variety of trees.  There was very little information pertaining to the Dwarf Schefflera.  I then took a Novice Bonsai Course offered by my club and have become an active member.  The club provided a tree with the course, but the selection was limited and I wanted to stay with a tropical so I chose a Ficus.   The bonsai club had little experience with Dwarf Schefflera and really focused the majority of their efforts on deciduous trees and conifers.  I then found the American Bonsai Society Journal which featured an article by David Fukumoto which specifically addressed Dwarf Schefflera.  I wanted more information and Mr. Fukumoto seemed to have answers.


    My first mail-order 4LL8 Workshop and requested photo of my growing area.



         After a year of trial and error I started an email correspondence with Mr. Fukumoto and planned a trip to Hawaii to take additional classes.   Prior to my departure I submitted photos of my limited collection consisting of one Dwarf Schefflera, a Ficus, and two Jade plants which I wanted to train as bonsai.  In addition, I was asked to submit information and photos of the environment where these plants were grown.  And, finally what were my goals and expectations.  It became apparent that the failure to thrive was directly related to insufficient light and infrequent fertilization.  These were issues that would need to be discussed and corrected when returning home from my workshops. 

          Upon meeting Mr. Fukumoto at his nursery in Kurtistown I realized my expectations were not realistic.  I needed a long-term game plan which drew on visualization of what I wanted the trees to look like plus learning the training and pruning techniques to achieve these goals.  I would learn the bonsai life cycle stages from its initial, to mature and then decline stage.  Plus how important it is to document and sketch how you want each tree to look during each stage of its life-cycle.  Our discussions also touched on the concept of controlled accelerated growth and pot diameters standards which state the depth of the pot should be equal to or less than diameter of the trunk of the bonsai.  The focus should be on the tree not the pot. 

         My home growing environment is limited both in area and amount of natural light.    The limited growing area would also dictate the size and number of plants that could be successfully grown in this indoor home environment.   We decided to focus on smaller plants in shallow pots.   On the first day I selected two plants for my workshops.  The first workshop was a Introductory Workshop I in which I potted the 2" prepared bonsai stock into a Sumo style placed on top of a small rock in a 2-inch deep rectangular pot.  This workshop concluded with discussing pruning techniques to cut back after 7 to 8 leaves on a limb which will keep the tree compact and allow more light to get into the plant.  Finally, we went over different methods for training using either wire, a small stone or wood spreader and I decided to use the wiring option to begin training this tree.

         The remaining workshops were also developed initially using the 4LL8 trees but modified specifically for the limited area which I have available for plants at home.  Each of these workshops used 7” diameter pots which were less than 1” deep.  The shallow pots had multiple holes drilled in the bottom to allow the trunk to be adequately secured.  The tree used in my next workshop was placed into a shallow pot with media and fertilizer. The first was to be configured using the techniques that are taught in the Fuku-Bonsai advanced exposed root design class.  The ultimate goal of this workshop is to grow a tall tree with long exposed roots.  The roots of this tree were first exposed then straightened and then tied in place.  We then laid it on tin foil, added media, fertilizer, and rolled the tin foil into a cone.  The cone was then taped and secured to the bonsai pot with wires.  It was intentionally potted high to eventually show off the root structure.  

         On the second day, Mr. Fukumoto selected two plants with character for the final workshops. We used a plastic sleeve to keep the upper portion in place and prevent the media from washing out.  This plastic sleeve was from a 4” plastic nursery pot and wired in place to secure it to the shallow bonsai pot.  My final workshop was the Dragon.  I started by forming a slanting wire bed on the shallow bonsai pot.  We prepared the tree by straightening the roots then wrapping the roots, fertilizer, media, and sphagnum with the aluminum foil.  The bottom of the tin foil cone was packed with more media and fertilizer and then secured to the 1” bonsai post.  The angle of the Dragon can be changed and styled into a creative design.

         I found the Workshops extremely informative and picked up a tremendous amount of information.  My four bonsai trees were shipped Fed Ex and arrived in perfect condition and are now displayed on new shelving with fluorescent plant lighting from bottom and LED flood lights from above.  I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to study with a master and appreciate the hospitality and patience shown to me by David, Myrtle and the entire staff at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center.       ~~~Ken



        While there's nothing that can compare to taking a one-on-one custom workshop at Fuku-Bonsai with a very wide choice of plant stock available,  I'm delighted that we can now assist isolated widely scattered individuals.  Our hope is that those who are enthusiastic will want to teach others with our plants and using us as resources and this will be a major objective of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation. 

        There's a wide choice of plant materials for purchase and Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation members receive free workshop supervision and assistance at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center.  We recommend ordering an Introductory Workshop Package and putting it together and taking care of it as early as possible.  So when you come, we can best help to improve your techniques and with some knowledge, your limited time at Fuku-Bonsai will be very effectively used.  We recommend taking photos so we can follow your progress and continue to assist.

         Ken sent this photo of his new set-up shortly after the plants were sent to him.  The set up has wire shelves and additional light units down low will encourage the trees to grow wide rather than tall as the plants seek the light.  The choice of workshop plants and container sizes seem  to work well within Ken's available space and I look forward to future reports and progress.

















           My plants seem to have adapted well to their indoor environment and have be sprouting quite a few new leaves.  I am reluctant to do any trimming yet and will wait for the 7-8 leaf trim recommendation.  The once a week submerged watering for 30-minutes  seems to be working fine.  I fertilize with the pellets every six weeks and use Superthrive once a month.  Other than that, things are going well in Wisconsin.  Will cut this short as I need to get out and shovel some snow.     ~~~Ken


           I asked Ken to send me photos and I'm amazed!  His trees are doing very well but the photo shows the outdoor temperature that day was ZERO DEGREES!  I asked him to take a photo with a few trees in the foreground with a winter scene behind and he sent these great photos!

              Ken,  thanks for your enthusiasm and helping me to pioneer a new concept that holds a lot of promise. I look forward to following your progress and you helping others in the future!  ~~~David


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