In Hawaii, lava is generally classified as either "pahoehoe" or "a-a" and these volcanic terms are used throughout the world by volcanologists.   "Pahoehoe"  is very hot fast flowing lava that resembles melted tar.  The surface wrinkles as it cools but lava tubes form that retain heat.  It will flow into depressions and once filled the lava spills out, forms new lava tubes, and moves quickly through the tubes towards the ocean. 

             The other type of lava is rough and called "A-A."  There are many forms with all being chunky with a lot of texture.  One type is know as "cinder" or "welded splatter" that is relatively soft and used by Fuku-Bonsai for its Hawaiian Lava Plantings.  These form far down the rift zone where splatter cones throw up globs of molten lava that piles up on the edges and in long eruptions, the cinder cones become very large.  When taken apart with heavy equipment, the material is in chunks and these can be sculptured as shown in Lesson #12A, #12B, and #12C. 

             Another type of A-A are part of slow moving flows of cooler semi-formed lava that are in thick flows --- the top of the flow falling forward, then being covered as the flow moves forward like the tracks of a bulldozer.  This type of lava is called "clinker" as the flow is said to have a "clinking" sound.  Some lava of this type is very brittle and will shatter when dropped.  Other forms are very hard, heavy, and dense.  Some pieces are large and jagged while others are small.  This series uses small pieces that are very abundant.

           In November 2012, shortly after the commissioned "Banyan Cove" was completed,  there was a series of "assembled clinker formations" and this is one of three that were documented.  I tried to use longer slender pieces to join together to have a lot of holes and openings for roots to grow in and out.  These are very heavy rocks and it is not likely to become an export product because they are just too heavy and costly to ship!  But for those who live on the Big Island,  there's an endless supply of the raw materials that are very easy to find along the major roads in West Hawaii where the rocks are dense.  The clinker rock in East Hawaii tend to be too brittle, break easily, and are less suitable for bonsai.



           This formation is partially assembled using a construction bonding material called "Liquid Nails" that is used to install paneling.  It dries quickly and bonds hard. Originally this formation was intended to be used with the bonsai shown with it in a 17"x12"x2" Fuku-Bonsai oval plastic pot.  A round 10" diameter wood is covered with foil and the formation will be built on it so it can easily fit into the oval pot. 

            The pieces are joined with Liquid Nails one at a time.  If you want to have a hole,  simply use contact points that bridge over and create openings. 
          With wood blocks supporting, the formation was raised to the proper angle,  positioned on the round wood disc, and more rocks added.  In doing so, I tried to keep the grain of the rocks parallel so it would resemble a natural formation.
The assembled clinker formation was mounted with a concrete and tied until the base cement cured.  Colored cement that matched the color more closely as used to hide the Liquid Nails and reinforce all joints. 

        With so many holes,  it is easy to place anchor wires.  But it is also possible to cement in loops of wire into the wet cement to use for tie-down wires when planting. 


        The formation was allowed to cure until Paul Bakerman made a return visit to be part of an advanced rock workshop that took place in October 2013.




























            OCTOBER 2013.  Four views of the completed fully prepared and cured clinker formation. Note that moss is beginning to become established and it is harder to see where rocks were joined.  The formation has a concrete base that included tie-down anchor wires that will be locked into the pot's drain holes. Try to make the rock visually interesting from all sides. 


           Five Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock in 2" nursery pots were selected, and roughly placed into position on the rock.  Although the rock has many possible locations to place a lot more trees, I limited to five to be able to develop complex shapes in each of the trees in the future. 














                           Starting from the top,  aluminum bonsai wire (that will remain in place) and thin, paper covered bindwire (that will rust/rot and self-remove) was anchored in many places around small knobs of rock, through the rock holes, and twisted wherever there were permanent taunt aluminum anchor wires. 

               The first tree was planted high on a "saddle" built up of a large dab of keto-tsuchi  holding several Nutrient Granules that was covered with sphagnum moss, a layer of body media, another layer of sphagnum moss, more body media, until the saddle cushion was about an inch thick.  The plant was bare-rooted, positioned, and pressed down firmly into the saddle. It was solidly anchored with several bindwire ties.  The second tree was planted lower and four inches to the right in a similar manner.  Having many bindwires to use to secure each tree made this very simple.
















             The third was positioned between the first and second and to the left so the top three trees were fairly close together forming a grove.  The fourth tree was the largest and was planted several inches below and farther out so the profile of this tree would not blend with the first three trees.  The first four trees were all planted on the inclined side of the rock to suggest trees climbing up the face of a cliff.  In bonsai,  vertical rocks are intended to suggest a cliff,  but one that extends into infinity.  The many tie-down bindwires can lock each plant solidly in position.  The fifth and last tree is the smallest and most compact and shown in the front of the pot.  This tree is intended for the right side to form a contrast.
















               The fifth tree was the only tree of the right and was planted on a low ledge.  By this time, Paul was adept at rock planting and had no problem mounting the last plant and I just talked him through as he did most of the work.  This was an interesting formation, as while it was primarily a cliff scene, it incorporated ledges that allowed us to create more interesting details.


        Paul quickly caught on to the basic rock planting concept used here.  Many like the idea of bare-rooting a tree and just tying it to a rock thinking the tree will grab the rock.  It is more likely to die.

       Our method essentially sits the tree on a generous "saddle" that includes a large amount of Nutrient Granules and a 1" thick cushion made up of layers of sphagum moss and body media.  Then we use multiple ties to secure the plant to the rock and form a network of ties to hold the roots in position. 

       Although the plant is secured as much as possible,  there are hollows and a dibble stick tucks in the loose sphagnum moss at the edges and tries to find empty areas that are compacted by jabbing with the stick to create a larger area that can be quickly filled. 

        First lock in all edges, then go between the wires and find openings between the roots. Use a spoon that has been shaped like a small funnel to quickly fill these voids. 


               I tried to make both sides attractive and to expose much of the natural rock.  I asked Paul which side he preferred and he chose this side to have his photo taken.  If he looks a little tired, that's because he was doing most of the work while I just relaxed, gave him directions, pointers, and explanations.  So he learned a lot and I think he will be able to apply some of our techniques to the beautiful rocks that he has waiting for him in Arizona.  I look forward to seeing the results of his future work. 

              While Paul has not had a whole lot of experience and limited contact with those with strong bonsai knowledge,  he very quickly picks up concepts and techniques.  At various stages, we stopped to discuss and I asked his opinion on how to handle a situation.  He gave solid reasons why he would go in a specific direction and although I might have initially gone a different direction, I often concluded he had excellent reasons and we went his way.  So this rock planting is a nice collaboration between Paul and I.


           David gave me the opportunity to participate in planting this larger rock project, and I was excited to apply some of the skills that I had learned. But I still have a lot to learn. My first mistake was to look at the rock solely from the rock perspective, rather than a merger of plant and rock. I thought of the holes in the rock as being display features, when the intent of the holes were to be a water course, where planting material, fertilizer, and roots would go. If you think about plants clinging to a cliff in nature, those plants seem to hang on magically, but in reality, Fuku-Bonsai creates a larger hidden root system and water supply that makes it possible for the plant to hang on and for the plants to grow vigorously.

         The rock itself was glued together in such a way that it appeared natural. When I first met David, I thought rock plantings meant finding a unique rock and planting a complimentary bonsai. But this thought process is really restrictive, and David introduced me to different techniques where you could create an amazing rock-plant sculpture, without relying on nature to present you with the “perfect” rock. Once I was able to conceptualize the “water course”, the concept of where the plants should be placed got a lot easier.  Positioning of the plants was another problem for me. I had a tendency to position the plant backward from the preferred position, with the most prominent branch outward. This position, however, places the weaker branches against the rock, which will discourage their growth.

          As the day progressed, I became more confident in the planting technique and was able to function more independently. The first step in the process, firmly affixing the tree to the rock on a generous “saddle” as David describes, is critically important to the success of the planting. Subsequently, it is a matter of building up enough planting media to support the eventual growth of the roots.

          David and I had a lot of time to talk. One thing that David said that really resonated with me is that bonsai is a way for people to connect with the serenity of nature. I work as a physician in a busy pediatric cardiac ICU. I am also very serious about my triathlon training. So for me, bonsai provides a balance, an artistic compliment to my other interests. It was a great opportunity to work on this project, and I think it turned out beautifully!

            David made the point that Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai is AMERICAN BONSAI. Obviously, with Japanese , Chinese, and Hawaiian influence. But Americans do not make very good Japanese or Chinese. We Americans have our own strengths, our creativity and innovation and we should exploit those strengths, rather than trying to be what we are not.

                  SOME FINAL THOUGHTS BY DAVID.   I kinda like both sides with this side better showing off the sheer cliff.  In the windward parts of some islands in Hawaii, there are sheer cliffs that drop straight into the ocean,  making it impossible for a road to be built completely around the island and this occurs in Kauai, Molokai, and the Kohala portion of the Big Island.  So although hard to see,  there is a rocky "island" to add interest to the surface of the pot.  If the photo was taken from the right side,  the planting area is as much as 8" wide.  To break up this area to try to suggest that the trees are growing in valleys between rocky spines,  several smaller rocks were positioned within that wide planting area.  Parts of these added stones can be seen in both of the views in the space between the largest fourth tree on the bottom and the upper three-tree grove of trees. 

                    In the past 25 years,  it's unfortunate that my priority was to guide the company through it's stressful difficult battle for survival due to the 1989 spraying of defective Benlate contaminated with weed killers that caused the loss of over $30 million. Besides the loss of our the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center,  our then 16 years in training bonsai inventory,  the contamination residue prevented us from growing our original Brassaia specialty crop! 

                   Much of that battle for survival was focusing on how to improve the inherent genetic qualities of Dwarf Schefflera,  how to create high-quality small plants with exceptional potential,  how to cull out weak or unsuitable plants and to develop tough plants that would survive less-then-ideal growing environments in homes and offices throughout the United States.  To a large extent,  we succeeded and the introduction of premium prepared bonsai stock as part of workshops next year will open up new opportunities for Fuku-Bonsai to expand and improve our product line as well as create creative opportunities for those in our study groups who are enjoying the creative challenge of bonsai. 

                  Most small companies like ours would have simply gone out of business and there were many times that we were right on that edge! But with the support of many individuals and our customers, we survived, and I am appreciative and thank you.  Now in partnership with the 501(3)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation we are moving to position Fuku-Bonsai to be able to support the next generation of hobbyists who want to grow True Indoor Bonsai year-around in homes and offices, or outdoors whenever night temperatures are above 55°F.  We see three distinct challenges:

         1.     TO PUBLISH TRUE INDOOR BONSAI RESOURCE INFORMATION.  We are creating a unique distinctive easy-care high-success form of bonsai that are very suitable for gifts and casual growers who may own just one or two bonsai but enjoy learning more about how they were created or how best to grow them.  By inviting membership in the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and our study groups,  we hope to earn your support to improve and expand the website, to continue publication of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai,  and to one day move to publish booklets, videos, DVD's, etc.  We believe that each person is their own limiting factor and that extensive information should be made available to earn your support!

        2.     TO SUPPLY EXACT PLANTS AND WORKSHOP COMPONENTS.  There are an endless variation in bonsai and if you read a bonsai book that tries to teach you the entire subject, you'll end up hopelessly confused as each plant really needs its own book.  So we primarily write about Dwarf Schefflera, supply Dwarf Schefflera,  and supply it with the optimum proven potting media and nutrient sources.  We continue efforts to make our plants tougher, "customer-proof," and increase our customer success!

        3.     TO PROVIDE PERSONAL ASSISTANCE TO CUSTOMERS, RECIPIENTS, AND THOSE IN THE VARIOUS STUDY GROUPS.    We cannot be all things to all people.  But we can and will build a community of those who enjoy Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai!  We appreciate our contributing editors and writers who are increasingly knowledgeable and willing and able to help others. 

                   There are many many forms of bonsai and I've been blessed to have lived a bonsai lifestyle for over 50 years with the opportunity to create every possible kind of bonsai.  But I keep finding new concepts, designs and techniques.  This planting was complex and accomplished over a long period of time.  I thank Paul for reawakening my love of rock plantings and I hope that with the range of Journal articles that we've shown that they are doable.  I hope that by making available pre-trained high-potential trees that more will be willing to try to create their first bonsai,  and after doing so, that they go on to teach others!   

                    In a few weeks,  Paul will be competing in the Arizona Triathlon and needs to do well to be able to participate in the prestigious Kona Ironman Triathlon next year.  I hope he does well enough to participate and as soon as I hear he'll be here again, I'll begin planning a more challenging rock planting project!

                   Warm regards and aloha,  ~~~David (david.f@fukubonsai.com)

        ©  Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai 2013