This is a review of basic rock planting principles that have been subjects of previous articles.  It utilizes the rock in the above photo.  Actually this is the "back" or the least attractive side of the rock and if the entire rock was like this,  it may not be worth planting it "as is."  It could be worked to sculpture and create "character" but in this situation, the rock will just be repositioned to be used to exploit it's best features without major sculpturing.

LESSON #14:  BASIC ROOT-OVER-ROCK REVISITED

                  There are two basic types of rock plantings:  1)  Planted in a cavity in the rock, or 2) Root-over-rock with roots growing into the pot.  Fuku-Bonsai's Hawaiian Lava Plantings are ideal gift bonsai for anyone, anywhere who can grow houseplants.  They have both good and bad features.  It's good that because the roots are restricted, the plants grow extremely slowly and if the gift recipient does not know anything about bonsai,  trimming is minimal as the trees grow very slowly.  It's bad that because the plants grow very slowly,  if you want to learn to train and develop bonsai you would have better results by learning and training ROOT-OVER-ROCK bonsai in which the roots grow into media in a pot.   This is a review lesson of the basic principles of ROOT-OVER-ROCK. 

                 

                   FIRST STUDY THE ROCK FROM ALL SIDES AND ALL ANGLES TO FIND THE MOST ATTRACTIVE FEATURES AND DEVELOP A PLAN!

                   Isn't this view more interesting?  Notice that there's a natural cavity and most beginners immediately face that cavity up and want to grow a plant there.  DON'T DO THAT!  Once you fill that cavity with a plant, all you'll have is a boring rock with a plant that will be scrawny and stunted and that's not what bonsai is all about!      

 

                  TURN THE ROCK AND YOU MIGHT SEE IT AT A MORE INTERESTING ANGLE!

                   From the position in the above photo,  the rock was rolled over and now sits on what was the right side and turned a bit.  It shows that the cavity is longer and more interesting and that there's also another interesting feature above the cavity.  Keep studying!

 

                   KEEP TURNING AND DISCOVER MORE!

                   The rock is now upside down from the first photo.  It shows what appears to be a deep mysterious cave and if you planted a tree on top of the rock, it would cover the ordinary rock portions, but as you turn it, you'll get a nice surprise and discover the cave.  But if you did this, you won't see that second interesting formation because its now under the rock and not visible.  Keep studying if there's something better!

 

                    PROP IT UP SO YOU CAN SEE ALL OF THE BEST AND MOST INTERESTING FEATURES!  ISN'T THIS VIEW MORE INTERESTING?

                   I like the top profile and that bump to the left of the top.  Can I plant a tree on that bump?  I think it would be the best strategy as the roots would go over to the left and back portions of the rock that don't have interesting features and the best parts of the rock would be preserved to add interest!  So if we agree, how do we plant the tree?

 

                   THE PLAN:  CREATE A "SADDLE" (MARKED WITH THE GREEN RIBBON) WHERE THE PLANT WOULD SIT AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO SECURE THE PLANT IN POSITION UNTIL IT BECOMES ESTABLISHED.

                  The saddle was easily created by lightly chipping with a hammer and stone chisel.  Five holes about 1/4" in diameter and about 3/4" deep were drilled.  Wire was bent into "U-shapes" to be cemented into the holes.  Actually, since the rock was soft enough to drill, I very easily could have created "ROOT TRAIL CREVASSES" for the roots to follow down to the media in the pot.  But I didn't think they would be needed.  

 

        This photo shows the "U-shaped wire anchors" being cemented into place.  I laid down a folded piece of aluminum foil, bent two heavier wires into an "x-shape," laid it on the foil,  spooned out a "concrete pancake",  placed the rock in position propped up with a small rock,  and completed cementing.

        It was ready to use as a demonstration for guests that were planning to visit the next day and that report is also in this month's Journal issue.

 

         Here's the rock the next day ready to plant along with the tree selected.  It would have been okay to do what most bonsai growers would do who do not have older pre-trained trees.  But the theme of my planned lesson was that bonsai does not take many, many, years if you have access to older pre-trained plants. Our visitors were candidates for the Fast-Track Study Group and I wanted to show what was possible.  So I used a plant from our sales area that meets the standards of our #8LS8-Roots that was in training between 8 to 12 years.

 

         The tree was removed from the pot, bare-rooted with a root hook, the roots separated,  and the original central root removed to allow the extended roots to sit on the rock saddle.  They will very quickly establish into the media in a pot. Rock planting trees that already have established extended roots is Fuku-Bonsai's preferred method rather than planting small young trees.  In this case it would take 6 to 10 years for young trees to equal what this will become in one or two years!  We teach how to create "Roots Bonsai" with our Introductory Workshop Package so you can later do root-over-rock bonsai.

 

           Creating the cushion over the saddle was explained in detail in previous articles.  The roots were spread, pressed firmly down to the cushion, and tied in place with the wire anchors and tightened with a needle nose pliers.  There were five anchors with two wires each so with ten wires tying down the large mass of roots, the tree was firmly attached.  This photo was taken after just a few ties and already it would have been easy to lift up the tree and the rock.

 

           Here I'm holding up the partially rock planted tree and the pot to show their comparative size.  At this point, if you wanted a small high quality bonsai, you could plant it in a shallow 9" diameter 1:10 Project saucer and the 1" depth would have been enough.  If you cut back the crown,  when it leafs out in 2-3 months, you'd have a beautiful small bonsai!  But my visitors liked the idea of creating a beautiful larger bonsai so a larger 17"x12"x2" oval pot that would hold about one gallon of all new potting media was used.

 

             The tree has a slight slant to the right and I plan to allow the right side of the tree to grow very strongly and to keep pruning the left side of the tree.  To balance the proposed design, the tree and rock was anchored off-center in the pot.  At this point,  installing the aluminum foil collar to protect and cover the roots had not yet been done.  But my visitors had a tight time schedule and in a little over 90 minutes,  we had completed an Introductory Workshop Package - Sumo and a Premium Introductory Workshop Package - Roots and I completed this Root-Over-Rock demonstration!

 

            COMMENTS BY DAVID:     Most people know that bonsai takes many, many years and that it requires extreme discipline and skill.  IT'S TRUE!  So for the great majority of those interested in bonsai,  it is an impossible challenge to grow one from plants that are available in plant stores. So they purchase plants that are labeled bonsai and usually kill it in a few months because they purchased an outdoor plant but tried to grow it in their home or office.  These do not magically become houseplants just because you call it "bonsai!"   The desire to grow bonsai is strong and when that person (who killed his or her first bonsai sees a tree labeled "INDOOR BONSAI"  he or she is willing to try again.  Sometimes they are willing to try again and again and again!  But there are always problems!  If there are any instructions,  they are generally very vague.  Usually the label (if any) does not identify the name, address, or contact information of the person who grew it and the store that sold it cannot or will not help!  WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

             YOU HAVE A CHOICE!  Buy it as cheap as possible, but know you'll on your own. We cannot help you if you purchase it from somewhere else and you really should get help from the person or store who sold it to you or find growers who will help you.  FUKU-BONSAI IS FULLY COMMITTED TO HELP THOSE WHO PURCHASE OUR PLANTS AND EVERY PLANT INCLUDES OUR CONTACT INFORMATION!  Most of our Fuku-Bonsai Authorized Retailers are only allowed to sell our Small Size Dwarf Schefflera Hawaiian Lava Plantings and are required to provide our cultural information and contact information to the customer.

            Our visitors are interested in representing Fuku-Bonsai on the island of Kauai and they are at step one and two.  They've begun their study group training and we look forward to them becoming our first full service representative to teach, create, and sell True Indoor Bonsai to Kauai residents and visitors!  Stay tuned!

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