This photo shows the three trees that were part of a Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center workshop in February 2013 with Ryan Chang with a report that appeared in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai.  That workshop used plant stock created by rooting special older cuttings that had a lot of character, but which had been rooted for less than a year.  SO THE ACTUAL AGE OF THE ABOVE THREE PLANTS IS ONLY TWO YEARS OLD!  (But using non-standard innovative training techniques!) 

LESSON #18:   OPTIMUM GROWTH REPORT

                TRUE INDOOR BONSAI is the fastest developing bonsai that is also the most successful for anyone, anywhere who can grow houseplants!  It is ideal for beginners as there are now an extensive body of evidence and experiences of those who have grown it under diverse situations in all parts of the United States.  Dwarf Schefflera which can be grown into more styles than any other tree trained as bonsai!  HOW CAN IT GET BETTER THAN THIS?  CAN ANYONE CREATE MORE DEVELOPMENT IN TWO YEARS?

                Dwarf Schefflera was introduced into Hawaii by several different sources from different places. Other specific clones continue to be introduced.  The Hawaii nurseries introduced such huge quantities to the then developing houseplant market that even today, in the trade,  Dwarf Schefflera is known as the Hawaiian Umbrella Tree!  We became aware of it in 1973 when the University of Hawaii at Manoa introduced plants to be grown and sold by the newly formed Hawaii State Certified Nursery Program. 

                Fuku-Bonsai was the first such nursery formed under that program and we have probably done more research of Dwarf Schefflera than anyone else. Once California approved and the certification program became was authorized, the Fukumotos moved from Oahu to Kurtistown on the Big Island of Hawaii to become the first such nursery.  For us it represented an opportunity to live a bonsai lifestyle and its a decision that we've never regretted in spite of the difficulties and stresses we've been forced to endure.

                 We sprayed defective Benlate fungicide in 1989 that caused well over $30 million of damages and a 25-year battle for survival and to total reinvent the company. DuPont very arrogantly used all its legal clout to bully and force settlements at a tiny fraction of the damage they caused.  The net total proceeds of our 1994 product liability and our 2007 DuPont fraud settlements after taxes and legal costs was less than 10% of our losses!  That really stinks and no DuPont attorney or officer has ever faced criminal charges or gone to prison for the most egregious settlement fraud in the history of the United States judicial system. They paid relatively small fines and escaped from having to take responsibility for the damages they caused.

                 We could no longer grow our original Schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla) and the only good thing that came out of all of all of this was that we learned how to consistently produce exceptional character within one inch of the Dwarf Schefflera roots.  ALL FUKU-BONSAI PLANTS MEET THIS SPECIFICATION WHICH IN TURN ELEVATES THE ENTIRE PRODUCT LINE AS THE PLANTS GET OLDER!  

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                 From our earliest days, we were involved in teaching bonsai and trying to find ways to help everyone to be successful.  We shared our knowledge and wrote extensively.  We supplied the highest quality of prepared bonsai stock available anywhere at any price.  But we needed to do more to try to make our plants "customer-proof!"  

                So we tried to write the best cultural informational sheets to go with our plants and stressed trying to grow the plants as healthy as possible!  But we needed to document and set a high standard and these three trees will serve as examples of what is possible.  We began with special cuttings that had a lot of character before they were rooted and were less than a year since being rooted.  The workshop was just a year ago so these three trees are really only two years old!  I don't know of anyone or any tree that can achieve this stage of development in two years!  Although we're professionals and have an ideal climate,  hobbyists have a lot more time to give plants individual attention!  So the challenge is to learn to create optimum growing conditions and give it the best possible care!  There really are no bonsai secrets and we'll try to keep teaching everyone who wants to learn and invite all who are interested to join our study group!   

 

THE START:  FEBRUARY 8, 2013

            On Ryan Chang's first visit to Fuku-Bonsai, we worked on three trees using the 9" shallow 1:10 Project saucer and kit and did a "Sumo," "Roots," and "Root-Over-Rock." 

           The trees were special "character cuttings" rooted within the past year so roughly one year old but with a lot more character than usual.  The report is posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a94d.html in the March 2013 Journal

          Three months after the initial workshop, David's three trees were checked and ideal branches selected,  the plastic collar changed to a full aluminum foil collar, the trees heavily fertilized, with the trees continuing growing in full tropical sun.

 

8-MONTH REPORT in the October 2013 Journal(www.fukubonsai.com/1a96d.html)

         The photo on the right shows the growth of the three Fuku-Bonsai trees 8 months after the February 2013 workshop.  Ryan achieved similar high growth but had a problem with his roots drying out. 

          The 8-month report by both Ryan and David showed the amount of growth possible in Hawaii.  There are different strategies.  Fuku-Bonsai prefers to alllow the trees to grow vigorously after the workshop and this greatly thickens the trunks. 

          The primary apical growth was reduced with a vertical "dive-bomber" cut with the stub twice as long as the diameter of that section.  Branches were reduced with horizontal "flat cuts" so the cut shows on the top of the branch with the stub three times the diameter of the branch.  Over time, this will produce a heavy crown that is slightly flattened and increasingly wider like a full heavy tropical foliage dome.

          The media was carefully covered with medium, then fine gravel, then topped with a 1/4" thick layer of fine body media that came through a 1/8" screen that contains a lot of fine organic material and the bottom and the buttressing slope carefully covered with the aluminum foil collar, the collar taped tight, and air holes every one inch. The fine material will encourage a network of root hairs to be followed by mid-sized roots and the desirable heavy roots that follow. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9-MONTH REPORT in the December 2013 Journal    (www.fukubonsai.com/1a96d1.html

          Just one month after being heavily pruned back, two of the trees had developed new growth and the third tree as sending out a lot of new growth points.  This is the desirable result of allowing the trees to grow vigorously and cutting it back hard.  In Hawaii we prune heavily all year around.  In cooler states many do heavy pruning only when the growth is most vigorous. 

          Study the positions of the new growth and remove those growing inwards towards the center of the tree and favor a new central apex and the horizontal growth off the branches.  Generally we keep as many growth points but will remove one branch if two branches are growing exactly on opposite sides of the main apical growth. We also remove on branch if a branch develops exactly above another branch.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE YEAR REPORT (See top photo at start of the article)

          A little over one year from that initial workshop, my three workshop trees have developed nicely in the shallow 9" diameter 1:10 Project saucer-pots.  At this point, the plants are just two years old but are rapidly developing due to the special techniques being used and our ideal weather.  Regardless of where you live,  try to create the best possible growing situation and try to get the strongest most vigorous growth possible. 

           SUMO (right)  The trunk is now a full 2" thick at the base and about 8.5" tall.  The tree is developing a stout fast taper and there are now many well-positioned branches. There are now a total of nine growth points. Another round of vigorous growth will further thicken the trunk and branches and when cut back, there will be more growth points.  Some very heavy desirable buttressing roots are already developing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           ROOTS (above)    The trunk just above the roots is now about 1.5" across and the overall height is about 15.5" high.  The roots are thickening and developing as if they are an extension of the trunk. In the future, it will be possible to remove the media so the entire root column will be exposed.  The roots on the lower half are still developing but will likely follow the shape of the molded soil contours. There are a total of eight growth points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          ROOT OVER ROCK (above)   The trunk just above the start of the visible roots is now about 1.5" across and the overall height is now about 13.5" high. The tree is very strongly attached to the rock with strong thick roots well developed.  This workshop used a new technique to strongly pull the tree down extra firmly and it seemed to help to establish the tree on the rock faster than when no strongly pulled down. There are a total of seven growth points

 

CONCLUSION

           I believe that this fully documented development record cannot be matched by any other tree trained as bonsai and that Dwarf Schefflera is the fastest developing of any plant trained as bonsai!  As one of the most poplar and most durable of all houseplants,  it is the most successful and easy to grow and suitable for growing indoors in all parts of the United States. Frankly I'm surprised with the amount of growth!  I must clarify that these plants received special attention as I really wanted to see how much development can be created in one year.  Of course we cannot give every plant in the nursery this much attention but this one year record sets a high bar of what is possible. 

          Regardless of where you live or your environment,  if you want to see bonsai progress,  consider growing Dwarf Schefflera and give it the best possible care and environment. It is very unlikely that anyone growing traditional temperate climate bonsai can achieve anything close to this much development in one year!   

           Fuku-Bonsai has established a quality control criteria that all plants must have lower trunk character within 1" of the soil line and a compact complex root system within 1/2" of that soil line.  All of our Dwarf Schefflera plants meet this criteria and all have high potential.  If the bonsai starter stock does not have such character when bonsai training begins, it is very likely that the tree will never develop that character no matter how many years it is trained.  So when it becomes old, although you might call it a bonsai it will be an old low quality bonsai.

           From our very beginning,  we had very high bonsai standards and always had a number of trials in progress.  Because Myrtle kept improving her propagation and growing skills,  I always had a lot of plants for experiments and a larger percentage of the plant inventory was committed to trials.  I recommend this route for everyone who wants to create high quality bonsai!  I also recommend setting high standards and culling and discarding weak sickly trees!  Because I had a large number of trees,  I was able to learn to grow vigorously and to prune aggressively to produce superior results! I throw out sickly trees and ship only strong healthy trees.

           In the growth sequence documented above, after the completion of the workshop to train into three different styles in the shallow 1:10 Project 9" saucer-pot,  the trees were allowed to grow vigorously for eight months to thicken the trunks and roots.  In achieving exceptional growth the trees stored enough energy to create strong new growth when pruned.  We tend to prune very heavily and prefer to build out the crown slowly.  If the branches are left longer, a very large loose crown will develop and it will more likely develop into a larger but lower quality bonsai. 

          This Optimum Growth trial was also to evaluate the validity of our 1:10 Project that uses very shallow saucer-pots.  These and numerous other 1:10 Project trees were grown near our sales area and the shallow containers were often discussed with visitors.  Visitors who had grown bonsai all grew trees in pots that were two to four times deeper than our 1:10 Project saucers.  Some who took workshops at Fuku-Bonsai were willing to try the shallow saucers and I hope those who did will send me photos and a report on how their trees are doing.  

          With proper watering,  shallower bonsai pots are very suitable.  However, we caution against shallow ceramic pots that only have two larger holes as they have poor drainage.  We recommend that potters creating shallow pots make a large number of smaller drain holes or that additional holes be drilled in shallow ceramic pots and trays. 

          Four months after the initial heavy pruning, a new more compact crown is developing but there are now twice as many growth points.  This will disperse the energy of the tree so each will be more compact and the leaves will naturally reduce in size.  Even if it were allowed to grow vigorously for 8 months again, it would not likely grow out so far as the energy is dispersed into more growing points. But such vigorous growth will further thicken the trunk and roots, and when cut back, the tree will have energy to again produce additional growth points. 

          Again at this point,  select the ones to add to the structure of your tree and prune off the extra growth.  As the refinement stage continues, the branching will begin to have more character, interest, and taper.  With more growth points, growth will slow, leaves become smaller,  a the tree takes on a more mature appearance. 

          Some still think that bonsai are stunted trees.  They restrict the growth rate and the tree does not improve.  Some want to start refinement training to get the leaves smaller before it has developed the major structural components.  In training bonsai,  it's necessary to know the overall development strategy so the proper technique is used at the appropriate time.

          For those starting out into bonsai,  don't become overly concerned about the details you may have read about which really come into play during the later refinement stage as the bonsai matures.  In the beginning,  learn the techniques to create the best possible growing environment,  how to properly fertilize,  and how to create strong growth!  This report shows what is possible in just a single year!  I think it is a significant report and recommend rereading and studying it carefully. 

          You're invite to become a member of the beginner study group to get a strong foundation for an enjoyable life-long hobby.  Please email me or the others in the Fast Track Study Group if you have questions or need assistance.  Regards and aloha,  ~~~David  (david.f@fukubonsai.com

 

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