By David W. Fukumoto, president & founder, Fuku-Bonsai

                Training bonsai is enjoyable and achievable if you have realistic goals. It bothered me deeply when an 80+ year old visitor asked me to teach her how to grow a Bristlecone Pine bonsai from seed! As the world's oldest living tree, it's also amongst the slowest growing and it could be ready to begin training when she was 180+ years old.  It lives in only very specific environments that would be very difficult to duplicate in average homes so before bonsai training can begin, it is necessary to overcome the horticultural challenges. Some people really want to be unique.  Maybe they like failure. I don't!

                I want all of my customers to be successful!  So I researched and came up with three rules for success and they work!  Fuku-Bonsai are the most successful gift bonsai for anyone who can grow houseplants! Here are the rules:

            1.  Grow plants that will thrive for you in your environment or change your growing environment to fit the needs of the plants.  Fuku-Bonsai supplies the finest most durable houseplant bonsai plant stock for those who want to grow bonsai indoors year-around in homes and offices. We help our customers with this extensive website and personal email assistance. We supply components including pots and ideal potting media for True Indoor Bonsai.  But we don't sell any tropical trees that need very high-light greenhouse conditions and we don't help little old ladies who want to grow Bristlecone Pine Bonsai from seed!

           2.  Start with plants that will grow in your environment that already have character to avoid the long, difficult years needed to create character.  This is the key and it makes sense!  Most of the finest traditional temperate climate bonsai began as old knarled trees dug up from the timberline or places with harsh environment. These developed character over the years and the goal of  bonsai training is to accentuate the strong positive features, distract attention from the negative features, and learn to grow the plant as healthily as possible. But houseplant bonsai cannot be easily collected if you live in the city or in the continental United States.  They do grow especially well in tropical Hawaii and more specifically in our district of Puna with 175 inches of rain and very high humidity. This is the ideal growing place for our specialty Dwarf Schefflera! This essay provides the rationale behind our three primary training methods.

           3.  To get best results, provide the best possible growing environment and care. Doesn't that seem easy?  Did we make it too easy?  For those who have grown traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai, Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai is easy.  But when something is easy, the standards go up and higher standard results are possible. Customers are achieving such results and our bonsai materials and components are increasingly used in schools, bonsai club workshops, and by isolated individuals throughout the United States. Join us!


                Initially Fuku-Bonsai produced mostly Hawaiian Lava Plantings which grow slowly and are purchased for decorative usage. While they still are our most popular products, with each year, more customers are learning the basics of bonsai training and moving into more advanced challenges. We began by potting our lava plantings and Keiki Bonsai Workshops continue to be popular with about half of those who visit and take workshops at Fuku-Bonsai.  They are reasonably easy and because they already have a lot of rock-planted interest, the results are always beautiful.  Right away, everyone learns that the quality of the finished workshop product is only as good as the stock material that you begin with!

                While many of the rules and guidelines for traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai were formulated by the Japanese, these cannot be applied to houseplant bonsai which utilizes different plants with different structural forms, different growing environments requiring different care and potting media, and totally different aesthetics!  Whereas Japanese bonsai are based upon single apex-tier branched evergreen tree shapes, houseplant bonsai are multiple apex-arched branched banyan tree designs.

                Banyan trees have a great range of shapes.  Some are tall and slender with open canopies like forest trees with no aerial roots. Others grow in what we call the "Hong Kong style" with curved trunks, arching branches, and aerial roots wrapping around the trunk to the ground. Others are short with very heavy trunks, buttressing roots, and a low, wide dense foliage dome. But the most exciting exotic shape is the "Rainforest Banyan" where aerial roots fall free of the trunks to form pillar roots.

                In developing a range of prepared bonsai stock, we utilized all of these tropical plant characteristics. Bonsai can be an craft, but it is also an individual art and hobby to be enjoyed. So we offer stout heavy trunks and a lot of low branches that will make traditionalist drool!  We offer an innovative tropical design that can be trained into the premium Rainforest Banyan shapes, root-over-rock styling, or into non-traditional exposed root designs. And lastly we offer swirling-twirling fun bonsai!

                Many of our customers have graciously complimented us on our artwork and we introduce three new logos and besides explaining the significance, it will tell you a little of the stories behind each logo design, about the founding Fukumoto family and how everyone contributes. So let's begin!



Our logo designs tend to follow Japanese, Chinese, and modern traditions.  How do you tell people that one group of trees have short stout trunks with a lot of branches? We decided that the Japanese sumo warrior was the ideal symbol. Roots was initially difficult but it turned out to be the easiest. Hawaiian Dragons is our favorite and the symbol of our family. This design took many years to complete and it was finished several years ago. We decided to share the design and the story that goes with it.
      4LL8-S Living Lovable in Sumo styling showing the stout trunk, low branches, and outstanding taper which is desirable in traditional bonsai training!  3 to 5 years old.
     Larger older Sumo type trees about 8 to 10 years old in 17" long oval pots. Still older trees trained in by this method is in the Custom Collection section.


      SHORT AND STOUT!   This is Fuku-Bonsai's original distinctive training technique that was inspired by the natural growth and dieback of the trees at the timberline that Nature created the finest premium bonsai stock. "Reduction-Building" techniques are related to the Lingnan penjing "clip-and-grow" techniques except we start with young plants and reduce more drastically and allow very vigorous growth between reductions. 

      Several severe reduction-building sequences produced stout, heavy trunks (or multiple trunks, a lot of healthy growth, and strong low branching. Each plant has a lot of character and can be trained in many ways. This technique is far superior to training by wiring which can create curves but not heavy tapering trunks with naturally angular bends.

      Our Dwarf Schefflera Lava Plantings are pre-trained in this manner prior to being rock-planted.  Very young individually potted plants are allowed to grow vigorously then drastically cut down almost to the roots!  This is the "No guts - No glory" test as the harder the cut, the more die, but the better the potential of those that survive.

       We cull out those that have only one or two new growth points to work only with superior genetic stock. Then we allow them to grow vigorously so the trunks thicken and the bases of the branches are strong. When cut back hard again, new growth develops on the older section.  If there a lot of time between each drastic pruning, the result is exceptional trunk taper and superior plants.

       We've used this technique since we began as a certified export nursery in 1973 and so we have plants of all ages including Custom Collection and Premium Old Private Collection Bonsai. 


          THE STORY BEHIND THE LOGO:  I don't draw people well. In fact I'm really bad.  All end up looking weird and after a bunch of efforts, Myrt suggested daughter Joni take a crack at it. She did and this logo is the result of her first rough sketch that took only a few minutes!  As you can guess, she has a good heart, enjoys people, and all of her drawings are cute!

       4LL8-R Living Lovable in Roots training.
      8LS8-R  are in 8" diameter x 2" deep pots and about twice as tall.


       INNOVATIVE TROPICAL DESIGN!   The essence of elegant banyans!  Ideal starts for taller lofty crown designs that will feature and show off rainforest type roots.

       In Japanese ukiyoe woodblock prints produced before 1860, there are depictions of bonsai with exposed roots.  In the 1950's, Japanese Shimpaku (Chinese junipers) often featured exposed root designs. But evergreen trees standing on tall exposed roots  look unnatural. 

       But aerial roots are the essence of tropical banyan trees and are increasingly popular.  Aerial roots support Sumo-type trunks and branches. Continue lengthening the roots to create taller delicate fantasy trees. These are the foundation of new tropical styling or are ideal stock for root-over -rock.


        THE STORY BEHIND THE LOGO:   Initially I blew up a photo of an Indian Banyan Tree that had impressive roots and spent a lot of time trying to simplify the complex design. The more I worked the worse it got. Myrt saw me getting frustrated and pulling no punches, remarked that she had no idea of what I was trying to convey and asked why I didn't just take a photo of a Dwarf Schefflera bonsai trained in this manner?

         That made sense so I did with a digital camera.  A few minutes later it was in PhotoShop, cropped, the contrast increased, and printed in black-and-white. With a compass a circle was drawn, cut out, pasted with another drawn circle, and scanned back into PhotoShop.

          Every so often, Myrt would check the work in progress and made recommendations. "Take off that crossing distracting root." "Show some of the base roots so everyone knows this is a bonsai tree." "Include some Dwarf Schefflera leaves."  And as things kept falling into place, she advised lightening one leaf and darkening another to provide better contrast and more interest."

          This is one of our prettiest designs and it conveys the elegant almost feminine beauty of this style. It was also one of the fastest from concept to finish. I did the artwork but it's really Myrt's design.  Myrt and I went to the same elementary, intermediate, and high school and I'm just 45 days older than her. She's my best friend and we make a pretty good team!" 


          Conceptually "Roots" is a Sumo crown sitting on exposed roots. 4LL8-R is about 3 to 5 years old. By the time they reach 8LS8-R standards they may be 8 years or older and almost twice as tall. Roots are more developed and there's been greater effort to select and creative attractive root designs. 

          Whereas the "Sumo" goal is to create stout heavy masculine type trunks, our "Roots" goal is to create an airy elegance with a taller lofty crown and the feeling of the rainforest banyans. "Roots!" has long heavier established roots that can be carefully untangled with a root hook and rearranged over a tall pinnacle-type rock for a dramatic design!  Or match it to an attractive piece of driftwood!


  4LL8-D Dragon Living Lovable
     Three of original prototypes created as we designed larger older Hawaiian Dragon models.
     Detail of prototype Hawaiian Dragon #1 shows heavy manipulation of the lower trunk and roots.
    Detail of the back of prototype Hawaiian Dragon #2 showing the four 360 turns in the trunk created by wiring. This tree is only 4" tall.
     Prototype Hawaiian Dragon #3 in a 2" pot. This Dwarf Schefflera mutation has smaller pointed leaves with very compact foliage and thin trunks that are very easily wired. 


        SWIRLING - TWIRLING FUN BONSAI!  When you ask someone to describe a tree, they may say roots from all directions come together to form a trunk which rises and branches out into twigs with the leaves forming a canopy. So the typical tree usually has a straight trunk. In this conceptual innovation, we wanted to distance ourselves from reality and move toward fantasy and fun!

        A sharp bend at the base instantly proclaims this is not ever going to be a standard boring tree shape! Imagine an active twisting dragon going up and down, side to side, and even doing flips as it cavorts across the pot!  Make him rise up ready to pounce  .  .  .  or let him slither along the ground before soaring into the air!  

       We've begun an exciting start and the challenge is now yours!  This is the favorite of creative bonsai trainers! 


          THE STORY BEHIND THE LOGO:   With the head of a bull, the scales of a serpent, the claws of an eagle, the antlers of a stag, and in utilizing parts of the symbols of the warring clans, the Eastern Dragon became a benevolent composite representing the emperor that unites and protects the country! It is vastly different from the evil Western Dragon that knights with pure hearts set out to slay!

           Myrt and I were born in "dragon years" and for many years, we tried to create a dragon logo for our family. It was difficult and complex. The dragon is dynamic and constantly moving to attack any enemy and protect those around him. There's strong cultural symbolism in depicting dragons and while used extensively in clothing, dinnerware, architecture and every imaginable way, none seemed to work for us.

          One day as I was doodling and making a row of upright connected loops like a child practicing penmanship, I realized it had the rhythm and movement that I had been looking for. But dragons are unpredictable so I spliced a reverse spiral and a "ying-yang" symbol emerged to signify the balance of life forces!

           Although this is my most complex logo designs, it reduces remarkably well.


      In the past, very little training was done with wiring as the preferred technique was pruning. Hawaiian Dragons utilize wiring but in non-traditional ways.  The sharp bend at the base of the trunk was created when the plant was very young and the size of a bean sprout!

        It was then allowed to grow for a year or two before most of the trunk was removed to begin forming the foliage crown.  We had two major options from the 4LL8-D Living Lovable stage.

        We could allow branches to lengthen and wire them to create lively movement. But we chose instead to compress all complex growth to form the dragon's head and began to form the body by building a wire-supported swirling "body."  This was a better solution as roots tend to be much easier to bend than woody trunks.  



        These three were created at Fuku-Bonsai following Japanese and Chinese techniques. The stands for #1 and #2 were once solid blocks of wood whose mass would have overpowered the elegant but thin trunks and roots. In general, the stand should have a mass compatible with the thickness of the trunk of the tree.  So over 90% of the wood was laboriously carved away with mallet and chisel, drills, grinders, etc. #1 was from Hawaiian Koa wood. #2 was from Birds Eye Maple.

         The root display stand for Hawaiian Dragon #3 was created from an exposed root Chinese Box-Orange bonsai that unfortunately died. It was dried out, the bark removed and the wood cured, then cut and finished for an attractive display stand. In ancient China similar waist high stands were created by planting azalea bushes in 12" diameter cylinders and after many years the tree was cut through the broad trunk buttress to be the platform. All soil was removed to expose the attractive irregular root pattern.


         We have been growing Hawaiian Dragons for a much shorter time and continue to explore the various options to establish the model standards. We're pleased with the criteria for the 4LL8-D and are now focusing on 8LS8-D that will take the training to the next level. The oldest prototypes are moving into larger 17LS8-D with another set of features that will add more character!


                Sumo, Roots, and Hawaiian Dragons represent three major original training concepts. Being the international pioneer of True Indoor Bonsai is a challenging responsibility to explore training techniques that are economical and efficient and design concepts that will allow broad creativity options for our customers.  Fuku-Bonsai is committed to producing only the highest quality plant materials and once we lock in designs, we work efficiently to produce complex designs at the lowest possible costs. 

                The amount of complexity created within your prepared bonsai stock will largely determine the success of your workshop results.  With inspiring material, you'll create exciting designs. We hope that by sharing with you the philosophy and the details of what goes into our products that you'll have a greater appreciation for the extraordinary value of Fuku-Bonsai products.  We hope you'll treasure them, give them great care so they will have optimum growth and train well.  Only then can they bring joy!

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Fuku-Bonsai Inc. 2005    

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