We are exploring the third  generation of "ROOTS" development as a major Dwarf Schefflera training strategy. Initially we created a taller, simple, more elegant version of Sumo;  except that straight roots were longer and more prominent.  Customers who visit Fuku-Bonsai and who can compare the various designs side-by-side have made this "BASIC ROOTS" into our most popular. 

                Second generation trials,  explored pretrained "EXTENDED ROOTS"  to use for taller root-over-rock plantings.  These are the favorite dramatic rock plantings and if the roots are already extended, the success rate is dramatically enhanced.  The roots form beautiful complex design that compliments the texture of the rocks.  Part of this second generation featured "EXPOSED ROOTS." 

                We call this third generation trials:  "ULTRA-ROOTS"  because you need to start with long extended roots and take the uncommon pioneering trees  to the next design level! 


                  SO HOW DO YOU ADD DRAMA TO AN INTERESTING "EXTENDED ROOTS"?    How about doubling the height by mounting it on a skinny stick about the thickness of the trunk.   First stabilize the base by drilling holes and attaching wires and creating a wire network.  Cement rocks into the base and leave the wires standing up long enough to anchor the stick to the rock to keep it upright and to prevent what will be a top-heavy plant from toppling.


                 The tree already had a nice extended roots and could have gone into a 17"x12"x2" oval pot and been a fairly nice slanting trunked tree with interesting swirling aerial roots.  But instead the roots were extended further to be a tall and thin "ULTRA-ROOTS!"    First all the roots were separated and uncoiled and the curve at the base of the trunk-roots base was matched to the curve of the skinny stick and the two tied together with the green plastic ribbon tie in four places.  The roots were recoiled down the stick with effort to minimize where the overall root girth where there was a lot of roots,  and to build up where there weren't enough.  Then the roots were formed into a single bundle to continue the coiling to the pot. 

                 At this point there is a top-heavy reverse taper and over the next two to four years,  the roots will be extended and especially thickened in the lower section so it will appear to be a securely anchored tall slender elegant "root-tree" with a thin,  flattish, wide, umbrella-like foliage crown.  Can you see it?


                   Fuku-Bonsai's aggregate media can be reused.  With a 3/8" screen, shift the old media and what is caught in the screen is use as a hill for the central drainage hill.  Rescreen what went through the 3/8" screen and what is caught in the 1/4" screen is used to further build up the central drainage hill. 

                  Note that the largest root area just above the middle is about 3" in diameter.  So from that widest area,  the aluminum foil apron will become 3.5", then 4", then 4.5", then 5".  So we start the base of the foil column at 6" in diameter and complete installing the coarse materials in the pot and cover with some fines. 


                We've used up most of the coarse old material in the pot and began filling the aluminum foil collar with 50% coarse bottom,  50% body mix, and Nutrient Granules.  The foil at the base is about 6" in diameter and in a few years when the roots reach the pot,  they will spread out and thicken.  The foil column steadily becomes smaller as each additional section is added.  Use a long dibble and tap and shape the foil column as you fill it. 

                Use masking tape in a spiral to help create support and to hold the shape as you build the foil column. Then squeeze all tight and firm and use 1/4" strong monofilament tape to tightly compress the foil column.  Shape the top like a rain catchment funnel and line the top with sphagnum moss to not allow the media at the top of the foil column to dry.  So when watered, the water will very quickly penetrate all the media in the foil column. 

                 Be sure to poke a lot of pencil size air holes to allow the media in the foil column to breathe.  If there is too much water retention and inadequate air circulation,  the roots in the column will rot.  

                 This tree began heavily pruned with a relatively short trunk.  Initially,  the main bottom root and all roots on one side of the trunk were removed to form that sharp bend with coiling roots going around the strongest remaining root.  The supporting stick is about the same size as the largest remaining root and the roots were attached to the stick in a manner that most will think that it is an "all root column" and once the roots completely hide the stick, the illusion will be more realistic and the arrangement will have an interesting wobbling effect.

                 In this type of all root-trunk designs,  roots can go spiraling all in one direction or can be woven and crossing on the way down.  I've done both types and prefer the simple lines of the spirals.          


*** Return to the August 2014 issue of 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