Dwarf Schefflera is Fuku-Bonsai's specialty because it's a proven, durable houseplant, is a relatively fast grower; but most importantly, because it has the best potential to develop into tropical banyan forms.  The term "banyan" confuses people.  It describes a tree structure that has aerial or pillar roots. Most banyans are from the Ficus or Fig family of plants; but not all ficus are banyans and not all banyans are ficus!  Most of the top bonsai in Japan began as collected, naturally shaped trees that were skillfully trained.  Most bonsai magazine articles that show the creation of good bonsai start with exceptional bonsai stock that is difficult or impossible for beginners to obtain. 

            There's no secret;  to create a bonsai masterpiece, start with masterpiece potential stock,  develop an exciting design, and apply professional skills and techniques!

                This tree began as a seedling about 1977 and about 25 years in training.  Even when it was young, it stood out as a potentially exceptional tree.  It first went into a 4" nursery pot and was pruned often to develop a good banyan-like trunk base.  It was later rock-planted and trained in a shallow 25" x 15" x 2' deep rectangular pot.  Once the basic styling was completed about 12 years ago, it was placed into a larger, deeper tub to create heavier growth, pruned back hard every few years, and repotted every five years or so. At each repotting, the roots were selected and straightened. This session brings it back into controlled growth. 

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DECEMBER 4, 2001

      Photo 1:  The tree is shown in front of a photo backdrop (measuring about 7 1/2' high x about 9' wide) that is a double bed blanket stretched across a wood frame. The bonsai had been heavily fertilized and most parts of the tree had not been pruned for about 4 years. 

AdvTrngDS2.jpg (14654 bytes)       Photo 2:  After pruning.  Note a full wheelbarrow full of foliage that has been removed. The tree had been allowed to grow to about 7' tall and was pruned back to about 27" tall. Seedlings are not all the same. When only a few years old, it was obvious that this plant was exceptional. It was placed into the "private collection area not for sale." It threw out a huge number of very desirable aerial roots and this allowed us to select only those in choice areas and to prune out lower quality or crooked roots. 
AdvTrngDS3.jpg (14404 bytes)       Photo 3: "VIEW #1."  The future design would be created by removing all sections of the tree that are marked with pink ribbons. This restyling strategy would feature the two major trunks. Even if a tree is trained before it goes into accelerated growth,  when being brought back into controlled growth, there's an opportunity to do a major restyling.  Our best bonsai have been restyled in this manner several times. It is very rare for the training of a plant to be "locked-in" during the initial training session.  The objective of the early sessions should be to retain all usable branches to preserve all possible future training strategies!
AdvTrngDS4.jpg (15442 bytes)       Photo 4:  "VIEW #2" (looking at the left side of view #1).  This view shows the mature roots grasping and covering most of the original rock.  Accelerated growth produced good lower lateral branches. Most of the new growth was developed on the other side of the tree by pruning this side more often and facing the desirable growth area to the strongest light direction. As this photo shows, it is very possible to allow vigorous growth only where you want it. In that sense when a plant is growing rapidly, it is still in "controlled growth!"
AdvTrngDS5.jpg (15633 bytes)       Photo 5:  "VIEW #3" (facing into the strongest growth area or looking from the right side of view#1).  By removing most of the branches in the center, we can create another good viewing angle. Highest quality bonsai have at least three good viewing angles.
DECEMBER 18, 2001
             This photo series was being done in the midst of our busiest Christmas shipping season so it was not possible to prune back and refine in the same training session.  When we're working with highest quality trees, we prefer not to rush.  We use ribbons to help format a training strategy and there's consultation amongst our top trainers when a major restyling strategy is created. 

                We also used the opportunity to have a class with all of our staff to review basic training principles to demonstrate that these same principles apply to both young and older bonsai.   The difference is that older bonsai have more complexity,  requires knowledge of the unique training strategy developed for that specific bonsai,  and that it will take a lot longer to correct if you make a mistake.  So two weeks went by between photos 1-5 and photos 6-9.

AdvTrngDS6.jpg (14738 bytes)       Photo 6:  "VIEW #1" (See photo 3).   With a large section removed, the two original trunks are interesting and some of the original rock is slightly visible.  Banyan bonsai formed out of rock-planted bonsai have exciting aerial root structures.  From this angle, the tree has a nice directional force.  It is now in a 30" diameter by 1" deep training saucer. Transplanting from an 8" deep container to a 1" deep saucer is possible because our professional techniques give us very strong root control. 
AdvTrngDS7.jpg (15676 bytes)       Photo 7: "VIEW #2 (See photo 4). Only a few smaller branches from this side were removed but there was extensive work to select only good aerial roots in the best locations.  Excess aerial roots were removed and when viewing the tree from this angle, there is a very different feeling from View #1. Removing roots is only possible because of our ability to create an abundance of aerial roots! It would be difficult to create aerial roots in dry or poorly lit growing environments. 
AdvTrngDS8.jpg (17009 bytes)       Photo 8: "VIEW #3" (See photo 5).  Several large branches were removed and this third angle is now also interesting.  It is different in feeling from the other two views.  Our best bonsai  have this multiple-view quality and this tree is destined to become a part of the Fuku-Bonsai Exhibit Collection. The width of the tree is about 40" with a height of about 27". 
AdvTrngDS9.jpg (29629 bytes)       Photo 9:  A closer look at View #3 showing the positioning of the aerial roots using paper covered "twist-ties." In traditional temperate climate bonsai, collected trees are roughly equivalent to this stage of training and may be 200-300 years old or more. We've brought the tree to this stage in just 25 years.  It's not necessary to be a bonsai master to create an outstanding bonsai if you start with stock of this quality, can keep the tree growing healthily, and can complete the relatively simple refinement training.  This is a major difference between temperate climate bonsai and tropical bonsai!
JANUARY 8, 2002
             Just 18 days after photos 6-9 were taken and 35 days after photos 1-5 were taken, the new growth points are already well established.  This is due to our optimum growing conditions and professional techniques.  Tropical bonsai can and must be severely pruned to develop exciting styling.  If the plants are continually and conservatively pruned and never allowed to grow freely,  they will become more refined but will not appreciably thicken.
AdvTrngDSjan2002#1.jpg (19870 bytes)       Photo 10. The new shoots are already well established and there is a large amount of new growth popping out from all parts of the tree. We'll allow each growth tip to grow out until the entire crown is a dense foliage mass. As shown in the photo, the plant is at "3-leaf stage" (having 3 leaves on each new growth point.  We usually wait until the plant is at "7-leaf stage" before selecting which shoot to keep and which to thin out.  At that time, each branch is very limber and it's possible to train it to grow in desirable directions.     
AdvTrngDSjan2002#2.jpg (25812 bytes)       Photo 11. A closer view of the branches on the right side of photo 10.  When growth points are selected, long branches may be shortened.  At this point, most branches are about 1/2" thick.  Using "reduction-building" principles, the new selected growth points will be allowed to grow until they are at least 1/4" thick before they are pruned.  Another abundance of new growth points will appear.  Another selection will be made and the new growth points allowed to grow 1/8" thick before they are pruned.  This will create a beautiful branch taper!

            This tree is one of our better Dwarf Schefflera bonsai to date.  As we complete nursery recovery,  many more of our older trees are entering this training stages and in several years, more of our older trees will be offered as Custom Collection items.  These are only appropriate for those who have mastered maintenance and training of our younger plants.  I hope that more people will continue into the more difficult training stages of mature trees.  But even if you don't,  I hope you enjoyed learning how our trees were trained. 

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JUNE 10, 2002 UPDATE
        The photo on the left was taken about 5 months after the previous photo and the tree is growing strongly.   It's been roughly sheared twice already and this slows down growth as additional growth points are created.  After a few more months at the end of the summer growing season, we'll go in and carefully select which of the branches will be used as the basis for the next development stage.  At this point, we may remove some of the older branches if new ones in better position appeared. 
                Just a bit over six months from the time that this tree was growing vigorously in a deeper tub, growth is again strong and has been slowed in a 1" deep container.  Banyan shapes where the aerial roots free-fall at a distance from the trunk are not common and are the most desirable of all of the banyan forms to train.  To do so requires ideal conditions and a significant amount of training skills. 
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