We began growing Dwarf Schefflera in 1976. In the beginning, we weren't impressed with it. But we obtained a few plants and propagated a hundred or so plants under certified nursery specifications for our standard specie and variety trials. Then, we were still doing a huge amount of experiments with all possible houseplants. We knew we were pioneering a whole new field of bonsai and had studied Japanese bonsai and Chinese penjing very seriously. This had led to major contributions to help define "Outdoor Tropical Hawaiian Bonsai" that included many plants that require a lot of light and, therefore, not suitable as "indoor bonsai."
By that time, we were identifying the ideal plants for Fuku-Bonsai's TRUE INDOOR BONSAI. Each of the initial hundred of so original Dwarf Schefflera were subjected to "extreme" trials. At that time, we didn't want to waste time with unsuitable plants so it was preferable that we learned a lot quickly to make decisions to accept or reject. About twenty plants were placed into "size trials" to determine what would be the ideal size for a specific plant variety as some are good for small bonsai while others are good for large bonsai. We found that Dwarf Schefflera is GREAT for small and large bonsai! About 10 years ago, we selected 4 plants (including the Dwarf Schefflera Fuku-Bonsai logo tree) to be part of an educational exhibit. This is the story of the smallest of the four trees in the "size trials."
The objectives of the "size trials" was to learn the necessary training techniques needed to continue to grow the bonsai in the same bonsai pot. Tropical bonsai grow and build structural mass relatively quickly compared to temperate climate trees. If kept on the same vigorous growth regiment, the bonsai would outgrow the pot and require a large pot every few years. While acceptable in the beginning, at one point the tree would require such a large pot that it would be difficult or impossible to obtain.
So the emphasis was on learning how to cut back trees dramatically to be able to utilize the same pot! Pruning the small ones back hard to keep them in scale with the pots became more difficult. So in 2001 when the trees were 25 years in training, a major new strategy was developed for the smallest one. It was allowed to grow strongly to allow severe reduction of growth points.
Photo 1. The tree has seriously outgrown the beautiful Kataoka Yamaaki pot that has special value as it was one of the first high-quality pots that I had obtained in the 1960's. The pot measures 6" long x 4" wide x 1 3/4" tall.
Though not clearly visible, the section on the left front could become the most interesting if the tree could be split into three!
| Photo 2. Can we split the
tree to make three small bonsai with one going back into the original pot? I decided
A view of the other side shows that the section on the left would make an interesting bonsai that would be small and in scale with the original pot. The right side would require a slightly larger pot.
| Photo 3.
The bonsai was removed from the original pot which is shown in the left foreground.
It was temporarily placed into our 8" diameter x 2" deep Fuku-Bonsai plastic pot
that is used with our Premium Keiki Bonsai or #8 size Living Sculpture. It would
make an exceptional large bonsai if it was potted into a larger 17" oval pot.
But the challenge was to get it back into the original pot!
|Photo 4. With a chisel, mallet, and heavy duty pruner, the interesting lowest section was separated. There were thoughts to stop here and make just one small one and a larger one. But the phase: "NO GUTS - NO GLORY!" required taking a chance!|
|Photo 5. A few minutes later, the tree had been split into three parts. Most old media was removed, the branches cut back hard, all cut ends were thickly sealed with petroleum jelly, and each of the trees potted individually. I felt like a surgeon separating Siamese triplets and hoped each would survive!|
Photo 6. From the beginning, this section was to go back into the original pot. The photo doesn't do justice to it as the main part of the trunk dives back and down then swings to the left. The trunk features the knarly scar from this view. The trunk is as thick as the original pot.
This is one of my more successful bonsai display stands that includes an interesting sculptural panel that I hand-carved.
| Photo 7.
The largest tallest section is in a 6" diameter x 1 1/2" Fuku-Bonsai porcelain
slip-casted pot featuring a crackle glaze. In three months, new growth has emerged
from all sections of the tree! When trees are seriously pot-bound, often it will
grow very vigorously when most of the old media is removed. Expert after-care is needed.
The display stand is a 1/4" thick slab cut from a Curly Maple chuck sent to me as a gift. It was sanded and polished and compliments the white pot nicely.
| Photo 8.
This is the small section that was growing towards the front when viewed from one
side. It's attractive primarily from this view. The other side seemed to need to be
protected so a nice matching rock was fitted. A spaghnum moss cushion was placed between
the tree and the rock and it was securely tied together.
The pot is another of my old Kataoka Yamaaki high-quality pots measuring 4 3/4" in diameter and 1 3/8" tall. The display stand was made by Michael Imaino of Ponderosa Pine measuring 5" x 7" x 3/16" thick.
I'm delighted that all three sections survived! Each seems to be very healthy with beautiful new growth. Each section has a different personality. At this point, these trees are 26 years in training. I don't know of any Dwarf Schefflera that has older documented years in training. But judging from their vigorous growth, we are still very far from their maximum life span.
About ten years ago, we stopped growing Cherry Banyan, also known as Mistletoe Fig (Ficus deltoidea; syn. F. diversifolia) because we could see that a 15-year old plant exhibited traits that we describe as "plant senility." The plants acted "old" and would not respond with vigorous new growth. Such plants may not be suitable for creating "heritage bonsai" that will grow for generations. It's a shame. One of the exciting challenges of Hawaiian bonsai is a native Ohia-Lehua that is one of the more exciting plants to collect in the lava fields. Much has been written about this plant in bonsai magazines, but few have survived 25 years in training.
Dwarf Schefflera has passed this test so far and seems to have the qualities to make it an extraordinary heritage bonsai! It's become Fuku-Bonsai's specialty and a number of other experiments will be shared as we explore the qualities that make this an exciting tree to train!