Many like the idea of allowing trees to grow larger to create a more detail tree with more character.  To do so, enlarge the root system by going to a larger pot with media. But how do you keep a small lava planting small?  Kathy Almeida first wrote on October 22, 2002 not long after she had purchased a small Dwarf Schefflera from our largest account Dan's Greenhouse of Lahaina, Maui.  The original contact was concern about a mold.  About six months later, she wrote concerning pruning recommendations.   It was very clear that Kathy was very observant, took great photos, and was a great correspondent. So I asked her to share her story and to introduce herself!

Almeida Kathy 6.17.03  I survied!.jpg (24744 bytes)
June 18, 2003
          Hi,  I am a native Californian, born and raised in Los Gatos.  My husband and I enjoy traveling to tropical islands and have been to Hawaii many times.
          I purchased my bonsai tree at Dan's Greenhouse in Lahaina, Maui in September 2002.  Although I always wanted one of these unique bonsai, I wasn't sure if it would survive or if I had the time to take care of it.  To my great surprise, it is very easy to care for.  I also discovered that I really enjoy taking care of it and watching it grow. 
          I found myself asking David many questions to ensure I continued on the right path in growing my Bonsai.  Thanks to David and Loredana's page, I have just trimmed my tree for the first time.  I hope my experience will be helpful to you.
          Kathy Almeida

                Kathy is a wonderful correspondent.  All of us are different and as we begin, we're all cautious.  In our workshops, even with our staff first demonstrating, some still have difficulty doing the pruning. So I thought it would be a challenge to guide a person via email.  But she's done great! Here's her story that's been edited for brevity.

Almeida Kathy 10.22.02  mold 1.jpg (37178 bytes)

Almeida Kathy 10.22.02 mold detail.jpg (58128 bytes)

          I purchased the Fuku-Bonsai dwarf schefflera Hawaiian lava at Dan's Greenhouse (Maui) on Sept. 12th.  I have it in my kitchen green house window which is a bright area.  I was told by Dan's Greenhouse to submerge the plant  (rock & leaves) for one hour every week and to keep the lava moist.  I think it's being over watered because it looks as though mold is growing on it.  Also, the tiny roots have turned black and died.  The main root keeps growing & the plant looks good, but I'm concerned about the mold, the dying roots and the base of the trunk is turning white.  I did not water it this past weekend. Kathy
          Aloha Kathy and thank you for forwarding the photos.  The plant is fine, so follow the Maui instructions.  The mold is from some fertilizer residue and will disappear. If it bothers you, use a very soft toothbrush and scrub it off the next time you water. In acclimation some small roots dry off.  Here's a tip that works:  Use 4-8 drops of Schultz Liquid Plant Food (available in 5.5 oz bottles) in a gallon of distilled water.  Pour in bowl. Soak plant for 1 hour per week. Pour some water in bowl to just dampen the gravel and return rest to gallon for reuse.It's better to slightly over-water and don't allow plant to ever fully dry out.  Hope this helps and the plant brings you the joy we had in growing it!   ~~~ David
           I asked and received permission to use the photos as this type of "mold" was being reported.
Almeida Kathy 4.22.03 overall before.jpg (45741 bytes)
    Kathy takes good photos and is a good writer and it gave an opportunity to give others some insight and information.   Loredana had taught me how to add text to photos and it was a good chance to try it!
         Hi David, I know I have to trim my bonsai, but I'm scared to do so.  I have attached photo's of my plant.  I've been on your web site and reviewed the cutting process, but I want to be sure about what I'm doing (Loredana's page is interesting and helpful).  Questions: How far up should I cut the roots?  They just keep getting longer.  Will this hurt the tree? How does the plant get the bigger roots that grow into the rock? I'm not sure how far back to cut the branches.  Any advice? Thank you.   Kathy
           Aloha Kathy and congratulations!  You've really got your tree growing well.  Before I can advise, you've got to tell me what you want your plant to be in the future.  Do you want a small compact plant or a larger more developed one?  If you want a more compact one, I'll use one of your photos and mark places to cut.If you want a larger plant, consider picking up a #8 Conversion Kit and I'll walk you through the steps. Either way,  may I utilize the photos as I think it will help others just as Loredana's page is amongst our most popular. Which way do you want to go?  Regards,  ~~~David

          Hi David: I would prefer a more compact plant. It would be great if you could use my photo and mark the appropriate places to cut. Please also advise on the root system. Yes, you can use my photos any time. I will await your response. Thank you very much for your assistance. Kathy

Almeida Kathy 4.22.03 advice 2.jpg (31001 bytes)

Almeida Kathy 4.22.03 advisory.jpg (34737 bytes)

    1.  The long root can be cut if you also cut back the two long growth points.
     2. Cut the low branch with the pruner almost horizontal and more towards the branch tip and above the leaf growing almost horizontal.  The new growth point will come out where the last end leaf-stem meetings the branch. So you can actually guess where the new branch will come out and influence that by where you cut.
      3.  Cut back the upwards facing branch with the pruner held almost vertically. This will assure that the new growth developing on that branch will come off at a nice angle.
      4.  After you cut, coat the cut ends with Vaseline so the branch won't die back.  Be sure to take some photos just after, perhaps with you in the picture with a happy?, shocked?, or worried? look! Take you time and write with questions until you reach a comfort level.  Regards,  ~~~David
(Note:   I had a chance to use two of Kathy's other photos to show where the cuts could be made from two different views.)
Alameida Kathy 6.17.03 before.jpg (21993 bytes)

Alameida Kathy 6.17.03 overall after.jpg (22073 bytes)

JUNE 17, 2003
        Hi David,  I finally had the courage to trim my precious bonsai and we both survived!  Even though I read Loredana's Page and your emails several times to understand where to trim, I was still very nervous to do it.  I ended up cutting off 2 major branches as well as the long roots.  I also applied the Vaseline as you suggested. I have enclosed several photographs of my first trimming experience.  Hopefully these will be helpful to others who have questions. Thanks David for your support!
        Mahalo, Kathy

       Kathy's "before" and "after" photos tells the story! Kathy was a bit concerned whether she had cut enough and because it was extremely hectic as we were finalizing the Micro-Lobster introduction, I begged off from adding a lot of detail. She did just fine and I was sure that she would gain confidence as she saw for herself how the plant responded. It did and I was delighted to hear from her a few months later!

Alameida Kathy 8.12.03 roots!.jpg (29783 bytes)

Alameida Kathy 8.12.03 new leaves 1.jpg (34085 bytes)

Alameida Kathy 8.12.03 new leaves 2.jpg (25867 bytes)

         August 18, 2003:   Hi David,  I just wanted to report on the growth of my bonsai since pruning it in June.  There was no change for several weeks, then all of a sudden five new leaves popped out and a vigorous growth of roots. Pictures were taken eight weeks later (August 12th).  Another two leaves appeared a few days ago and the plant is almost as big as before I trimmed it. After reviewing your web site, I think it's too early to consider trimming it now. Thanks David,  Kathy

          August 30, 2003:  Aloha Kathy and congratulations! You're doing great! Allow the new section to grow out 6 to 7 new leaves, then prune back to 1 or 2. In other words, cut off the latest 5 leaves including the stem section. Prune only the branch growing vigorously.  Regards,  ~~~David

          September 2, 2003:  Thanks David.  So what you're saying is prune off almost all the new growth?  Yikes, that sounds scary.  If this is the case, it sounds like I'd be pruning the same branches each time but would see growth in the trunk?  Also, I assume I would cut off the long roots as I did before?  I'm not yet comfortable doing it on my own, but hope to become comfortable soon!!  Thanks again, Kathy

          Kathy's photography tells the story again!  Her growth is extraordinary because she has learned the "secret:"  To get exceptional growth, give the plant exceptional growth conditions!  Her kitchen greenhouse provides great light. The strong growth is a result of ideal watering and a consistent weak fertilizer schedule.  She's obviously enjoying and carefully observing her plant and it's really  responding to her care!   From this point on, I had a strong hunch that she would be able to teach everyone, including me!  MAHALO KATHY!
Alameida Kathy 11.05.03 yellow leaves.jpg (26371 bytes)

Alameida Kathy 11.05.03 roots II!!!.jpg (53835 bytes)

      WOW! Isn't that a great photo showing the amount of root growth in just 5 months in great growing conditions!  In this situation, when a plant is pruned back, it will respond very predictably and this is the type of growth that we have in our Kurtistown nursery.

           November 5, 2003:  Hi David,I have another concern about my bonsai... I have a few leaves down at the bottom of the trunk that have turned yellow.  I've watered it the same for the past 14 months (soaking in water once a week for 1 hour) and I haven't seen any yellowing leaves until now.  Kathy

        November 5, 3003:   Aloha Kathy!  I am very surprised by your root growth.  When you have good strong new growth, you'll get yellowing of the smaller leafed old growth and this is especially normal as we move seasonally into fall when light levels drop. It also happens just after we ship a plant as its adjusting.  I see no cause to worry.  Although the roots seem overly long, you might want to wait until spring to prune both top growth and roots as you did before. Otherwise you'll see very little growth through the winter.  You're doing fine as the new growth looks healthy!  Warm regards,  ~~~David

       November 5, 2003:  I appreciate you taking the time to answer me.  I will take your recommendation and wait until spring before pruning again.  I look forward to seeing Kathy's page in the coming months.  Thanks again. Kathy
         With strong growth, it's low risk to prune back even harder into the older trunk to get a smaller more compact tree.  It is likely that if Kathy does this during the stronger spring growth season and trim off all leaves,  that she will get several new growth points developing.  If she selects two growth points to replace each growth stem and rubs off the excess growth, she'll have twice as many growth points. 
          With twice as many growth points, that amount of energy is dispersed and the growth at each point will be slower and weaker to result in smaller leaves.  Imagine if this is done a second time and the number of growth points doubles again, new growth will be will dispersed,  the plant will develop more character and interest, and growth will be easily controlled! 
         That's the goal of bonsai and I thank Kathy for helping to prove it's possible even outside of Hawaii.  For those without Kathy's great conditions, consider having two plants with one given optimum window light to be rotated with the one that you can enjoy where you work.  ~~~David (November 16, 2003)
Alameida Kathy Jan 04 kitchen window.jpg (28603 bytes)

          NOTE:   There really are no bonsai secrets. Kathy has learned what it takes to get strong growth and it sets the stage for higher risk training!  Stay tuned!

          January 16, 2004:   Happy New Year David!!  Hope you enjoyed the holidays. I'll think about the total leaf removal and we can correspond in the spring as the weather gets warmer.
           You had asked me to send a picture of the environment where my bonsai lives. The bonsai is in my green house window in my kitchen.  It gets filtered morning sun through a slotted overhang in my backyard.  It gets about three hours of morning sun before the sun shifts over. 
          In the spring our average weather range is about 50F-75F, summer is about 55F-85F, and winter is about 40F-60F.  The bonsai loves warm weather. It gets cold in the green house window in the winter, but still gets light.  Kathy
January 17, 2004:  Aloha Kathy and Happy New Year! I
thank you for sharing the photo of your beautiful growing area. I know many of our customers can only envy the great growing conditions that you and I have.  I think your growth may be better than mine. Our weather may be more favorable, but its clear that you lavish your plant with a lot more tender loving care! It looks great and I look forward to some advanced training in spring! ~~~David

SEPTEMBER 27, 2004

Good Morning David,  it's a little late in the season, but I finally cut my bonsai on September 16, 2004.  I did not have the courage to do the total leaf removal, but I did cut back over 50% of the plant.  I made two cuts and immediately applied Vaseline to those cuts.  The root system was incredibly long and I cut off almost two feet of growth.  The main root is getting big, as well as a few other roots.  I was concerned about cutting these larger roots, but made the plunge and did cut them.I have attached several photo's, which have been cropped and sized for the web.  Please feel free to use which ever ones you choose to put on Kathy's page.  I will let you know when new growth appears.  Have a wonderful day.      Kathy

wpe1A.jpg (14768 bytes)
Before pruning
wpeB.jpg (13015 bytes)
First Cut
wpeC.jpg (11009 bytes)
Second Cut
wpe1B.jpg (12086 bytes)
After pruning
wpe1D.jpg (12111 bytes)  
The small lava plantings,  two large cuttings to root and the long roots removed!
wpe1C.jpg (13088 bytes)
Cut roots
wpe1E.jpg (12414 bytes)
Removed cuttings and roots
wpe21.jpg (18729 bytes) wpe20.jpg (13139 bytes)

              WOW!   It wasn't all that long ago that Kathy was a bit timid and look at her now!  Congratulations Kathy you've done a great job of figuring out what needs to be done and sharing it with the website readers.  THANK YOU!

                Kathy has always taken great photos and that said it all.  She's got as good a growth as any of our customers and with that healthy growth, the plant should bounce back when pruned.   I'm hoping to see Kathy root those cuttings and send photos as she trains them!   Mahalo Kathy and congratulations again!  ~~~David

               Since the above article was written,  Kathy has contributed two more articles for this website. Her story of keeping her original small lava planting small and compact is posted at www.fukubonsai.com/4c3b1.html 
                I asked Kathy to field-test and critique the new Introductory Workshop package and her outstanding report is titled:  Kathy Alameida & Introductory Workshop Packages!
               We invite those who are willing and able to learn while teaching others to also create a page and share the development of their trees.  My own understanding greatly increased after I began teaching Bonsai Evening Adult Education Classes at Aiea High School in Honolulu in 1966.  In sharing her progress, I am very confident that Kathy will increasingly become more confident and I look forward to increased enthusiasm as we learn and teach together!  Those interested in participating are invited to contact:
                David Fukumoto, founder and president, Fuku-Bonsai Inc.
                     PO Box 6000 (Olaa Road), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
                     Phone (808) 982-9880;   FAX (808) 982-9883
                     E-mail:  david@fukubonsai.com        URL:  www.fukubonsai.com
*** Return to Fuku-Bonsai Home Page    *** Continue to Scott's Page
*** Go to Gift List #1 (Hawaiian Lava Plantings)
*** Go to Gift List #2 (Potted Items)
*** Go to Workshop Plants & Packages
        Fuku-Bonsai Inc.    For more information and beginner basics, go to THE BASICS OF BONSAI!