Ficus have extraordinary roots!  These vigorous roots sometime grow through a nursery pot that's on a bench and will sometimes send roots 24" down to the ground below.   Such a root was observed under one of the nursery benches and the root was developing a number of twists and turns.  More twists and turns were created, the long root rolled up into an "aluminum foil sausage," and the sausage supported by a "3-legged teepee."  The entire trunk of the tree was cut off, the end sealed, and placed in the experimental area.  This story begins as we checked the growth about 6 months after the experiment began.

Ficus root 1 Jun02.jpg (63843 bytes)

JUNE 8, 2002

        A number of growth points had developed and the tree was growing strongly. The container is a standard 20"x20"x2" plastic nursery flat.  The "teepee" support is three pieces of 1"x1" wood strip wired together at the top.  The legs were screwed through the sides of the flat.  Six months earlier, the "aluminum foil sausage" which included the long root with potting media and a lot of moisture retaining spaghnum moss was hung and attached to the teepee with the end of the root just touching the media in the flat. 

        All top growth had been removed with one slanting cut.  About 24" of new growth had developed and a large amount of roots was visible in the flat.  Ficus roots thicken rapidly and in checking an upper section, we saw sufficient strong growth to want to check the entire root system.

Ficus root 2 Jun02.jpg (14129 bytes)         First the top was pruned back.  By making a slanting cut, new shoots automatically develop at different heights.  The future dominant apex section and major first branch was selected very early and the excess growth had been removed.  By giving those two growth points a head start, they had developed heavier and stronger than the other newer sections. We stayed with our original selections and trimmed off all other growth. 

        Whenever a large amount of root training is planned, it is preferable to allow the top foliage to greatly over grow.  If 90% of the top growth is removed, in theory, you can safely remove 70% to 80% of the roots.   Since we planned to remove less than that, the roots would have the advantage and strong regrowth is expected. 

Ficus root 3 jun02.jpg (13229 bytes)         A new teepee was built within a bonsai pot, tying the bottom of the wood strips to wires in the drain holes.  There was greater root growth near the top, and some root growth in various sections and at the bottom. 

        This was not unexpected as the roots closest to the trunk are the most vigorous.  There were two major roots near the former trunk and over time, the short stout one on the right will be completely removed to allow the other to form a "trunk with wrapping roots." 

        In this visualized design, we need to get the bottom roots growing strongly.  In theory, we can get them to grow more vigorously by handicapping the areas where growth was strong.   We plan to do this by exposing the top 6" once the tree is growing strongly again. 

Ficus root 4  jun02.jpg (11168 bytes)         Using aluminum foil, sections were rewrapped starting from the top. The foil is formed into a "catchment pan" to collect rain or make hose watering very simple.  Essentially, the foil is a temporary vertical pot.  With the foil section placed against the root,  some potting media and spaghnum moss can be placed on the foil and a section wrapped.  By starting at the top, the newer section overlaps and any water added to the top will continue down the entire foil column.

        When a large amount of media is used, we start from the bottom and will use heavier materials including pieces of corrugated cardboard cartons,  roofing tar paper, or even sheet metal to help support the weight. We've also cut the top and bottoms off gallon cans and taped several of them together to make tall pots.

Ficus root 5 jun02.jpg (11340 bytes)         Not including the time to photograph, it took about an hour to check the root system, set up the new teepee, and put on a new foil-column. 

        This is one of over a hundred different experiments that are in progress at Fuku-Bonsai as part of the corporation's commitment for continual research and creation of new bonsai designs. 

        It is not important that each experiment produce a beautiful bonsai as this is a search for knowledge.  It is consistent with our research philosophy that follows.


                  At Fuku-Bonsai we are all students and have never charged for instruction.  We sell workshop materials but it's the same price whether we ship it as components, assembled items, or if its shipped after a "no-fee" workshop at Fuku-Bonsai.  Our most difficult challenging efforts are part of public Bonsai Days on the second Saturday of each month and everyone is invited to participate.  In a relaxed atmosphere of a non-workday, the Fuku-Bonsai trainers sharpen their skills and everyone benefits. 

                Beginning with our move to Kurtistown to form Fuku-Bonsai in 1973, we established criteria for our "private exhibit collection" that was never ever to be sold.  It was important to establish this from the very beginning to assure that the collection would be of a manageable size with as much variety as possible.  The criteria:    "The collection would be limited to only a single specimen of each plant variety having a significantly different style." 

                If trees were trained in the Japanese manner,  there could only be a single Japanese Black Pine bonsai in the "informal upright style."  Whenever there were two promising such trees,  one would be restyled, or traded for other promising stock.  This criteria prompted training into all known Japanese bonsai styles with a wide range of plants. 

                As bonsai achieved acceptable standards, research increased in learning Chinese penjing styles and concepts.  Some bonsai are trained to feature a plant's horticultural traits.  There was extensive Tropical Bonsai research with an emphasis on banyan and ficus styling.  But the major emphasis was on trees that we placed in our True Indoor Bonsai™ category. As the collection became more varied, we increasingly moved into unique styling concepts.

                BOOK-ENDS PHILOSOPHY (Training to the extremes!):  "When exploring a new training principle, seek the widest range and to show both super-conservative and ultra-liberal applications.  If a technique is exaggerated it will be interesting. If used repetitiously it may seem to evolve too radical.  But if you continue, at one point it becomes a unique tree!"

                The Fuku-Bonsai Collection is continuing to become more varied. This website shares our progress. We hope it inspires and encourages you to take up the challenge of training artistic pot plants!

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