Harry Barnes is an old friend from 1981 when he was in the audience in one of our presentations when we were forming the non-profit Big Island Bonsai Association (BIBA) in 1981 in a 3-year project "Revitalization on the Big Island."  In the pre-quarantine days, the Big Island had the most extensive bonsai history in the state because Hilo was a favorite port for the Japanese maritime training ships whose crews were lavished with heart-warming hospitality and who left behind gifts of bonsai.

                Harry was born in the Boston area and moved to Oklahoma to pursue an aeronautical maintenance career mostly with American Airlines. He retired to Hawaii, caught "bonsai fever,"  was an active participant including serving a term as BIBA president, and as one of the founders of the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation.  He dropped out of sight for several years when he became ill and is now resurfacing as his health improves. 

                 Barnes  CB 1. Apr02.jpg (27410 bytes)

APRIL 13, 2002

        Harry's first favorite tree was well over 25 years old when he purchased it and the tree greatly improved with it's first repotting and was exhibited several times.

        In March 2002 Harry called and asked for help to dig out a tree whose roots went over and through the pot and into the ground.  In several years, the bonsai had grown over 11' tall!  Fuku-Bonsai plant manager and Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation president Michael Imaino dug the plant for restyling at the  Bonsai Day. 

       When Hawaii's bonsai growers pass away, their families can donate a bonsai to the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository to be maintained by the foundation and be enjoyed by visitors to the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center. 

                 Barnes CB 2.  Apr02.jpg (20802 bytes)

        Bonsai are very costly to maintain and Fuku-Bonsai's collection is already too large to fully exhibit. Plants are only accepted if they have outstanding potential or were grown and trained by a person who contributed to building Hawaii's bonsai community. 

        Harry's offer to donate it was quickly accepted by Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation because of it's promising future and to recognize Harry's role in building the bonsai community. The photo above shows the primary trunks. This photo show the smaller trunks in the back.

Barnes CB 3.  Apr02.jpg (25678 bytes)         After a detailed discussion and after Harry's approval of the long-term strategic plan, Michael quickly made the necessary cuts and reduction. The large main trunk with prominent aerial roots will be the primary front with the smaller trunks in the back to provide depth.
Barnes CB 4.  Apr02.jpg (26203 bytes)         The tree was taken out the pot, most media removed, and cleaned with a hose with water nozzle that directs a strong stream of water.  When greatly reducing the amount of growth above the ground, large roots as shown can be safely removed to make future repotting easier.

                  Barnes CB 5.  Apr02.jpg (28748 bytes)

        Harry with the branches and foliage that had been removed. In this situation, the tree just got away during extended illness.  But at other times,  accelerated growth is done intentionally to create heavier trunks and major branches. 

                  Barnes CB 7.  Jun02.jpg (28782 bytes)

JUNE 8, 2002

        At a bonsai day two months later, both Harry and his Chinese banyan bonsai are in good health!   The tree has temporarily been potted in a tub and new growth points are breaking out all over. In another month or two, the major new branches will be selected.

        Restyling old bonsai is similar to training collected trees. Develop a gameplan, remove all unwanted growth, and improve whatever possible in the first session.  Once the tree is growing strongly, training will proceed quickly and when it's desirable to slow growth and create detailed branching, the tree will go back into a smaller shallower exhibit pot.

NOVEMBER 9, 2002
        At the Bonsai Day, Harry's ficus received more attention to select the primary future branches, to improve the root system, and to reorient the roots.  Photos and additional information will be added in the near future.

                Since the 1960's the Hawaiian bonsai community has been trying to develop a public bonsai garden to be the focal point for the bonsai groups and as a repository to honor past Hawaiian bonsai masters.  Old trees require experienced trainers as these trees may be in poor health or requiring extensive retraining.  In having a place where such trees can be maintained for public enjoyment, newest members can aid in the care of old trees and quickly learn the basics. In this way they start off on the shoulders of previous generations and can continue to advance the art.

                Bonsai is an art, craft, and hobby.  In learning first the basic horticultural and training techniques from more experienced growers, a beginner builds a foundation for later success.  Some with the discipline, initiative, and natural talent will become exceptional trainers and artists.  But more importantly, bonsai is a personal and group hobby to be enjoyed.  In helping to maintain and improve the treasures of the past, we share the beauty with visitors and gain inspiration to create new innovative efforts for the future!

                The Fuku-Bonsai corporation provides the grounds, facilities, utilities, and underwrites much of the costs of the exhibit collections.  The non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation is the public guardian of memorial bonsai and artifacts. It is the primary sponsor of the Bonsai Days on the second Saturday of each month. 


                The Ficus or Fig family of plants are amongst the most variable. They tend to hybridize and grow differently in different climates.  Even within Hawaii, there are vast differences.  On Oahu, home of Honolulu and Waikiki,  the northern and eastern "windward" side of the island is damper compared to the leeward plains. As a whole, Oahu is much drier with about 20" to 25" of rainfall each year.   There, ficus trees have fewer aerial roots, shorter stouter trunks, and very heavy buttressing roots. Growth is tighter, producing a dense shade.

                In contrast,  Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, averages better than 150" of rain.   The air is clean from dropping all pollutants into the ocean before the air currents arrive here.  Water is also very pure from the vast amounts that filter through porous lava, collect in "lens," and pumped up. Here, in rainforest conditions, the old ficus trees form incredible forms. 

                Training ficus bonsai require a knowledge or insight into the mature shapes of these trees.   To assist those in temperate climates growing tropical bonsai,  this website includes a growing section titled "Learning from Nature" with several typical tropical shapes.  There's several pages of various ficus. Start at FICUS INTRODUCTION.

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