MAILBAG - JANUARY 2014

               Aloha!  The year-end mailbag includes nice notes from old friends and customers and in general, the news has been great!  The overwhelming number are reports of long-term success that the plants are bringing joy!  To date,  there have been no reports of any shipping problems and FedEx seems to have created an outstanding record and got our plants safely to destinations in spite of the increasing volume of shipping and the challenging weather! 

              I'm hearing from more who have long-time experience growing traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai for many years as their plants are tucked away in special facilities and/or getting special wintering over care depending upon each specific situation. But I'm learning more too!  A visitor and veteran long-time outdoor bonsai grower from Alaska tells me of his collecting and training spruce for over 20 years and it sits outdoors covered with snow while he visits Hawaii!  Hope to share more from him and others who are excited about growing True Indoor Bonsai and teaching it to others!

              We're having visitors here that I've never had direct contact with who seemed to know a lot about us and have carefully studied our website over several years!  With the stories in the Journal,  they are now deciding to take workshops here, joining the study groups, and considering teaching others.  They seem very open to helping to form informal True Indoor Bonsai clubs.  I am encouraging this and invite those willing to share to contact me for more information on joining our study groups.

              I want to make this very clear.  I will help everyone the best I can, but must limit that help to those who have our plants.  I believe this is the professional responsibility of everyone who sells plants to help their customers and each person who purchases bonsai should know who grew it and if they will assist.  We will!  We will especially assist the growing number who are showing their support by becoming members of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and becoming members of the various study groups. 

            The Journal has completed its first year and I am honored and proud of our Contributing Editors.  Jerry Meislik of Whitefish, Montana is amongst the most respected authority on Ficus bonsai, author of the most authoritive book in that specialty, and his website the best resource on Ficus bonsai.  Check out www.bonsaihunk.us or contact him at jerry@bonsaihunk.us

            A lot of our progress has been possible due to the energy and enthusiasm of Ryan Chang of Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii who has made amazing progress in the past year.  He has put together an impressive collection of True Indoor Bonsai from cuttings to older plants, but these are being grown outdoors year-around and he is just learning to grow them indoors.  He learned by making mistakes and is willing to help those just starting out on how to get started and avoid the initial problems.  He can be contacted at ryan_a_chang@msn.com  and if he can't figure out the problem he'll refer to me.

          John "Jay" Boryczko of Farmington Hills, Michigan is our newest contributing editor who also an amazing amount of energy and desire to help others.  Jay has a lot of bonsai experience but really catching on fire as he explores True Indoor Bonsai!  It gives him a great release especially in winter and I've challenged him with several projects to prove that True Indoor Bonsai activity is possible all year around and he'll be sharing some of his progress in the coming issues.  For those thinking about making the transition from traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai to True Indoor Bonsai, contact Jay at:  bonsaijay@outlook.com  

         This month there are three mailbag items to share:

 

  

    1.      On December 11, 2013,  I got an email from "Julie S. of Dallas, Texas" concerned because her plant was starting to get yellow leaves.  I needed more information and photos and on December 20 I received the left photo, and found out that she had obtained the desk size lava planting from our Maui representative Dan's Green House of Lahaina about seven years ago.  The plant sits in frosted glass window with eastern exposure and watered by soaking once per week in distilled water.  There are no roots on the bottom of the rock as she pruned them off as she believed was proper.  It had dropped 6 or more leaves recently and she was concerned.

             First I assured her that she was doing fine, and that the tree was not in danger of dying.  The plant had reached the limits of the number of leaves that the limited amount of roots could support and with the lower light of winter, the plant adjusted by dropping excess leaves.  Every winter, we routinely receive such emails of concern by customers in similar situations.  I asked her what she wanted the plant to become and by email she sent me the photo of Cheryl's gorgeous Dwarf Scheff from the December Journal Mailbag!

             She wrote:  "My primary interest is stabilizing the current plant.  I don't mind the size of it, but I don't like how "stick like" that is has become.  Ideally, I would like it to look like:  (>>>)

            "Wishful thinking, I am sure.  But I love how full and lush this one looks.

             "Any guidance you can give would be most certainly appreciated.  I will be more than happy to share pictures of every step of the process so that more people can enjoy the beauty of this unique plant!"

          So I wrote of the challenge ahead of her,  how it will take a number of years, how I would help her as much as I could, but that the first objective was to build the strength of her tree and that meant increasing the size of her root system and the best way was to order our largest #17 Conversion Kit and to follow the information in the "Training True Indoor Bonsai" portal under "Lesson #1 - Potting".  It would require extra care until the roots got established and it was important to soak the pot in water up to the rim for 30 minutes once per week and after removing and draining, place on a dry pan in the window. Allow to grow vigorously and send photos every three months.  My guess was that the tree would be ready for dramatic pruning in about six months and that July 2014 would be the target date. Julie emailed with photos and set "Day 1" as December 26, 2013!  Stay turned for progress reports!  ~~~David

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       2.    I received this note with the photo: 

              " When we were in your shop in October I purchased one of your Dwarf Schefflera Hawaiian Lava plantings.  I have been very diligent about watering it once a week by submerging the entire plant as you showed me.  The plant has never done well and is getting progressively worse.  I have many Bonsai plants including the one that I have attached a photo of so I think it is fair to say I have some knowledge BUT in this case I am stumped on what to do.  I would appreciate any suggestions you can offer me as I would hate to lose the plant."

               By examining the photo carefully it shows all of the symptoms of a plant that is underwaterred:  1) leaves become a lightish pale green that are drooping down,  2) some dead brown dried up leaves, 3) crease in the leaf stem, and 4) small vertical creases in the trunks and stems.  

               The plant is somehow drying up faster than our average plant that could be due to several causes: 1)  The most likely cause is that the plant was not placed on gravel.  Normally we recommend placing it on dry gravel and assume that it is still slightly dripping.  But if totally drained and without gravel, it is drying out too quickly.  2)  The rock could be extra porous and dries out faster.  3) The plant location may have much drier air.  4) For some reason, this plant requires more water! 

              This plant has dehydrated to the point of shrivelling but yet has a good chance to recover.  I advised soaking the entire plant in water high enough to cover the rock for four days and the plant could rehydrate itself,  older leaves might still fall, but new leaves will develop and be okay.  I still recommend that the plant be placed on 1/2" to 1" of 1/4" size gravel.  Small porous lava is good but the type of gravel sold in pet stores to place in fish tanks is suitable and available in a range of colors.  We've had reports of problems when our lava plantings were placed on larger 1" river rocks that also allowed the plant to dry out too quickly.

              A second technique that may work:  1) soak the rock in water for one hour and place in on a plate with some water into a clear polybag.  Blow up the bag like a balloon and hang it up where it will be warm and receive indirect light and very high humidity like a terrarium to take the load of the roots.  Plant will be okay when new leaf emerges and stands up.

             A third technique that may work:  Do as above but place plant and bowl with water into the polybag. Check every few days and remove when plant creases rehydrate and disappear and new leaf emerges.

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      3.  Herb R. from Los Angeles, California wrote: 

            "I went on vacation for two weeks around thanksgiving. Forgot to have someone water it. I since trimmed a bunch of branches back. It's been a few weeks but it looks like this now. I added a fertilizer pellet last week. It's indoors in an office setting. Should I move it to a window? I'm in California. Or do anything for it?"

             The first photo was in the dry dish.  I advised soaking in water for four days and Herb sent the above that clearly show the shriveling from under watering.   Although it really looks bad,  as long as the youngest leaves are still green, even if drooping, there's odds that the plant will recover.  Getting it into a clear polybag will increase the humidity.  Herb asked about how to clean off the white mold and advised him to use an old toothbrush and vinegar (a mild acetic acid) to scrub off alkaline deposits from hard water. Wait until the plant has recovered first and rinse well.  Some use distilled water to avoid this.  

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           Fuku-Bonsai and its associates are happy to help and invite you to contact us regarding True Indoor Bonsai.  These are becoming the most successful bonsai for anyone, anywhere who can grow houseplants (and even for those who have never been successful before)!

           There really are no secrets to success:  Start with the tree that will grow well for you.  Fuku-Bonsai grows tough plants that we try to make "customer-proof!"  We don't baby or pamper our trees in optimum greenhouses.  Dwarf Schefflera is the best houseplant for bonsai and has the best branching, smaller leaves, and ideal bonsai traits. Start with trees that already have a lot of character and interest.  Our trees have character within 1" of the soil line.  If it doesn't have character from the start,  unless you are willing to do high-risk skilled training, you'll can only look forward to having an old low standard plant.  There's no substitute and the best and easiest way is to grow Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai.  But you still must be able to learn the cultural basics and we'll help!

          All best wishes for a great New Year from the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai team!

***   Return to the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai
***   Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
***  Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
         Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014