MAIL-BAG #5:    May 2013

              The Mail-Bag was a catch-all feature to include tips, notices, and odds and ends. I really enjoy seeing great photos of trees with character from all over the country and especially in all seasons.  I keep hearing of the New England fall colors and invite photos of not just colorful leaves, but beautiful trees with character in scenic settings.  The enjoyment of nature and trees are the heart of the serenity of bonsai and I hope all readers with good photographic skills will share their seasonal tree photos from throughout the country. 


     "Check out these trees, they are at the top area of Glacier Park   .  .  .  .  . "


Received from Russ BONSAI Mann

Montana  -  May 4, 2013


               Here's a postcard from Burton Flake who is on deployment in Bahrain of a legendary "TREE OF LIFE" as the only tree surviving for over 400 years.  The roots are known to travel deep.  In Texas the tree is known as Mesquite and in Hawaii known as "kiawe."  It makes great charcoal and also non-rotting "driftwood" for training "epiphytic bonsai!"   Burton wrote:  "If you guys think your plants are hardy, this guy's survived in the middle of the desert with no visible water source!" 


AN UPDATE FROM JEREMY ERB: (See original article at

Aloha!  Greetings from Ohio!  It has been a rather cool spring in Ohio, and only in the middle of May are the temperatures finally starting to climb to 55°F at night.  My plants have started to wake up as well, and are now on my back porch instead of inside by a window. 

It has now been about 9 months since I was at Fuku-Bonsai in Hawaii doing Workshop III, but my tree is doing well.  It survived the winter by only receiving light from one window.  The plant grew slowly, adding both more foliage on top, as well as root growth down the aluminum tube and out into the pot.  At first I noticed the roots circling the side of the pot were white, and now some of them (as well as those around/in the aluminum tube have developed that “older wood” hue. 

The branches have grown 10+ leaves, so it is time to trim them back to promote more growth.  The leaf size did increase a great deal over the winter, and next year I will probably use lights to try to keep the leaf size smaller.  I am more concerned with growing the roots right now, and figure I can defoliate down the road to develop the top (as the focus of this plant will be the roots).

             COMMENTS BY DAVID:  Jeremy is a gutsy "fast-tracker" who took on the challenge of the most difficult of the advanced workshop III options from the start!  I was very concerned about whether or not root extensions would grow strongly as some customers report very slow growth and Jeremy's design required growing the most roots!  I recommend that he grow it outdoors for the full growing season to try to create the maximum amount of roots.  In general, we advise that long aluminum foil collars should stay on for two years or more.  If so, this is a report on the half way point and we need more reports on the progress of root extensions throughout the country under different conditions.  Reports requested!  ~~~David


        NOTE FROM DAVID.   We are trying to build a True Indoor Bonsai community and hope everyone will get good results by first mastering the horticultural needs of your plants and getting them to grow vigorously by giving them the best possible growing environment. We include a complimentary packet of Nutrient Granules with every plant as it's the best way to assure that the tree has the minimum nutrient levels.  Since including it, there are few over-fertilizing problems (but those using strong outdoor fertilizers on our houseplant bonsai).  

          There are two hobbyist categories.  The "fanatics and the trainers" may have several bonsai and on up to as many as they can with the actual number reflecting how many years they've been at it.  But the great majority enjoy bonsai as a casual hobby who maintain a few to enjoy and maintain, but not necessarily train or want to install a lot of equipment.  If you're in this second category, I hope you enjoy the fanatics and trainers "talking shop" and enjoy learning how the trees are trained.  This may be a good time for some common sense recommendations.

         Most of our customers are happy if they keep our trees alive for a year as that exceeds how long their previous "mall bonsai" or "mail-order gift bonsai" lasted before it died.  Most of the requests for assistance are based upon our plants growing very well for two or more years and "suddenly"  going downhill.  Usually this is due to either over-watering (when the tree dies, the trunks are soft, the roots are dead, and the bark easily peels off)  or under-watered (the trunk and branches are hard with tiny creases showing dehydration).

          Since we began including a complimentary packet of Nutrient Granules,  there are almost no problems due to "over-fertilizing" when too strong outdoor fertilizer is used on our houseplant bonsai and burn the roots with symptoms that often look like over-watering. 


     1.   For those who want high-success without effort the best advice is to soak the rock planting or potted bonsai once per week for 30 minutes.  Allow to drain until it almost stops dripping and place it on DRY 1/4" size gravel. If you have extremely dry air, consider getting a glass bowl about 4" tall and adding 1" of 1/4" size gravel.  It provides a little extra humidity. 
      2.    Keep the bonsai on the window sill, but if the room has no windows,  get two plants and rotate weekly with one in a nearby window. 
*** Return to the May 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation home page
*** Go Fuku-Bonsai home page

       © Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013