The project began in 2011 and this March 2013 update shows a few of our initial trial plants as well as share the progress made in 22 months by members of the Fuku-Bonsai staff. From the very beginning, there were a number of concerns.  The primary benefit of potting into shallow containers is the dramatic improvement in the attractiveness of the bonsai!
                A basic bonsai goal is for the depth of the pot be equal or less than the thickness of the trunk.  If the pot is too deep or the trunk too small, you'll overly notice the pot. Although this is common with young bonsai that have thin trunks, too often, bonsai growers think that deeper pots provide easier care.  If an insufficiently porous potting media is not used or if the potting media is allowed to pack and not allow total saturation watering,  the deep pot contributes to plants not having healthy vigorous growth.  
                Pots tend to be designed to best exhibit older mature bonsai whose trunks have already become thick.  Besides making a bonsai unattractive,  deeper heavier pots that hold too much water causes root rot.  This is especially with indoor bonsai that do not dry out easily and/or are often over-watered.  The problem is compounded when deep pots have only one or two drain holes that are too small. 
                The Portal Page for the 1:10 Project is posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6.html and includes articles explaining the basics including how these shallow saucers were converted into pots by drilling a large number of drain holes.  The second rock planting photo shows the development since the story at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6c.html was published. We have not killed any of the trial plants and this may be due to Dwarf Schefflera having the ability to handle "under-watering." 

     Three  early plants in the 1:10 Project (from left)   "Thin & Tall Roots" in 12" saucer-pot;  "Root over rock planting" in 9" saucer-pot; and "4.5" tall Sumo" in 5" saucer-pot.




                 The Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center includes the oldest Dwarf Schefflera bonsai in training since 1973 when the plants were introduced into Hawaii.  These large older trees are impressive but intimidating to those just starting.  To show that attractive bonsai can be produced in just a few years with high-potential pre-trained prepared bonsai stock, we set aside an area for our 1:10 Project trials that visitors can study.

                  Initially we shallow-potted older potted plants in 9" saucers.  Some were stout SUMOs with heavy trunks.  To contrast, several thin and elegant ROOTS were potted in larger 12" saucers.   We are proud of our Sumo and Roots plants as between the two,  it is possible to create all known upright banyan bonsai designs.

                 SUMO is Fuku-Bonsai's basic "reduction-building" that produces short, stout trees with heavy trunks,  multiple trunks,  low branches, and impressive root-trunk buttressing that are ideal for our Hawaiian Lava Plantings.  As potted bonsai they are superior banyan bonsai and especially impressive when they are at the Custom Collection stage.

                ROOTS was our second major styling concept features exposed roots and our customers and visitors have made this the most popular potted bonsai.  Generally exposed roots are more difficult to grow in homes and offices, but once established in the pot,  the aerial roots are very durable.  

                 Our current challenge is to develop HAWAIIAN DRAGON design concepts.  We have developed techniques to create sharp multiple bends and the third photo shows four complete spirals.  When trunks are bent, we call them "Top Dragons."  

                 Roots are much more limber and trainable and these three "Top and Bottom Dragons" show some of the potential range that is possible.   

                With initial success,  we increased the difficulty. We moved toward the 7" saucers and shallow 5" dishes!  They all grew well and we began to believe that if hobbyists were taught our techniques, they would be successful and even beginners could produce impressive attractive bonsai that would rival trees that have been in training for many years in deep pots!            


              www.fukubonsai.com/1a6d.html  reports on our staff's introduction to the 1:10 Project and the results achieved in 22 months! 

              The top SUMO was done by newest staffer Antonio Diaz from a selected prepared bonsai stock potted into a 7" diameter shallow saucer.  For the first year, it was in a square plastic collar about 2" high and this provided the room for the roots to enlarge and grow. 

              It was heavily pruned several times to add structural details to the root buttressing, trunk, and low branches.  The tree is allowed to grow vigorously and the top very heavily cut back.  Lowest branches are nipped and allowed to slowly lengthen.  The woody part of the structure is almost at full height and as lowest branches lengthen a wider crown will develop.  It is the larger older tree in the three-tree Sumo sequence photo below. 

             The rock planting was Edison Yadao's project. Roots formed well in the aluminum foil collar and effort was made to keep removing fine roots to keep the rock exposed and not totally hidden by small roots. 

             Root type designs tend to be a bit taller with the crown less wide and more compact. We have learned that if you keep the tree thinned out, fertilize heavily, and continue to remove the largest leaves, that the size of the leaves will gradually reduce. The compound leaves of our smallest bonsai (shown in the first photo of this article) have reduced to just 1 1/2" across with some just 1" across!  Leaf reduction normally does not start until the basic form is complete and we will start on these three trees in the coming months.

             The Hawaiian Dragon was done by Myrtle (with a little help from David) using the then new internal "wire armature" technique that allows training the root system.  Aluminum foil is still kept on it loosely.  Top and Bottom Dragons are the area receiving the most attention as we continue to explore the full range of Dwarf Schefflera styling.   


              Left tree recently potted with aluminum foil collar and to protect the media in the shallow saucer-pot from being washed out.   The right tree potted about a year ago and the aluminum foil collar is kept on loosely with the media pretty much kept in place by root hairs.  The tree has developed well and will be heavily pruned in a few months to begin styling.  Root buttressing is developing well.

              The oldest tree in the center (also shown four pictures up) was done about 22 months ago so the three trees show development about one year apart.  We will use older larger plant stock than shown here for the 1:10 Premium Sumo Workshop Package to be offered soon. 




                    Even though the saucers are shallow,  the Dwarf Schefflera trees are easy care and we have not lost a single tree in the 1:10 Project.  This was a happy surprise as we expected it to be much more difficult! The 1:10 Project has proven to be far more successful than expected.  Clearly the trees are much more attractive in the shallow saucer-pots.  With multiple holes drilled in the bottom of the Fuku-Bonsai plastic saucers,  they become relatively inexpensive containers.  It would be very simple to modify other plastic dishware to be used in a similar manner and this could reduce costs compared to more costly ceramic bonsai pots.  

                   The 4LL8 Potted Living Lovables will work very well with the 9" saucer and the 8LS8 Living Sculpture will be ideal for the 12" saucer.  This may make it logical to offer 1:10 Premium 9" and 1:10 Premium 12"  Conversion Kits in the future as well as an expanded product line of such plants well established in these saucers.

                   Training bonsai in shallow containers is another major True Indoor Bonsai breakthrough. We will continue to research, develop the instructional sheets and components, and invite those interested to join our study groups.

***  Return to Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai #3;  March 2013

***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai homepage

         Fuku-Bonsai and Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation, 2013