This is the fifth in a series of eight choice high-quality plants being trained in a full range of styling in very shallow saucer-pots by Ron Davis of Montana.  To see other of his articles on this website, go to his portal page at 


By Ron Davis (Montana)

      These glacial moraine rocks were selected for homogeneous color and pattern to be arranged so as to create a “roots cascading down a rocky slope” design with lots of room for roots.  Potting media was the usual layers of large lava, media mixed with medium lava and nutrient granules, and finally just regular media on top.  Moist sphagnum moss was mixed with some fine media and inserted into holes and crevices between rocks.

       The bottom rock was glued to saucer with Liquid Nails.  This did not dry into a neutral color as expected.  It is too white for upper levels where it may be seen.  Silicone glue was used to join the upper levels of rock.  It is easy to work with and dries to an unobtrusive color.  Note that the second rock is larger than the bottom one.  This makes for quite a bit of room for roots underneath the rock pile while providing a broad base for the upper rocks. The bottom of the second rock is level with the pot’s rim. Hopefully some roots will penetrate the tunnel while others will surround and embrace the rounded rock surfaces.
      An oblique view of the rock arrangement and the drainage holes.  I forgot to insert a plastic separator between the bottom large lava and the next layer of mixed media.  The plant has been watered three times since it was potted and so far the pot has very good drainage.
      I started this project with only the foil collar, but as I filled it with media it was constantly being lifted up away from the bottom of the saucer.  So I took it apart to start over, and was lucky enough to have a six-inch nursery pot that I could cut down to use as a rigid collar. This worked quite well and allowed a full packing of the foil. A little bit of sphagnum moss, fine media, and nutrient granules was wrapped into the crevices before filling the collar.

      IMPRESSIONS BY RON:  This plant had a healthy vigorous root system with one especially large root grown into a “U” shape and coming back to the top. I tried to work this into the tunnel.  The presence of the collar made for tight working spaces around the rock protuberances but with patience and a chop stick I packed as much media around the rocks as I could. The base of the plant was denser than I thought when I made the foil collar. It ended up perched above the collar even after spreading the roots and cutting away some central plant material.  Therefore, I had to cover the exposed base roots with moss for protection.  The amount of foliage has been somewhat reduced since this picture was taken.  This design may have its eventual appeal from a harmonious blend of rock and plant, hard and soft, light and dark. I’m hoping that the Sumo symmetry of the branches will be matched by an even cascade of roots over, around and between the rocks. The collar was made as large as possible to maximize root development. (October 31, 2011)

      COMMENTS BY DAVID:  CONGRATULATIONS RON!  You've come a long, long way and your work is increasingly exciting and more original!  There's several ways that you'll be able to handle the roots and I look forward to your decisions.  Keep thinking and doing! 



      ADDITIONAL COMMENTS BY DAVID:  Regarding the Rock Pile Planting and additional thoughts,  Ron added the following:

       I took a lot of time working out a design with these rocks and some others.  In the end I liked this one because it is simple yet has a lot of curving lines, varied projections, and a roundedness that matches the sumo shape.  I know you like to use concrete but I elected to go with easy to use glue-in-a-tube.

       These plants are impressive for their toughness.  Everything I have planted is doing really well in spite of some rough handling.  You've done great work in developing this line!  There are three remaining to be potted into 7" saucers.  One of them was so massive from the beginning that I put it into a 4" nursery pot about a month ago.  Not yet sure what I'll do with it.  The other two are trying to bust out of their 2" pots.  I don't yet have a definite design for either of them so I plan to pot them into something bigger with large collars and go for long roots.  Eventually I'll use at least one in an antler design. These last two could make really nice dragons but I just feel like I should take my time with them for awhile.     Take care,   Ron


      ADDITIONAL COMMENTS BY DAVID:  I emailed Ron to check the reports and received this email:

      Aloha David, the five reports on my plants really look nice.  I'm glad that the photos come across as well as they do.  You've done a great job putting it all together in an attractive and succinct style.  What fun!  

      The attached photo is of the last three plants that I repotted two - six weeks ago. The large #8 was inspired by your article in the ABS Journal 45/3 where you took a hollowed out plant and repotted it over a wire armature. That is such a nice example of a Dragon.

      #8 is planted on top of a 1" x 13" broom handle that was covered with plastic wrap to prevent root adhesion to the wood. The idea is to get a long column of roots that's hollow on the inside.  I just couldn't resist going big with this one. Time will tell if I can get it into a 7" saucer.   #1 and 4 were bulging out of their 2" pots so I put them in these 4" pots until a bolt of inspiration tells me what to do with them. #1 was canted at a 45 degree angle to add more movement in the base and that one large root.  #4 was potted up on October 1st.  It has a massive base, more than seen in this photo, and I just want it to grow out rather than up.

       So, these three are in intermediate pots for the time being.  Mahalo for all the inspirations, encouragements, and advice, David!   Ron


       SOME FINAL WORDS BY DAVID:  I am pleased, honored, and appreciative that most of our customers like to buy our plants.  But I also am delighted to help those who want to learn to train trees.  Many who think they want to learn also have preconceived visions of what they want to create.  Too many want to grow typical Japanese outdoor temperate climate bonsai but want to grow them indoors.  I can't and won't help them as they are doomed to failure. If they cannot understand that outdoor plants don't magically become houseplants because they are trained as bonsai, I certainly don't want to be involved in any way!

       But for those who want to grow houseplant bonsai, Fuku-Bonsai is the best place.  Much of our educational articles are specifically on plants we supply.  We'll assist if you send photos and email.  For those like Ron who are willing and able to photograph and write, I'll try to help if you're willing to share the lessons with others on our website. 

       Ron was the first in the Fuku-Bonsai Study Group to take on the challenge of the 1:10 Project using the special shallow saucer-pots.  Start with 8 different choice selected prepared 2" stock.  It includes media, Nutrient Granules, and 8 shallow 7" saucers.  But most of all it includes a lot of one-on-one email assistance.  If you are willing to send photo and text to share your efforts,  please contact me directly at and I'll quote a special price for the entire package.  Everyone seriously interested in learning to train bonsai is invited to join the Fuku-Bonsai Study Group!


You are cordially invited to visit:
PO Box 6000 (17-856 Olaa Road), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
Phone (808) 982-9880; Email:; URL:
*** Go to Ron's 6th 1:10 Project Report (in the future)
© Fuku-Bonsai, 2011