By David W. Fukumoto (Kurtistown, Hawaii)
(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue (Volume 44; Number 4) of the
American Bonsai Society Journal and reproduced on a delayed basis under author reproduction rights.)

                     On Thursday, June 17, 2010, 25 participants including 5 to 10 year olds, teenagers, and adult staff led by Vanessa Kekahuna arrived for a bonsai introduction and workshop. Because of their ages, we knew it would be a challenge. To get the best attention span, we went straight into the workshop with the youngest boys and girls in front where they could get the most attention.

                      The kits were already in place and plants were passed out. Everyone wrote their names on the tape on the pot to identify their bonsai. First I asked everyone to study and appreciate the pretrained plant. Could they imagine it as a beautiful tree? I compared prepared bonsai stock to an untrained plant. Very heavy pruning was just the first step to creating strong character and low branches 1” above the soil-line and a compact root system 1/2” below.

            The components of the kit were explained and with a flip-chart, and a step-by-step demonstration, everyone followed along. I used a larger pot and an older tree for greater group visibility. Fuku-Bonsai staffer Edison Yadao and Vanessa and her staff coached those needing help. For best bonsai growth, start with small prepared bonsai stock and pot into a small pot. Later, move that tree to a medium pot, then a large pot. This gradual enlargement strategy produces the most control and the best results.

                    The biggest challenge was to match the accent rock with the tree. We took our time to work with each person so they could see how just a small rock helped to create the illusion of a tree growing alongside a rocky mound. We gave pointers on how to position the trees within the pot, to get the best views from both sides, and to start securing the plant with the x-wire ties. Edison went around with a needle-nose pliers to be sure that the wires held the plant snuggly so the entire plant and pot could be lifted by the trunk of the tree.

      All participants did good work and produced highly promising bonsai!  By starting with high-potential prepared bonsai stock that already had character within one inch of the soil line and a compact, shallow root system half inch below the soil line,  each plant had an excellent chance of success!  For beginners, a first plant success will encourage continuing into bonsai!

                      While the trees were being watered by saturation, we took a juice and cookie break. The plants were placed onto a pre-arranged display with the names facing out for a critique. I had promised to judge the trees and award the winner with a small bonsai. There were just too many “winners!” So instead of one person, I announced that everyone was a winner and presented Vanessa with the large demonstration plant for the Keaau Boys and Girls Club’s office.

                      Edison is our primary workshop leader and comfortably completes the Introductory Workshop with couples or families in about 30 minutes with consistent complimentary comments on the feedback form. I thought this larger, younger group would take far longer but we completely finished in less than one hour! Vanessa had allowed 2.5 to 3 hours so we were on schedule.

                      Edison then conducted a guided tour of the gardens while I drifted from group to group to ask questions to see if they had received a good understanding and was very pleased that they did.  We tried several things differently. Inexpensive sewing-type scissors and spoons will be the only “tools” needed for the workshops. A water tub with drain rack needs to be large enough to handle the entire workshop.

                      We have been giving Introductory Workshops for almost two years, but mostly to smaller groups and adults. Our experience has been that those 10 years and older can follow the workshop instructor and complete without assistance. With adult assistance, the Introductory Workshop Package can even be given to 5, 6 and 7-year olds!

                      It was a great day with a great group!


 Submitted to ABS Journal; September 7, 2010; Reproduction rights reserved



                      The town of Keaau is just two miles down the road from Kurtistown and the Keaau Boys and Girls Club came as part of a summer fun program.  A month or so later at the end of summer, I was invited to the groups end-of-summer dinner with all the parents and others who made it a memorable summer for the kids.  There was an extensive exhibit of all of the projects that the group had done including various crafts, paintings and bonsai!

                       I was told that the bonsai came in each evening, taken out each morning, and was trimmed once of twice since the workshop.  The plants looked great and the children were very pleased and proud of them.  The parents and adults were very impressed!  After dinner,  each of the children spoke of their experiences this summer and it was obvious that they had learned the basics of bonsai and knew how to take care of the plants which went home with them after the dinner


                      I wrote my first article for the American Bonsai Society in 1973 when we moved to the Big Island to start Fuku-Bonsai.  I've been a director, headlined one of their conventions, and have published about 40 or more articles to date,  12 since 2009 when I committed to write an article in each issue.  Author reproduction rights allow me to reprint significant articles on a delayed basis and this is just the second such article reproduced. 

                     The articles submitted to the American Bonsai Society are amongst the most advanced and include articles on plants in our exhibit collection that are not True Indoor Bonsai.  But the training principles also apply to the plants we sell.  All of the members of the Fuku-Bonsai Study Group are encouraged to be members and subscribe to the Journal.  The issue that has just been published is titled "DRAGONS II" and includes insights on special techniques on creating advanced "Top and Bottom Dragon Bonsai."

                     For more information,  please contact ABS Executive Secretary Gloria Duncan-Burchett at telephone (734) 848-9207 or her email:  


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