On August 23, 2012, I received the following email:

             "David, we had a very successful workshop with your Scheffleras. They arrived in good shape, and everyone was happy with the plants and all of the support materials. Araxi Hovhannessian composed the attached article and photos of the club workshop. You may use all or parts of it as you desire.  Looking forward to another workshop, hopefully next year.    Best wishes to you and your entire crew,  Don Miller"

              That was good news and this was the third year that Scottsdale Bonsai Society has used our Introductory Workshop Package for their beginner classes.  Don tells me that growing bonsai is very difficult in Arizona. Any work on the more traditional outdoor bonsai is risky in the hottest summer months so that's when beginner classes are scheduled. This was their third effort and the first time they sent a report that is reproduced very lightly edited.  ~~~David

From left to right: Mike Grier, Don Miller, and Susan Bowman

On July 7, 2012, Scottsdale Bonsai Society held a workshop on Schefflera led by Don Miller.  Don has been successful in keeping his Scheffleras alive in Arizona’s challenging temperatures.  Throughout the years, Scottsdale Bonsai Society has held Schefflera workshops for our members and each time most of our participants were not successful in keeping them alive, except Mike Grier, Susan Bowman, and Don Miller.

For the July 7th workshop, the Scheffleras were ordered two weeks in advance from Fuku-Bonsai in Hawaii.  They were delivered to us on June 29, 2012.  Araxi Hovhannessian received the merchandise at her home when it was delivered.  During July, the temperatures are hot and it is the monsoon season.  For first few days she kept them inside.  By July 2nd she noticed some signs of stress.  On that weekend the weather was hot and on 4th of July we had lots of rain.  To ensure the plants acclimated to the Arizona’s weather and keep them alive and thriving for the July 7th workshop, Araxi watered the plants with SuperThrive and brought them outside under her 85% screened green patio.  The plants started showing improvement and Araxi felt glad that the plants would be fine for the workshop. 

On the day of the workshop, there were 16 participants.  We numbered all our plants to ensure fairness in choice of the plants.  After everyone got their plant, they took the time to study their plant.  Next, Don started explaining and guiding us on the steps of repotting the plants using the kit that was provided with the plants.  Everyone followed along step-by-step using the components of the materials that came with the kit.  Next, Don described the steps on pruning and styling the trees. 

After everyone planting their trees, we immersed the repotted plant in a shallow tub and waited for about 20-30 minutes. While we were waiting, Wayne Harrison had brought other trees that needed pruning, so Araxi assisted him in getting the trees pruned.  We all had great time and enjoyed the workshop.

Scottsdale Bonsai Society spawned from a class that was taught by Fairlee Winfield in late 1999 at the Via Linda Senior Center to a group of people.  In recent years, we have taken the approach of educating our members by following John Naka’s Book I.  After completing John Naka’s book, we decided to focus each month on a tree/plant.  Our first plant was the Schefflera from Fuku-Bonsai.  Also, we have had a number of great masters’ visit us such as Kathy Shaner, Roy Nagatoshi, and Guy Guidery for all-day workshops and demo.  Our next scheduled great master visiting us is Ryan Neil on February 16 & 17, 2013.    

From left to right (back): Mat Koster, Karen Heutzenroeder, Wayne Harrison, Araxi Hovhannessian, Jim Ireland, Mike Grier, Don Miller, Cindella Leverton.  Front (L-R): Tom Thomas, Megan Ambroziak, Teresa Kendell, Sue Benjes, Thomasine O’Neill, Anna O’Neill



         When I began in 1962, bonsai was a secretive hobby of older Japanese men. Here in tropical Hawaii, it was impossible to grow most of the traditional Japanese temperate climate outdoor bonsai.  While still a beginner, I was asked to teach an evening adult education course and I really struggled.  At that time there was no published information about tropical plants and suitable plants just were not available.

         Progress soared when my handbook was mimeographed and distributed and Myrtle released prepared bonsai stock from her backyard nursery.  My first class formed the Aloha Bonsai Club and we later formed the Hawaii Bonsai Association as a non-profit regional organization to assist any bonsai club and to do what no single bonsai club could do.  With that,  bonsai interest in Hawaii really grew.

         We believe interested hobbyists will only continue if they are successful and the rules of success are very logical:  

    1)  Start with a plant that will grow for you in your environment.  Dwarf Schefflera is the ideal plant for bonsai as it branches and have ideal bonsai traits.  It is the most successful gift bonsai for anyone, anywhere who can grow houseplants.  Houseplants are the same throughout the world and we ship to Alaska over to Maine down to Florida across to California and all points between.  Every state has challenges and I'm delighted Arizona is building more successful techniques and I thank the group for sharing their story!  Please keep me posted on the progress of the new members and I'll try to help. Let's go for 100% success!

    2)  Start with prepared bonsai stock that has some trunk character within 1" of the soil level and compact roots within 1/2" with as many low branches as possible.  With such material, every workshop product can be a high quality bonsai.

   3)  Learn to grow it vigorously.  Use deeper humidity trays in dry areas but keep the surface of the rocks that the bonsai sits on dry with the rocks below wet to give humidity.  Give it good window light indoors. Keep the foliage thinned out to allow light to reach the developing new leaves so they will not stretch.  Water by saturation for 30 minutes once per week, drain, and place it on dry gravel.  Outdoors in heavier shade, use the deeper humidity trays but you may need to dip-saturate every two or three days.  Keep indoors when temperatures at night may drop below 50°F.  If you see white root tips all is okay.  If roots turn black and rot, you're over-watering.  Most people over-water.  We include a packet of the ideal low nitrogen-high phosphorus-ultra slow release fertilizer and this increased our success rate.

        If plants die, there generally are two causes.  When over-watered, the roots rot and die, the trunks become soft and you can peel off the bark.  When under-watered, the trunk, branches, and leaf stems shrivel and tiny vertical creases form.  When the tree dies, the trunk is hard and shriveled.  If you contact me as soon as you see problems, send me photos and I may be able to help.

       We   look forward to more success and future reports.  Please contact me if there are questions or if I can be of assistance.  All best wishes and mahalo!  ~~~David  (


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