Jeremy contacted me in March of 2012 informing me that he planned to visit, that his fiancÚ had visited Fuku-Bonsai in 2009 with her family, his interest in bonsai, being a member of the Baltimore bonsai club, and of his collection.  I suggested that if he planned to do a workshop, that he would pick up a lot more while here if he first put together our Introductory Workshop Package and grew it until he came.  He agreed, did, and I got an email that they would be at Fuku-Bonsai on Monday, July 23 at 9AM. Another email came on the day they arrived in Hawaii and on schedule I got to meet newlyweds Jeremy and Meredith Erb, who both had just graduated with impressive PhD's in different fields of chemistry!  It was a great day and here's his story!   ~~~David


         Aloha!  I have been doing bonsai for about 2 years and growing baby jade and ficus bonsai under fluorescent shop lights.  I found those to be the only ones that survived indoors. It was less than two months ago that I completed Fuku-Bonsai's Introductory Workshop Package while living in an aparment in Baltimore. I have been reading and learning from David Fukumoto's website for a long time, and frequently referenced Jerry Meislik's site as well for ficus (I even got Jerry's book!).

         The introductory workshop arrived sometime in April, and I found it easy to complete with the included instructions. The tree that was shipped arrived in good health and has a lot of character!  It has continued to grow and keeps looking better. I originally expected it to grow similar to ficus or jade, but it truly does have superior growth indoors!  It grew faster and looked better growing on a north-facing windowsill than my other plants do while on a north-facing windowsill with 6 fluorescent tubes above them! 

         Both the dwarf schefflera and the other plants grew at about the same health and vigor under those conditions. The dwarf schefflera must be superior indoors! I expect it to become a fantastic small bonsai.  With the supply of great bonsai stock and lots of information that is easy to follow, the main limitation is a person's confidence and enthusiasm!

         This past July I took a trip to Hawaii for my honeymoon. I had a wonderful time, and one of the highlights was definitely going to visit David's nursery. David greeted me and he spent a generous portion o his day with us.  As photography is a hobby of mine as well, I wanted to take photos of all the amazing plants I saw, but left my camera in the car because I was so intent on absorbing all the information pouring from David as he showed us around and instructed me with his own trees (50 years in bonsai teaches you a lot!).

         I could have spent the entire day photographing his trees, but I'm glad now that I only watched and listened.  He covered everything from basic concepts of pruning and growing to more profound topics such as what bonsai means for the world with a little added humor. He is truly a visionary bonsai master in these terms as he knows much more than just how to grow a nice looking tree.  I'll admit I was entranced for the 5 hours we spent at Fuku-Bonsai that day!

        When we got to the workshop I was happy to see stock with character and lots of potential. David suggested that I work on two "Workshop II" trees, but I convinced him that I wanted a larger plant and was ready for "Workshop III."  Sometimes the best way to learn is to have a high interest level and challenge!  David agreed to my plans and remarked to my wife, "he has expensive taste!"  I don't know when I'd get back to Hawaii, so I wanted to go all out!

        In the pictures, you see me before the workshops started with the plant, pot and soil. Then I built a wire cage for the roots to grow around. It was easy to get inspiration for the shape and design as David brought in several trees of is own that he did using this technique. The third photo shows my finished cage as I'm preparing the plant. Next I placed the growing media in and around the cage.  Finally the finished tree is show with David, my wife and myself! The foil will be eventually be removed to reveal thick roots below.  I will have plenty of time meanwhile to think about the shape and design of the tree further.  I am confident that I will be successful and this tree will be the highlight of my collection.

                                                 MAHALO!  Jeremy Erb (Ohio)


       Jeremy patiently listened while I pointed out the good points of some smaller younger plants that many newlyweds on budgets select.  But he knew what he wanted and quickly agreed when I quote him specially prepared advanced workshop stock and he's shown with the plant, handbook and #17 Conversion Kit.  
       Our most challenging workshop builds a wire armature that will be permanently embedded within the roots,  will hold media and provide bulk to create a hefty "root-trunk."  It begins with 3 U-shaped wires attached to the bottom of the pot with various wires twisted, separated, twisted, and built up heavier at the bottom and tapering towards the top.  It takes practice and each one comes out different. 
       Jeremy did well and his wire armature is shown in front of the media pail. Note an earlier older example serves as a sample model.  Here he is bare-rooting and arranging the roots.  This is a bit challenging for a beginner but with Jeremy's confidence I set a higher standard and he did very well.  Half of making bonsai progress is not being afraid to fail.  If you fail, understand why you failed, develop a new strategy, and try again! Don't keep doing it the same way and fail several times!  To learn you've got to fail, but learn from your failures!
        Note that the end of the wire armature is just a single wire that is secured right up into the heaviest roots.  Jeremy is installing the coarse bottom drainage layer thicker near the base of the armature, then body media filling most of the pot. A bottom 4"-5" aluminum foil collar with half coarse and half body media. 

       Then another collar, and another until it connects to the collar holding the original roots.  The roots of Jeremy's plant had been lengthened but still was only half way to the pot.  The bottom collar is widest to create a taper.

         While still dry and a bit loose,  add twists to create "character and root interest."  Go conservative or radical according to your vision of your future tree.  Do it with gusto and ham it up! 

         Finish by soak-saturation including getting water down the aluminum foil collar. 

         Jeremy and Meredith Erb with his finished tree and me.  Note that the embedded wire armature makes it possible to twist and add a lot of root character to the pre-trained twisty-turny Hawaiian Dragon prepared bonsai stock that had been in training for 8 to 10 years.  We're in front of the "Entry Tree" grown from 1974 with well establish aerial roots that make Dwarf Schefflera superior to ficus for creating the most difficult free-falling aerial roots needed for  "Rainforest Banyan" styling. 
        Jeremy with the tree held at a different angle.  Roots will pretty much fill the media so the foil collars should have taper and an interesting "flow-shape" that will become an exciting "root-trunk." 

         Roots grow faster and thicker than woody trunks.  It will take several years for the roots to really thicken up,  but it will still be far less time than trying to create a heavy wood trunk of that size! 

                This workshop with Jeremy and Meredith Erb was amongst my most enjoyable for a number of reasons.  Jeremy has limited experience but is very perceptive and quickly understands concepts. Based upon his questions, it's very clear that he's done his homework to prepare for the workshop and it's easy to spend some extra time with those who prepared.

                In my first efforts, I found that the wire was too thin so heavier wire was used for Jeremy's workshop.  But due to the extra height, it was not heavy enough to withstand the bouncing around to get the plant to him safely.  So wood supports were used to hold the plant more firmly.  On August 12, 2012  Jeremy and Meredith had moved back home to Ohio and sent the following photos. 

         This is Jeremy's Introductory Workshop Package that he put together back in April before coming for the workshop at Fuku-Bonsai showing about 4 months of growth and having travelled from Hawaii to Baltimore to Ohio. 
       The advanced workshop twisty-turny Hawaiian Dragon with wire armature future exposed roots as shipped with wood and bagged newspaper supports.  This tree was shipped from Hawaii straight to Ohio.  Note that extra exterior wire was used to stiffen the aluminum foil collar.  Jeremy reports good steady growth and that he is using distilled water as his area has very hard water. 

       I'm looking forward to more reports and following Jeremy's progress!


       For those who first learn about us while on a Hawaiian vacation, taking the "Introductory Workshop I" is often cited as the highlight of their Hawaiian vacation trip.  They discover the hobby of bonsai and learn a unique high-success specialty that is the easiest care of all forms of bonsai.  These visitors become repeat customers and I get to help them by email. 

       But travelling to Hawaii is costly and for many its a once in a lifetime trip.  For those who know about us or have grown our plants I highly recommend that if you're planning to visit to take a workshop,  like Jeremy, order an Introductory Workshop Package first, put it together at home,  and bring photos with you when you visit Fuku-Bonsai. 

       I'm able to critique your first effort, may be able to make suggestions and like Jeremy, you'll be able to learn a lot more by taking the "Intermediate Workshop II" or the "Advanced Workshop III" at Fuku-Bonsai as there's a lot of detail that don't show up in reports or articles. 

       Bonsai is a wonderful hobby that initially goes very slowly.  By starting with high-quality prepared bonsai stock with all needed components, we increase the odds of first success.  In a very short time, you'll understand the basics and you'll be where those who start with seedlings take three to five years to reach.

      A short time later if you move up to the "Intermediate Workshop II" and the "Advanced Workshop III"  you'll be where hobbyists would be after at least ten to fifteen years!  Fuku-Bonsai is an invaluable resource for those wanting to get results and do "FAST-TRACK BONSAI!"

       Please write ahead if you're planning a visit!  ~~~David


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