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            This photo was taken shortly after "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD!" was planted as the featured demonstration at the grand opening celebration of the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center in September of 1992 when Fuku-Bonsai founder and president David Fukumoto was 52 years old.  The original display was arranged on a wood platform measuring 48" long x 30" wide x 2" high.  The dwarf azaleas were then just a 2" to 5" tall and about 3 years old from cuttings.  The trees are now 25 years in training and David is 73 years old.     


                  This is an introduction to an innovative Hawaiian 360 complex landscape which represents a major new bonsai concept to be mounted on a turntable and designed to have several attractive viewing positions instead of just one.  About 1989,  while building the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center, we found an exciting new form of lava in the hills above Kona.  Unusual lava rocks formed when the leading edge of a lava flow stops and folds over. As the lava cooled, pieces cracked off.  They suggest slender ropy pinnacles and inspired the five multi-rock assemblies forming the complex scene.

                The unusual rocks were stood up and pieces arranged so the highly attractive texture ran parallel.  The marks where the lava had cracked off faced inward to not be visible.   Space was created between the vertical pieces with wads of crumpled newspaper and as each new piece was selected and added it was held in position with strong monofilament tape.  The most attractive pieces jutted out while thinner pieces were set in to create  deep shadows.  The center of each formation is hollow and the entire bottom ring could be lifted up and placed on a "concrete pancake" to lock them into permanent position.

                 After the first level cured, the tapes and crumpled newspaper was removed and carefully selected rocks were fitted and color cemented into place to form the upper level.  It took many rocks,  a lot of trial and error, but with persistence and a lot of luck, the first major formation was completed that used the best of the choice rocks.  The major tallest formation is about 26" high and varies between 18" and 14" wide.  The spaces between the rocks were 3/4" to 1 1/2" wide. It used seventeen different rock pieces.  The second major formation is almost as tall at 24" high, but narrower and has less than half of the bulk of the first one.  It varies between 14" to 12" wide.  Three other smaller formations are 9" to 13" tall and vary from 7" to 16" wide. It took four months to collect, design, and create the rock formations.

                 The complex arrangement was created as the major demonstration at the 1992 Grand Opening Celebration of the Fuku-Bonsai Center in upper Keauhou-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. The demonstration team included the key members of both Fuku-Bonsai and our sister non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation so we had a huge group participating.  Individuals present were invited to represent the community and about 25 dwarf azaleas went onto the major rock formation with over 50 plants total!

                There was a lot of symbolism in the details of the arrangement as well in the choice of its name: "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD!"  Fuku-Bonsai is a Hawaiian corporation with over 200 stockholders who pooled their resources to become the catalyst to build the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center.  In 1985 when the corporation took over the Fukumoto family nursery, the Big Island of Hawaii was moving into a tourism-led development stage.  To create a viable long-term tourism industry there was need for developing valid locally owned visitor attractions and Fuku-Bonsai was one of the major community-based companies that incorporated to meet that challenge,  but also as a succession vehicle for the post-Fukumoto era.     

                  The five formations can be moved separately to rearrange if desired and the original "container" was a decorative wood platform 60" long x 36" wide. After the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center closed in 1994,  the arrangements were brought to Kurtistown, and a few years later,  the formations were arranged on a 4' diameter concrete disc on a turntable.

                  Dwarf azaleas have worked well.  The fresh attractive small green leaves further reduce when pruned.  Multiple trunks develop and new trees take root to accurately depict trees growing in such difficult environments.  Trunks and branches have thickened and developed refined ramification.  The trees are now about 25 years in training and take on more maturity each year.



        The 25-year old dwarf azalea trees have developed a more mature form with heavy multiple trunks and small leaves suggest a distant view.  The overall scene is of rock formations,  rivers and trees. The primary view between the largest formation and the smaller one on the right suggests the Li River of Kweilin, China that flows between picturesque karst limestone cliffs with beautiful trees.   As other openings reveal more and more enticing scenes between formations and as you move and turn, additional  exciting scenes become visible!

    At first the tall rock formations grab your attention, but moving even just a little gives you almost an entirely different scene in a magical way.

        As you notice something interesting and focus in on it, the scene changes,  rocks that you saw just a short while ago take on a new and different character and it's like you're floated down the river and am looking at new scenery!  The three photos to the left and above were taken from very close positions.  You may recognize the distinctive trees.

















     Each rock formation is made like a daisy flower with the petals being the interesting rock with lava flow marks on most of the outer edges.  But the edge where the rock cracked off is faced towards the center of the formation.  There are spaces between the rocks and the center is hollow.

       To plant the formation, fill the bottom with coarse drainage and use some keto-tsuchi to close up the openings between the rocks.  Plant trees with the roots facing towards the center and add media. With wire, form a thick "rope" of sphagnum moss and hang this down the middle of each formation. As each plant is added, make sure the roots come into contact with the sphagnum moss "rope." 

       As you plant the top of each formation, add more sphagnum moss so when you water the top of the formation, the water will travel down the sphagnum moss rope and water the plants from inside the formation. Generally tall rock plantings fail because there is inadequate provisions for watering the plants properly.  We have never killed any of the plants on these multi-rock formations.  So beyond the challenges of design aesthetics,  "Creating a Bonsai World!" is successful because we were able to develop innovative practices that addressed the horticultural needs of the dwarf azalea trees!  After 25 years of disciplined training, the dwarf azalea trees are becoming more beautiful!


     This successful landscape used extraordinary materials, innovative design concepts, and the close teamwork of good friends. Many people working together with many ideas created this complex landscape and the Fuku-Bonsai Center in Keauhou-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Our efforts continue the inspiration of Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro, who molded the Hawaii aloha bonsai spirit we enjoy today. 

      The planting began on Saturday and was finished on Monday, September 23, 1992. That morning in his home in Honolulu, Papa woke up, went back to sleep, and never woke up again.  It's the end of a Hawaiian bonsai era.  In friendship and warm memory, the landscape is dedicated to Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro who guided us in "Creating a Bonsai World!"

            ~~~David W. Fukumoto, president
                   on behalf of Fuku-Bonsai Inc. and
                   the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation

July 2017 photo and update:


        Created about 25 years ago, the trees in the landscape are impressive after continually trimming.  Usually it's just a rough shearing each month or so as Myrtle finds time.  Every year or so,  I give the trees a very heavy and detailed trimming to keep trees at the ideal size.

       At times we'll clean out the moss that will cover the rocks and dress the base of the landscapes.  As the trees recover from severe trimming and are at their most attractive, we may take detailed photos as in the above article.

        The first complex landscape is mounted on a stand that brings it up to eye-level with a turn-table to allow viewing all sides. The educational panel shows it when it was first created in 1992,  photos taken in 2014, and include the Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro tribute and dedication information.