ALOHA! On November 7, 2001, I received the first of a series of emails from a gal that has become a friend and collaborator as we research future educational activities. Loredana is an effective collaborator with outstanding photographic and computer abilities. She replies promptly and because English is her second language, she's asked me to edit as necessary. But very little is needed and her communication is excellent! This report includes the flavor of the exchange but is edited primarily to condense.
This year I celebrate forty years of pioneering True Indoor Bonsai. While I create challenging specimens, I do so for the excitement of researching and exploring what is not yet known. By reporting and sharing this True Indoor Bonsai information, I hope my customers become more knowledgeable and will help educate others. While I have had numerous opportunities to correspond and assist customers, this is the first chance that I've had to log both the written exchange and great photographs! Loredana and I share the exchange with the hope that it will increase your understanding of bonsai horticultural principles.
In the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's, research correspondence was done long hand. It's great to make contact again with Charlene, Don, Jim, and a host of others who found our website. Angela Tillman and Loredana Quadro have joined our educational efforts. I invite others interested in expanding information about True Indoor Bonsai to also participate. I asked Loredana to introduce herself and to include a photo to start this page.
~~~David W. Fukumoto (March 30, 2002)
I'm Loredana. I come from Napoli, a city of southern Italy, famous for many things
but mostly for the pizza and for Vesuvius, a scary, spectacular volcano.
I am a molecular biologist and because of my job I moved to New York a few years ago. I didn't know I had a passion for bonsai trees until a friend of mine, coming back from Hawaii, gave me as a gift a beautiful bonsai from Fuku-Bonsai nursery. I took good care of it, following carefully the instructions posted on the informative website, and when it was time to trim my little plant I contacted David for some advice.
Next thing I knew I was on his web site, and at that point we decided to make my tree and the small cutting that I had planted, a test case for on-line training of how to take care of and grow bonsai trees! I am learning a lot, and most of all I am having a great time. I hope that my "on-line" experience will be useful to other bonsai lovers.
Here's the first email that started us off:
"Hi, a couple of months ago a friend brought me a beautiful gift back from Hawaii; one of your bonsai trees!
I've been taking good care of it, giving it water once a week and making sure it gets a lot of light and warmth. The bonsai is doing quite well, in the sense that the leave have grown in size, some more than others. My only concern is that the tree is not putting out new leaves.
I suspect that all its energy is going into one point of growth (branch B, see the attached photos). So I was considering trimming it, but honestly I haven't had the courage to do it. I was therefore wondering if you could give me some advice . . . "
Aloha Loredana and thank you for your note. You have good instincts and correct that the growth of one section is absorbing all of the plant's energy and therefore no new leaves are developing on the other two growth points. It's appropriate to trim only the section that's growing strongly.
You have a situation that I call "illegitimate hierarchy." It's kinda like the "true and legitimate king" is represented by a line that travels up from the roots following the thickest part of the trunk and in your case, this is branch "A." The plants are more attractive to me when this is the highest part of the tree, and I would recommend cutting branch "B" slightly above the point marked "1" just below the second leaf. Put a dab of Vaseline petroleum jelly on the cut to prevent dieback.
There are two other things you might want to do. 1) Carefully wedge one of your larger rocks between branches "A" and "B" to spread them apart a bit. And, 2) Tilt the rock planting so branch "A" is pointing straight up as this will help it grow stronger. With winter coming and with heating it may be appropriate to dip-saturate the rock twice per week. From spring, consider a drop or two of Schultz liquid plant food per quart of water for steady growth. ~~~David
David, I followed your instructions and trimmed the bonsai! A rather
stressful experience I must confess!
I'm sending a complete photographic reportage. Photo1 is before the cut, photo 2 and 3 are after. Photo 4 is after having placed a wedge between branches A and B, and after having tilted the plant with branch A pointing straight up. I didn't forget the Vaseline. The red arrow in photo 3 refers to a minor accident that happened in the process, some leaves were lost when branch B came down. Should I worry?
YES! It is possible to root a cut off branch! While it may be more trouble than the value of such a rooted cutting, it's a priceless experience! Here's how:
* TRIM OFF LOWER LEAVES leaving the two youngest, cut the bottom at a slant with a razor blade and wrap the end with wet spaghnum moss making a tight 1/2" ball.
* PEEL 3 DRAIN HOLES in the bottom rim of a styrofoam coffee cup. Fill with a mixture of 1 part ground peat moss and 3 parts clean coarse sand, ground lava, or fine gravel. Wet thoroughly then tamp down with a spoon. Repeat so media is very firm.
* "DRILL" A HOLE at a diagonal with a pencil and insert cutting. With a spoon firm up the media so the cutting does not move.
* PLACE ON A SMALL PLATE and place it into a clear polybag. Blow up like a balloon, seal the top, and tie loosely to a support to prevent the bag from collapsing. Keep it in a bright warm place but not where it will get direct sun.
Aloha David, Greetings from a rainy New York! I need some advice:
1: I went shopping for the bonsai materials yesterday. Cup, sand and spaghnum moss are ok. I was unable to find Black Magic, and the nursery suggested I buy a bag of volcanic lava rock. They say this is what people use to pot bonsai trees from Hawaii. It is sold by a company called Hoffmann, it is called Volcanic Lava Rock, and it consists of ground-up small pieces of lava. Is this ok?
2: To make the body media, you suggest I mix one part potting mix with three parts sand. You don't mention the spaghnum moss. Should this be included, and if so, how much?
Aloha David: Thanks for your instructions, they were extremely clear. This first stage of the operation is completed, and documented by the photos I am sending you.
The lava I bought the other day seemed too large, so I ended up grinding some up and mixing it with sand, then using 3 parts of this mix and one part of peat moss. We'll see what happens. I fear that the cutting might be too short or small for success! Do you want me to send you some of the lava?
The top photo shows the branch being rooted with a potting mix of 3 parts sand & lava and 1 part peat moss. Three drain holes were peeled off the corners of the styrofoam coffee cup. The cup was placed in a shallow red plastic bowl and enclosed within a zip-lock bag for a high-humidity terrarium-like environment.
A week or two later, samples of all of the materials that she had obtained arrived along with a copy of the New York Times travel-garden article about Big Island garden attractions including the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center. ~~~David
It seemed to take forever. Normally, cuttings either root within a month or two or dry up. So it was great to receive the following email:
Today I had the courage to see if had rooted. At first I saw nothing. Then all the soil collapsed and left me with essentially the bare cutting in my hand. I had no choice but to delicately clean off the spaghnum moss. I was then able to identify three short (approx. 1/2 inch) roots.
I re-potted it with great delicacy, and made sure to compact the potting mix efficiently. Most probably, given the ease at which it all came apart, it wasn't compact enough! What do you suggest I do? Wait, give up, or proceed to a step2?
Note that a third young new leaf stem has developed and the cutting has developed roots! Loredana potted it again, placed it back into the zip-lock bag, will continue to keep it warm, and will place it in an area where it will get more light. The bag tends to help keep the newly rooted cutting from drying out. After it develops stronger roots, trim off the oldest (bottom) leaf to reduce nutrient needs produced by the roots. Take it out of the bag and give it as much sunlight as possible and water enough to keep it at least a bit damp (sit the cup in 2"-3" of water until you see the top is wet, then drain and sit the cup in the DRY shallow bowl. Dip-water about twice per week.
It took 2 1/2 months for the roots to develop. It may not take as long in spring, summer or fall. ~~~David
Aloha David, Here I am again with a bonsai-update and a couple of
questions for you. As you can see from the first photo the tree is doing fine, and finally
it grew a new branch. Contrary to our predictions, it grew from branch C, and not from
A! Anyway, looking at the new branch growing has been amazing! I think there are
more new branches coming, both from C and from A . . . lets keep fingers crossed. Any
suggestions on this matter (ie, should I consider pruning again)?
The little cutting grew a new branch a couple of months ago. I've noticed that one of its leaves is turning yellow. Should I worry? Moreover, it now for sure has rooted. As you can see the roots are coming out all over the place. This suggests to me that action is required. Is it time to adapt the young tree to grow on a lava rock or should I move it to a proper pot?
Aloha Loredana and congratulations on your progress! Again your instincts are correct and that by pruning the vigorously growing branches, you'll force growth where you want it. "Where you want it" is determined by the vision of the future tree. Would you want a long low sweeping branch with a compact crown? If so, allow branch C to grow out 4 to 6 leaves more, then cut back to 1 or 2 leaves to add a bit of length to the branch.
But if you feel branch C is already a bit long, now's a good time to prune somewhere between points 4 and 5 (in the original November 2001 photo). Of course, use some petroleum jelly and root that cutting in a baggie too!
If you're using Schultz Liquid Plant Food at a drop or 2 per quart, increase to 2 to 3 drops per quart. The general rule is to increase the fertilizer strength during the warmer growing season. Keep it in the brightest window and you'll see the rooted cutting really grow during the summer! I look forward to seeing which way you're going to train your tree! Good luck! ~~~David
Note: It took about 2 and 1/2 months for the rooted cutting to go from 3-leaves to 5 leaves or about 1 1/4 month (about 35-37 days) per leaf. At this growth rate, if you trim when there is 5-7 leaves of new growth, you'll be pruning branches about every six months to keep moving towards your visualized shape while harvesting cuttings to be rooted. Two #8 Conversion Kits were sent.
Aloha David, thanks for the instructions and the kits. The bonsai has been
potted! I think it went well, so far! The newest leaf looks a bit unhappy. I look
forward to working on the small cutting!
For improved growth, the easiest way is to enlarge the root system and the #8 Conversion Kit includes all needed items. Detailed instructions are posted at "Lesson #1: Potting." Loredana used the external string tie method to keep the plant from shaking while the roots have a chance to get established. Once it does, growth will greatly improve.
Can you guess the reason for creating a mountain rather than spreading the coarse evenly over the bottom of the pot? What is the purpose of the plastic circle? Some bonsai growers use a flat round river stone. It prevents roots from growing straight down and this method produces a root system that will be only about 1/2" thick as the fine roots will stay mostly in the potting media.
When it's time to repot for optimum growth in a year or two, simply rub off the coarse rock mulch, remove it from the pot, remove the coarse bottom layer and the plastic circle, untangle outer roots and trim off any roots that touches the pot, and safely repot again!
You'll be able to use a smaller mountain, reuse the plastic circle, and pot it in the same way. By the second repotting, you won't have to use a rock mulch and you can enjoy the surface roots.
* BUILD A SMALL MOUNTAIN with the coarse bottom material. It doesn't have to cover the entire bottom of the pot but should overlap the holes. With the bottom of a small tomato sauce or Vienna sausage can, tamp it firm.
* CUT A 3" TO 4" PLASTIC SHEET CIRCLE and center it over the top of the mountain. This will prevent the finer media (and the roots) from going down into the coarse material except from the outer edges.
* ADD 1/4" TO 3/8" LAYER OF BODY MEDIA to just cover the plastic circle. , tamp it firm.
* REMOVE YOUR ROOTED CUTTING & UNTANGLE ROOTS with a pencil, knitting needle, or chopstick. Place the cutting off-center and lean slightly to one side, spreading the roots in all directions. Trim roots that are longer than 4" so roots almost touch the outer edges of the pot. This will be the start of getting roots to "branch or divide."
* ADD 1/4" TO 3/8" LAYER OF BODY MEDIA to just cover the roots and tamp it lightly. Cover the surface with coarse rocks (like the white stones that the lava planting was initially sitting upon. This should help the cutting stand up and if necessary, add more stone around the trunk.
* PLACE THE ENTIRE POT IN A PAN WITH WATER up to the height of the rim for 30 minutes or so to allow the media to be saturated. Water in this manner at least once per week (or ever 4-5 days if the pot dries out quickly in air-conditioning or interior heating.
* TRIM OFF 50% OF EACH OF THE LEAFLETS WITHIN THE COMPLEX LEAF. This will be sufficient foliage removal to compensate for lose of roots. If the leaves droop, place it in a large zip-lock bag for a week or two.
|FIRST STAGE TRAINING OF NEWLY ROOTED CUTTINGS
Young seedlings or newly rooted cuttings are very soft and limber and are easily bent. Start training very early to get a lot of character and interest as close to the roots as possible.
Loredana you're doing great! There's only 2 months between the two
photos and you've gone from 4 weak leaves to 7 stronger leaves. That's the kind of
growth needed for good training and now's the time to start training while the plant is
young and flexible. But be careful!
First remove the coarse rocks on the surface and examine the trunk down to the roots. Bend the trunk gently back and forth to see how stiff or how flexable the trunk is. The tree must be very bendable and the wire will only hold it in place until the bend is set, but it must easily bend!
The trunk must bend easily and the wire just holds it in place until the bend is set. Use a cushion and make a loose loop when attaching the wire to the tree.
If you can create a lot of bends close to the roots, the tree will be interesting. It's easier if you start while the tree is young. Too often, training starts after the lower trunk is too stiff to bend. Keep making as many bends as you wish to create the basis of an interesting tree!
The sketch shows a double bend, but if the trunk is short, you may be able to make just
the first bend. Use paper or plastic coated wire like the type to close up the vegetable
plastic bags in the supermarket. Join up several to get the length you need. Use an
ice pick and open up a hole, then poke the wire up through the drain hole. Cushion
with a cigarette filter or a small roll of paper, then make a wide loop tie.
Send the wire up through another drain hole in the same manner and if your trunk is long enough and limber enough, you may be able to make the second bend. But don't force it or it'll snap! If it does snap, coat the end with Vaseline and wait until new growth develops.
If the trunk is short, leave the wire there looped around the bottom of the tree and let the tree grow longer. You can use another wire to pull loops together to create a more complex bend. The bending will slow the growth and produce soft trunks that bend easily.
Good luck! ~~~David
Aloha Loredana and congratulations on another step along the bonsai path! You've learned how plants adjust and by setting the bend while the plant was young, you'll have a bonsai with more character. Some trainers are more conservative while others try for sharper bends and break a lot of trees while learning!
If you want the bend to set, allow the tree to grow 5 to 7 more leaves before you prune and you'll get stronger regrowth (and likely a welcomed addional growth point). You'll also get another cutting to root. I'm very proud of you! ~~~David
PS. The Mediterranean Olive should root in the same way. But it may not be happy kept in warm tropical conditions. I brought back one from California and it just languished without any amount of growth. I think it may be happier if given a chillier winter than ours. We "freeze" when it hits 55°F on the coldest night of the year. (It's up in the 70's in the winter day.)
Aloha David, thank you for your detailed instructions. The lower part of the trunk was
unfortunately too rigid to bend, I could thus only apply a bend towards the tip (point 2).
I placed a second wire close to the base to support and avoid the trunk breaking off
Point 3 (in yellow) shows that the little tree has already reacted to the constraint, and is straightening up (the photo was taken 4-5 days after the bend was set in place).
What I would like would be for the tree to develop another point of growth, somewhere around the bend, at a different angle. I guess I should consider pruning around point 3 for this happen?
Mahalo & ciao! Loredana (October 15, 2002)
PS. A friend gave me a few cuttings of a bonsai olive tree. I am attempting to get them to root following the same procedure you suggested for our small cutting. They are now sealed in a bag. Do you think that this tecnique applies also to a mediterranean tree?
2003 UPDATE: This has been a hectic year for Loredana and Fuku-Bonsai and relatively little training was done. The trees and cuttings were allowed to grow and here are some photos to show the development:
|Loredana learned to root Dwarf Schefflera cuttings and is branching out and has rooted an Olive cutting shown in a styrofoam coffee cup. A new shoot is already growing. A red line show a location to prune the cutting. The portion cut off can be rooted again. Use Vaseline to seal the cut. In training bonsai from seeds and cutting, the earlier your training begins, the more interest you'll have on the lower part of the trunk to create a more interesting bonsai!|
A MESSAGE TO VISITORS TO THE FUKU-BONSAI WEBSITE:
Aloha! I hope that you enjoyed Loredana sharing her progress. Learning to root a cutting is achievable regardless of where you live as long as you can keep it 65°F or warmer, give it a lot of indirect light, and keep it slightly moist at all times. I'm delighted to have the nicest customers any bonsai nursery could have! As you can guess, I'm delighted when I can help! Loredana's Page has encouraged a number of other customers. For a report of another effort with a different goal, go to Kathy's Page. ~~~David