Happy belated Fathers-day to all the dad’s out there. Yesterday was a productive day. I spend the day with my family. After all the food, deserts and cake I still found time to work on this Ficus bonsai. I know that I promised that I would share this story with you earlier, but I can only share projects if they get done…
As you can see in the feature photo the tree is wild and has a long way to go. Just some background on the tree. The tree is one of three branches that I removed from a grafted Ficus Gensing tree my wife bought when we first moved into the house where we live now. The Ficus Gensing branches was grafted to this ficus tree and these branches would bud out from the trunk below the gensing branches. The tree has died since then but the tree branches I removed now live on in memory of a tree that use to be. I planted the tree branches in a black plastic bags not knowing if it would grow or not. A few months later the leaves where still green and small branches started to form below the leave stems. Fast forward a few years later and I have this magnificent tree. I have since I initially removed these branches till now grown about fifteen trees from those three branches within 5 years. Some of the branches I just throw away otherwise I might end up with owning only Ficus bonsai. The tree has come a long way but there is yet some distance to go before it can be put into a show or before I will show this tree at a club meeting.
This weekend was a wet and cold one so working on the tree kind of warmed me up from the inside. Here is a time-lapse of the work I did on the tree:
Now I will give you a detailed description of what happened in the video above and why I did what I did. Before that here is a photo of the tree before I started:
The tree after I worked on it.
You will see in the video that I removed half of the container that covered the rock and the roots of the tree. This is the third and second last time that I have to remove a piece of the container. I give the tree between three to five months to recover between sessions. If I see that the trees foliage needs to be cut back I use that to determine if I can remove the next level of soil. I rather wait longer in between sessions so that I can remove the leaves and soil at the same time. I do this cause some of the fine roots get removed during the cutting of the container and some of the larger roots grow right up to the edge of the container and gets cut or damaged.
I know that it looks like I trimmed the tree too far back but this is part of styling. Not all the styling techniques delivers instant results. This is what makes shaping trees like Ficus’ so great for me to work on. How does this technique work. First I take cuttings from a ficus. I plant them in a seedling soil mixture. I let them grow for a year so that the trunk thickens. With the second replanting I remove the main branch this I do about a year after I planted the tree in the seedling mixture. What I see as the main branch? The strongest growing branch which is normally the one that is the highest and tallest one. This is is what we call the apex of the tree/bonsai. This allows the tree to shoot out new growth/branches lower and closer to the base of the tree. I continue with this method for four to five years. It gets tempting to cut the tree back when it starts to look untidy. Then again what can be defined as tidy?
In the photo above you can see that the base of the tree is almost twice the size of my thumb. Everything up to this point in this trees development was to get the trees trunk thick. I pruned the tree back heavily in summer earlier this year.
As you can see I made deep cuts on the tree. With Ficus’ if you make the cuts flush with the tree you will get a bulged effect that does not look nice, so I tend to hollow out any cuts I make on the trees. Just to show you how fast these trees grow I took these photos of the same cuts five months later.
If you look closely you will see that there are these gaps in the trunk. This is where I cut out wedges from the tree to try and bend the trees trunk. One thing bad thing about these thick trunks they do not bend easily. But because this is a ficus you can make cuts in the tree and I will heal over quickly. I had to bend the Trunk as it was to straight and I can not wait any longer as my focus will be shifting to branch placement and getting nice ramification on the tree.
In these close ups you can see that in only five months of growth you can get great results. I know it goes against everything you know about bonsai and training bonsai but some tree species just have different growing patterns and requires you to go of the beaten path.
Hope you enjoyed this blog. Please feel free to leave you comments below.