The potato soliloquy: willow leaf ficus

I would call this a dialogue but the tree doesn’t really talk back.
Though it does “speak to me”.
Just not in a way that I’ll admit, you see, I’m not ready for that “rest” home yet.
Not willingly, at least.
Sorry, today’s potato, er…tree.
This is, or was, a root cutting.
Much like this tree
From this post.
Our tree, besides being a little jittery from a venti espresso drink,
has some of the same problems (opportunities) as that other tree, and some more difficulties of its own.
We have before us a ficus potato-ensis, uh…salicaria (syn. salicifolia, nerifolia)
As I said, it appears as though it was a root cutting (I’ll explain that process later).
But the “cut” end has closed over.
What is the main problem that we can see so far?
Do you remember when we were kids and giving the middle finger was still taboo? So we would hold up three fingers and say,
“Read between the lines”.
That’s right, this ugly potato is giving us the finger (to my British readers, that’s the equivalent of the backwards peace sign you gentle folk use).
I’ll show him who’s boss.
You’ll see….muahahaha!!
Sorry. Maybe I am ready for that “rest” home after all.
Let’s see what challenges the roots pose, shall we?
Benign looking so far.
Bring out the heavy tools
I’ve actually wrought more mayhem with a chopstick than any other tools I use. I even have a fancy root hook but I’ll reach for this before it.
It’s so utilitarian, you can pull weeds, rake the roots, eat lunch….
Let’s see what we have
I see a face. He’s looking back at me
He doesn’t look happy.
Ok, so, what do we really have?
From this angle it’s not bad
From this angle we have a clusterf…mess
It’s tough to see why in the photo so I drew an artist’s rendering for you
I call it “Two chicken legs and a tail on a headless torso”
Very surrealist.
This mess calls for some cleaning up.
Let’s see now, cut here, straighten there, shave off that edge, whoops, broke that off, damn!
Ok….oh no!?
What have I done?!
It’s like an Upton Sinclair novel
The Aztec god of Bonsai is even shocked
He always looks like that though.
Don’t y’all worry a bit ’bout my lil’ tree. He’s gonna turn out mighty fine.
I’ll eventually put him in this size pot
But, this will be his training pot for now
I got a question on tying down the tree to the pot a little while ago so I’ll try to explain the process.
I only use pots that have at least two holes (I’m a two hole man…).
Otherwise it’s near impossible to properly tie the tree down.
Then I run, from the bottom, two #2 wires up through the holes and around the roots. If the bark is delicate I will properly protect it.
I then tighten it down so the tree has little movement.
The reason I do this is the new roots are brittle and any movement can break them off.
And I have cats and four children.
Can you hear me talkin’?
Next step, backfill with soil and, using that handy chopstick, nestle all the soil in between the roots.
We’re on the home stretch now.
You might have noticed that I pruned out the middle “finger”
I’ll make a cutting of it and also of one of the roots I cut off
Basically, the process is this: the root is put into some soil and eventually it will sprout new branches and I’ll have a new tree. Easy peasy.
And the circle will be unbroken.
This propagating technique doesn’t work with every tree or even every ficus.
Elm, crepe myrtle and ficus Burt davyii are some trees we use in bonsai that will propagate using this method.
Getting out my trusty (not too rusty) scissors, it’s time to prune
After removing the middle trunk the main problem now is the lack of taper. We have what looks like a potato with a stick stuck to it.
The only way to remedy that is time and directing the growth in the right spots.
With a little chop
And some snips
And some prunes (to keep you regular)
We have an even more potato-ish looking thing.
Do you know what I think?
I think I need some wire.
Now it’s at least a stylish potato
Here’s a sketch. It might help.
What we are lacking (but will grow, it’s a salicaria after all) are some branches.
Right side
It needs a branch right here
Wait, let’s be creative
Left side
The question is; will this tree look like my drawing?
Probably close, but not exactly.
One thing I’ve observed with salicaria, they will put out branches wherever they want.
And that is what we call a segway-
The next post will feature these two trees
Both of which I did posts on, so you’ll see the progression of growth; and I’ll explain what I kept and what died back and what was new. And how sometimes, as bonsai artists, we are mere stewards and not the rulers of our trees we like to think of ourselves as.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in branch placement, rare finds, roots and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The potato soliloquy: willow leaf ficus

  1. mat says:

    the beard’s looking good. i’m bringing some Ficus on Sunday and probably some beer, but no potatoes.

  2. Sunday will be my first at this study group, and I am a novice at bonsai. Do I need to bring beer? Please advise.

  3. Matt says:

    That’s one hot potato… My ficus salicaria that you gave me advice on got chopped and is already budding in the perfect spots. Ill send you some pics when I get a chance

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