I make a fig weep……

Behold, yonder tree, sitting on yonder table, shaking in anticipatory dread for the tortuous and barbaric bonsai techniques that soon will be practiced upon it. Verily, it’s naming, the Weeping Fig, shall prove true today. Ficus Benjamina, or, as many a bonsai elite likes to call it, “that piece of junk”. 

This tree belongs to a client, and it was her dad’s tree before. My job today is to repot, refine, and re-dress the wounds. 

The lessons: 

Respect for the tree and it’s history. 

Pruning and dressing wounds (I know I talked about that with the tamarind but I need to revisit it. You’ll learn why) 

Now, I kinda teased on the social media interwebs that perhaps I’d be brutalizing and cutting up this poor tree. If I were that brazen in my chop lust, a vile tree abuser, a hack, perhaps I’d cut it about here: But then, I wouldn’t really, because I understand that this ficus is a benjamina, the least likely to bud back where I’d want it to. I’d end up with the a tree budding out here: That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, I could work with that. But, in chopping a benjamina and not leaving green, I could really kill the whole thing too (which is why there will be no defoliation either) 

 Damn benjamina. 

But I’m not goin’ a’choppin’ today. My axe will stay hanging in the woodshed. 

First lesson:Respect. 

My clients dad kept the tree this tall. For whatever reason, I’m not going to turn this tree into a totally different tree just to gratify my ego. I’ll try to bring out its full potential as the tree it currently  is now. That’s what it means to refine. 

That brings us to the next lesson: Wound Management.

We have some pretty gnarly wounds. Like the last post on the tamarind, I’m going to carve out the wounds into an “eye” shape to speed healing. This style tree doesn’t really call for big holes in the trunk so we are going to try some Cheng Cheng-Kung healing techniques. 

Here’s the wounds carved out. 

I’ll cover them with cut paste. 

This brings me to a comment I received (and after I responded, I then got another, even more, brusque comment) about the “proper” way to prune trees. I was told, quite succinctly, that when one is pruning trees, one should always leave the branch collar to speed the closing of the wound. To illustrate:The branch collar is the swelling just off the trunk and at the base of the branch. It  is a collection of dense, specialized tissues that give structure and rigidity to the branch, basically holding it to the tree. Before there was real research into plant physiology, tree surgeons would employ all types of techniques and tricks when pruning trees (keep in mind, I am talking about trees in nature or landscape trees) to get them to heal. It was the work of a man named Dr. Alex Shigo who actually used observational science, experimentation, and horticultural knowledge to really show the correct pruning techniques for fast healing, structural integrity, and health of the tree (His Wikipedia entry). His research is vast and long (one of his books is $86 on his website) and I’m going to just touch upon his teaching. The most practical application of that teaching is the “proper” way to prune a branch. It’s a three cut process. The first cut is to ensure that the weight of the branch, when it falls, doesn’t tear the bark down into the trunk of the tree, it’s a partial cut and you do it on the underside of the branch. The second cut removes the branch. The third cut is the finishing cut, you perform it just at the branch collar. By leaving that collar intact, you are keeping the differentiated cells intact that ensure quick healing, but it also keeps the structure of the tree intact; in the case of a windstorm or other mechanical force acting on the tree, it won’t break at that cut site. 

This is how the tree heals after that cut. 
A slight bump, but it healed strong and fast, keeping pathogens, insects, etc. out. It’s the process he called “compartmentalization”. But, as you all may know, when we prune bonsai, unless we want a new shoot or wish to carve a Jin, we don’t keep the branch collar. We want there to be no evidence of a branch that has been pruned (what is called “the hand of man”). So that little bump on a “properly” pruned branch is not desired. That’s why we have these tools called “concave cutters” and “spherical knob cutters”, to remove that branch collar. But, unfortunately, when this aesthetic principle of bonsai is introduced into the outside horticultural world, they tend to not understand it very well. In fact, the followers of Dr. Shigo have almost created a cult around his teaching. (Check out this website). And they are correct, if we wished to have a quick healing cut, we should leave the branch collar intact. But we want that smooth trunk line (when we do. I usually want the meanest, ugliest scar to denote age and struggle, but sometimes I want it to heal too).  And with the cuts we make and how we dress them, we have hundreds of years of bonsai practice and experience to back up our techniques. Just like the correct pruning on a full size landscape tree ensures quick healing on them, if you apply the techniques that are used in bonsai on bonsai culture trees, with the type of pruning we employ, it works. (To get back to the “comment” I received, the main complaint was that the tamarind wasn’t pruned properly to begin with, never mind that I was dressing an old wound that I didn’t make in the first place and was not pruned well. As often the case with zealots, they can’t see beyond their world view. I’m interested in what Dr. Shigo said about cleaning out old, improperly pruned wounds, but I ain’t got $86 for his book. In his defense, it’s his heirs that are selling it for that price, he passed away about ten years ago). I’ll also be using, like I did on the tamarind, cut paste. That’s a big no no too. 

Back to our tree. This is the front. 

I kinda like the other side as the front. But the structure of the tree, the top, doesn’t support it. I could go to all kinds of heroic measures bending the top back to the right and all that like I did in the tamarind post but a ficus isn’t a tamarind. Once a ficus lignifies, it doesn’t like to be moved. I could try a wedge cut and, like I said, be all heroic and masterful. Or I could just use the front we have and refine it. 

The only issue using this front is this knob of obverse taper up near the top.

We are going for smooth, clean lines like this.   

Time to go back to The Nook for some serious work. 

Knob (play along for me and pronounce that “kah-nobb”) 

No knob. 

Big wound.  Some cut paste. Call me the branch pruning iconoclast.  Let me direct you down here to where there were never any branches and there’s a wound.   I need to clean them up too. No cut paste on these ones though. I think the tree could use some gnarliness near the buttress. 

The trunk line.  Since I’m talking about Dr Shigo, I should mention that the way we prune and structure the tops of our bonsai is anathema too. When you prune a landscape tree you need to keep in mind wind, rain and snow load, and the continued upward growth of the tree. Never “top” a landscape tree, by shortening it you shorten its life, weaken the structure, and stunt its growth. 

But a bonsai is pruned for aesthetic purposes. We are making a short, relatively young tree look like a big, old tree. Which means wider, rounded canopies….. more simplified branch structures…..and taper, natural proportions, and forced perspective. 

And we use wire on our trees to move branches into positions we need them. 

Now for the roots. I think it’s been a few years since this has been repotted. I’m going to steal the moss. Shhhhhhh, don’t tell….And I’m afraid I need to use some sharp toothed persuasion to remove the tree from the pot…..…..now there’s a saw you’ve never seen. Ha!

Yeah, the soil is all nasty. 

I think it’s prudent in this case to get the reciprocating saw out. It’s new pot is a tad more shallow. 

Gotta make it fit!

​Quick work in time lapse. 

Some raking, washing etc. 

Which Dave did most of, thank you maricon. 

And we are done. 

Considering I’ve had so much attention on social media about this tree (some people even wanted to buy it) I’d say that the tree speaks to many people in its current style. And I personally think it’s impressive as is too, chopping it would just make another short, boring ficus like so many people have already. Here’s the before: 

And the after. There’s not too much difference really, it just has cleaner lines. I consider the ficus benjamina to be a canopy tree, which means it’s almost grown like a topiary. Almost. You still need to control the growth using clip and grow techniques, but in between pruning sessions, let it fill in. 

Some after care with this tree, if you cut the roots like I did, you should really keep the tree in the shade. The lack of fine feeder roots and the propensity for the benjamina to shed branches is a bad combination. I would not be surprised, as well, if any of those branches with wire decide to die too. They really don’t like to be manipulated much and I left some branches I’d have normally removed, just for that possibility. 

Keep an eye out soon for a new video on the Adamaskwhy YouTube channel and do me the favor of subscribing to it and this blog. And please like, share, comment, especially comments, we are needing questions for a special “Ask Adamaskwhy why” video segment, I especially like it when I’m challenged (as evidenced by the middle body of this post). See ya’ soon!

Posted in carving, Horticulture and growing, philosophical rant, refine, wiring | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Biggun’ Schefflera in some concrete shoes

I tell you what, sometimes I live an interesting life. One time, when I was still in the Durable Medical Equipment field, fixing wheelchairs and such, I once removed a bougie for a guy, a big bougie, actually, which he let me keep, and still charged him for an inner tube and labor for fixing his wheelchair. It was my first Epcot tree. I know, I know, but the guy really saw me doing him a favor for getting rid of an unwanted plant than giving me a valuable bonsai. 

But this isn’t a post about that bougie. 

I have this client down in the Palm Beaches (I used to think there was only “West Palm Beach” but if one thinks about that, the “west” part tends to denote that there might be an east or north Palm Beach. But there’s no East Palm Beach, there is a South Palm Beach, though. So let’s get it straight; you have Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Shores. Hell, there’s even a Palm Springs in the area. Thank Siri for Apple Maps when I visit) who asked me to help him with a…ah, big bald cypress. But that’s another story for another day (yes, it’s about an 8 foot tree, not a shohin by any measure). 

Today’s blog post is about an equally impressive tree, a schefflera that’s about 40-50 years old. This was how I first saw it. In the dark, at Jupiter Bonsai. There was beer involved. The tree belongs to Greg.  Somehow, I agreed to take his tree back home with me…….and, either find a pot for it, or make one. So we loaded it up in the van (Don’t hate on my luggage, it was on sale at Target) and back to Orlando I went. 

I made some phone calls, followed some leads, chased a few rabbits down some holes, but, alas, there was no pot big enough, for this tree, in the state of Florida. What’s the matter with the pit it’s in? Well, it’s a terribly faded mica pot from Korea. 

Dave and my son unloaded it for me. They love me. As for the pot, good thing I’m the creative type, right? And I have experience with making slabs out of concrete and using a new product called ShapeCrete. I did a blogpost on it a few months ago and I’m getting the hang of using it. I got this. I can handle the challenge. It’s just a matter of scale, right?  

Here’s the tree a few weeks ago. 

That pretty pink flower is a rain lily or fairy lily (zephyranthes species)  

Measuring the pot, and the ultimate width of the canopy, 

…….I’m guessing the new pot needs to be something like 28″x 41″ or so. And this will be a pot, with sides and drainage holes, as opposed to a slab. For a few reasons. First, I don’t like slabs much. No offence to you slab lovers out there but, I don’t know…..it seems too easy. Secondly, a concrete form with edges will be stronger and less prone to breaking because of structural integrity. That’s why I-beams and tubes are used to build structures as opposed to solid bars. 

In order to make edges for the concrete, because it is technically a liquid until it cures, I’m going to need a frame. And, like all good craftsmen, I will do my maths on the wood. It’s always cool to find writing on the studs in the walls of my old, 100 year old house. 

The next few pics are self explanatory, I think. 

Wanna screw?

When I’m done with this pot, I can use the frame to build a bench top. Looks about right to me. 

The pot’s edge finish I’m going for is in the same style as my “sexual chocolate” pot from the first ShapeCrete post (you’re gonna have to go read it now). 

Which involved using a plastic sheet to roll out the ShapeCrete on and then place it into a form. You need to roll the concrete out bigger than the frame so that, as you lower the sheet into the wooden frame, the sides are formed. 

First, mix the product. 

I’m going for a clay like consistency. 

I ended up using 60 lbs, dry weigh the, of the ShapeCrete, to make it. I love this product. It  has accelorators added to make it cure rock hard in about 24 hours. 

24 hours later…..

The bottom. side view

Not bad. 

It cures in 24 hours but doesn’t reach full strength for 28 days. And you have to soak it in water to leach out the alkalinity for a week or so. 

Some of the things I did waiting for the pot to cure. 

Tamarindo

Bonsai rock ‘n roll

Too much beer

Sergio Luciani. 

Green mound ficus time lapse video: coming soon on the YouTube channel!

I feel like a woman waiting for her menses. 28 days. A lunar cycle. My birthday, if it was February. And finally, it’s time to pot the tree. 

Into The Nook!

The old pot

It took me a little more than an hour to weed this beast. 

The rain lily bulbs were on the bottom of the root ball, under all the roots. 

I had to pull them out from the bottom. And the soil was muck. Nasty stuff. A quick hosing washes most of it off. It had a lot of roots. Understatement of the year. 

 We prepare the pot. A good layer of fresh bonsai soil and….after a little liquid refreshment…..

I think it fits! And it’s not as heavy as you’d think. Guaracha is just showing off his muscles. 

We move it (actually, Guaracha and Dave moved it for me. I’m not supposed to lift more than a gallon of milk, thanks pendejos!) they reminded me, it’s usually the best idea to wait to water it until it’s in place. I like it!

It took about 8 gallons of soil. 

I love the finish and the color. 

It just needs to fill in more and maybe a little wiring. And then I have to deliver it back to down to Southeast Florida.  That should be fun. 

That’s all folks! Make sure you like, share, comment (I’m looking for “ask Adam why questions for the video series on YouTube). Check out the Instagram, Facebook and YouTube feeds. Follow the blog! And if you like my stuff, I’m on Patreon now, check it out, my son need a bigger shirt. 

Posted in rare finds, roots, sculpture, tips and tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Check out the first full length Adamaskwhy YouTube video

Get ready to be amazed! (or severely disappointed, or, for my enemies, even annoyed)

For behold, we have waiting below, just a click away, the very first, full color, full length, walking, talking, and accompanied by music, YouTube video from The Nook!

Please Like and Share it (if you like it, that is, I’d understand if you don’t) and make sure you Subscribe.

Posted in Horticulture and growing, pictures, rare finds, roots, tips and tricks, videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just a little wire…..

TAMARINDO! 

That’s what they call it in Latin America at least. In old world Latin, it’s tamarindus indica. The name comes from Arabic: Tamar Hindi, which is Indian date. It was changed (probably because British don’t pronounce the letter “h”) to “Tamar ‘indi” which gives you “tamarindi” (for Latin words you add the “us” ending, like fic-us or maxim-us) so that’s why it’s “tamarindus”. With Spanish, the endings are usually an a or an o, like loca, or loco (crazy with a male or female ending) tamarindo. In English we don’t like words with a vowel ending so the “I” or the “o” is dropped (I guess it comes from Germanic gutteral endings. Spoken English is hardly ever called pretty or song-like, except for those with Irish accents, and they tend to add a vowel sound on the end of word in their speech patterns). So I call it “tamarind”. Weird how words morph from language to language. 

Anyway, like me, this one needs help. I love a project tree. This one has all types of potential. 

It has a good hefty trunk. 

Nice bark and it’s not a telephone pole, it has some movement. 


Until you get up top that is. 

You could build a house with this  angle. Who says that nature doesn’t make right angles or straight lines? 

One solution is to cut it all off and start fresh, they respond really well to a trunk chop. But, that’d be too easy. And not much entertainment either. You’re gonna enjoy this one. Or call me crazy. Or crazier. I’m shooting for the craziest actually. El Bonsai Loco! 

First, some housekeeping. Then the bondage (sounds like a good plot line….) 

Clean the moss off the base. 

Clean up some crossing roots. 

I won’t be repotting it but I will practice some “soji” on it (a term I just learned from Juan Andrade, it means to remove the top layer of compacted soil. I’ve practiced it often enough, but I didn’t know it had a bonafide bonsai name). But I’ll do that after I make all the mess. 

Next, I need to re-dress this wound. See the weird way it’s healing? The cut was made too round. Let me illustrate. 

We have an unwanted branch. In this case, it was cut it off flush. In many cases I might leave a portion to have a Jin (or I had some gin and I wasn’t cutting so good…). But since we have a tree that can heal a wound like this, we will take advantage of the way sap flows to help heal it faster. 

With a round cut….The sap will flow up….

Hit the cut….and have nowhere to go. The flow has to regrow a new path around the cut. But…BUT… if we make the cut into this shape…the sap has a quicker path to the top….And heals faster. Learned that trick from Master Cheng of Taiwan. 

Tools: a sharp knife. 

Some mechanized persuasion: a mini angle grinder. With a carbide burr wheel with only the outside edge covered with abrasive material. 

Make the wood just a little concave. 

Then, to stimulate the cut again (if a scar doesn’t close in two years or so, just take a sharp blade and score the healed edge, this stimulates new growth) 

And then some of that putty like cut paste. 

Now I’ll defoliate a little to see the structure. 

Of course, leave the petiole. 

There’re some crazy bends and turns on this tree already. And some surprisingly straight sections too. 

Here’s the before. Refer back to it as I go. 

I’m going to make one cut before I get to the main lesson. Up top here. I’m losing the taper at that section so, orff wif its ‘edd!

Now for some physics. I need to bend some pretty heavy branches. 

In order to do it without breaking, I’ll have to wrap them with something so they don’t crack. 

Today I’ll be using wet raffia. 

Let me put some in water to soak and while we wait, I’ll give you the reason why I’m doing this. 

When we bend a branch (think of it as a cylinder with consecutively smaller cylinders inside it, basically the growth rings)……….there are at least two forces acting upon it (the third might be torsion)….tension is pulling the fibers on the outside of the bend, compression is pushing those fibers together. This is why a branch will snap….But, by applying another layer (more plastic or flexible) on the outside of the branch….

that outside layer is now being compressed and won’t crack. Hopefully. I feel so very bonsai-ish when I use raffia. There is a thing about using modern science and traditional material to accomplish an artistic endeavour. It’s kinda hipster. 

I also get to use the biggest wire I have, 6 mm aluminium. 

Doubled up even!

I think I’m going to need my trusty (rusty) branch benders too. 

I made them myself. 

That’s pretty good but I need more. 

A copper guy wire……

Two more hands…..

And I think we have success!

You can see how much those other hands (my son Andrew) tightened the guy wire. Notice that I looped it around the wire and not over the branch. Learned that from Sergio Luciani just last weekend. 

Now, for full disclosure, I did break this branch…But that was from me banging it with my clumsy ham fists. We don’t need it any way….

And the main trunk cracked here, at the branch union. I added some putty to keep it sealed. 

I have the main branches positioned. 

Some more establishing shots. 

And the finished tree!

Let me move the tamarind to the “official” photo area so you can see the tree better. Closeups. The before, to compare. 

Side views: 

I’m thinking a round pot. It’s in a Taiko Earth oval now. 

I still need to refresh the top soil level but you don’t need to see that. I’ll fertilize and keep it in the shade for a bit,  I did some heavy bending and it doesn’t need the late summer Florida sun toasting the branches. 

The before:

And the after:I enjoyed that. What’s next?

Make sure you like, share and subscribe to the blog and go over to my YouTube channel (Adamaskwhy) and subscribe there too. I’ll be posting the first long form video soon (maybe even tomorrow, we are close!) . I’ve also set up a Patreon account to help pay for materials and equipment so I can continue providing quality blog posts and videos for the bonsai community. If you like my work, please support it. 

Thanks! 

Posted in branch placement, redesign, tips and tricks, wiring | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ficus Maximus 2: Dark Side of The Nook

Love that trunk, love the tree.

 

You remember it from April, right? This post? And like that post, it seems I have a beer at my right hand again, funny that. It’s been several months and the tree is ready for round two. 

Here’s the tree, denuded. Fancy new word for y’all to add to your repertoire of horticulture terminology. Use it often, it means to remove a trees leaves. Hurricanes do this, as well insects. And cocky bonsai artists like myself. 

Here’s the tree in April, after the initial styling. We’ve got tertiary branches. We have sufficient wire scarring too. This, as I keep saying and am still getting flack for, is what is needed to keep that branch in place. 

It looks bad but, it is a ficus, it will grow out. The whole theory of wiring is that, by wrapping a wire around a branch, be it copper or aluminum, we can then place the branch in an aesthetically pleasing attitude and position (evoking age, gnarly-ness, etc) and then, as the branch grows, it stays in that position. But the branch has to grow, and, especially with ficus and some other strong and fast upright growers like elms or maples, if the branch doesn’t grow around the wire (“cut in” as we usually say, though it’s the tree and not the wire doing something) , it won’t stay in place, and all that time and wire will have been wasted. I can see all the old timers just squirming in their seats at these wire marks. Makes me smile. Where’s my beer? 

Here’s another fancy word I learned the other day: inosculation. In botany, inosculation is when a tree’s limbs/roots/trunks, self-graft and become one. Like on this ficus’ trunk and aerial roots. 

Close up:I’m full of it today. Information, that is. Im full of bull most days. 

How about this, I’m feeling cheap, ummm, green and environmentally aware today and everything. I think I’m going to re-use some old wire. If you’ve been reading the blog of late (instead of just looking at the pics and ogling my manly hands) you’ll recall that I’ve been making a big deal about teaching you respect for the branch and unwinding wire instead of cutting it off (contrary to what all good wire salesmen teach). One plus to unwinding is you have intact wire, instead those half circles of sharp, twisted torture devices (which are easy to kneel on and can pierce one of the 11 bursa of the knee) and you can re-use it. (For those that must cut it off, there is an opportunity to recycle it as well, American Bonsai Tools, one of my sponsors, has a deal called the Re-Wire™ Recycling Program. For every ten pounds of aluminum wire you send them, you get $50 in American Bonsai wire.)

The problem with re-using wire is this:it’s all twisted and kinked, like my soul. As you may know, when you bend metal, it becomes what the metallurgists call “work hardened”. When it’s bent and moved it becomes harder to bend. Copper is especially susceptible to this, which is why you have to generally cut it off a tree and can only reuse it if you anneal it (heat it to a particular temperature) to soften it up again. Aluminum is less prone to work hardening, but it still happens. But that’s not so bad, it’s the kinks and twisted parts we have to deal with. What you need is a pole and two pair of pliers. I know. Sounds like a set up to a joke…. 

Twisted wire. 

A pole. In this case the legs of my workbench (for you longtime readers, I used to use a stripper pole, because it worked so well. But I had to give it up. The pole, not the stripping…..) You see the two pliers. Now, just pull the wire back and forth against the pole until it’s straight. 


And there you go. 

Now you just need to straighten the ends. 

And we have enough for the next step, re-wire. 

First, some wire on the scarred branches. I don’t need to place these branches, it’s just to let the wire cut in a second time. I’ll leave it on to scar it in the other direction. 

And then the rest of the tree. I know, it’s a little motley with three different colored wires but, hey, it works. 

But! Before I finish, I have to cook dinner. So I will be back in a few hours. 

What’s for dinner? Hand cut pork loin chops. It’s a whole lot cheaper to buy the full loin and cut the chops yourself, you just need a good sharp knife. Look at those grill marks! And you can make them as thick as you want. There’s the added benefit of less hands on the food and less steps to your home. That makes a big difference in food safety. I prefer to cut up whole chickens too. 

It was a meal that couldn’t be beat, but I have work to finish.

 Back to The Nook!

It’s dark so the flood lights are on. 

And that means drama!

That didn’t take long. All wired up and ready for Florida’s “second spring”. I’ve been getting this question a lot, “Is it time to be defoliating and working ficus (it’s the middle of September in Florida). The answer is, for me, yes it is. For you, maybe not. You need to have at least 4 weeks of above 60f (15c) nighttime temps. That’s a good rule of thumb for tropical and broadleaf evergreen trees. Don’t touch your deciduous now, they need to go dormant and you’ll throw them off their schedule by causing growth now and then, not only losing tender new growth at the first frost, but, you’re using energy that the tree stored for springtime. 

 Time I put it to bed, after fertilizer and all, of course. 

I’ll get one more shot in the morning. Make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Except for that back branch on the right, I just might declare that Robert is your mother’s brother (Bob’s your uncle, that is). 

TTFN!

Posted in branch placement, maintenance, progression, refine | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Snoozing in the shade of a banyan

You remember this tree? It made an appearance earlier this year in a post called Time of the Ficus, in which I not only gave a pretty good breakdown of wiring using proper anchors but also presented a thoughtful essay on the idea of defoliation as a horticultural technique in bonsai. Got in trouble for that last bit. Oops. Anyway, I’ve let this one grow since then. As you can see. 

First lesson: if’n you want trees to grow, fertilize. If you want fast fertilizer uptake and quick growth, use synthetic. If you want to control the growth more, and be able to keep up with it, go organic. 

If you have a ficus and it’s summer and the rainy season in Florida, all you need to do is waft the smell of fresh turned dung in its direction- it will grow. Truly, there’s no such thing as dwarfing a ficus, it’s a battle, an epic war, to beat a ficus into shape. I’ve seen a branch move upwards with even when wired with #3 wire. Granted, one can topiary trim a ficus into shape, much as you can any bush, like a juniper or such, but to really develop the branch structure for a great tree, you gotta be on top of it like nuts on a boar hog. Like flatus in a vegan commune. Like a beard and irony on a hipster. Like……you get the idea. 

I got some needed branching. 

The wire cut in in some places it grew so quickly.  But that doesn’t bother me so much. You really have to let the wire dig in to set the branches. And, with a ficus, those scars heal pretty quickly. Not to worry. 

I did get more new growth than I wanted. Which is easy to remedy with some scissors. 

And I got not one, but two branches right where I needed them. 

Here’s the tree before defoliation and after some selective pruning. 

You may have noticed that in not in my usual work place. I’m at the Central Florida Bonsai Club meeting. And I have some help (and some hecklers too). 

First step tonight is to defoliate. My technique is to use scissors to cut the leaves off and to leave the petiole intact. 

  The petiole is basically the leaf stem. 

My first helper is my daughter. I dragged her here to get her out of the house. She’s addicted to YouTube and I thought some human interaction might be good for her. She is literally saying “Don’t take my picture!”

A new CFBC member is helping too, Joel. Between the two of them they were done before I could even sit down. 

Next is to take the wire off. I showed my daughter how to use the pliers to remove the heavier wire. 

And left her at it while I shot the shit with Guaracha. 

I also helped out Jose a bit with his portulacaria. And that’s Diane in the background. It was really an impromptu meeting, I had scheduled the room at the facility (we meet at the Orange County IFAS/UF Agricultural Extension office) but I didn’t really schedule it on our calendar on the Club’s Website. But Jose and Diane both called me that day and I decided to go. 

In the meantime, Gwendolyn had finished unwiring my tree. 

This was the easiest tree I’ve ever worked on! 

But now it’s time for me to get started. I did a bit more pruning. 

Some long shoots. 

And some dead ends. Which a ficus microcarpa is know for. 

And then I rewired all the new growth. 

This is only the second wiring on this tree so I had to keep some “whippy dips” to fill space. 

That’s what I call the curly cues I sometimes use for apexes. Diane coined the term actually. 

It’s filling in fast. Fertilizer helps I guess. I showed my sister the above pic and she remarked how the branch structure resembled the veins of a human body. Here’s the tree after the wiring. And here’s it is, back at the Nook the next day, after adding this one more wire. 

Can you spot the difference? 

More fertilizer and back on the bench. I think it’s progressing greatly. 

Keep an eye out on my YouTube channel, I’ll be posting an aerial video soon. 

I think I’ll continue the banyan theme again for the next post. See ya’ soon. 

Posted in branch placement, Horticulture and growing, progression, refine, updates | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

All Wired up with no place to go…..

Three trees, a ficus, a raintree, and a water jasmine, walk into a bar….….they each say, in three different languages, the same thing, 

“Ouch”

Sorry. I think I’ve made that joke before. Sounds like one of mine. 

We need some wire, maybe some repotting, some love. Some beer too. Maybe the jokes will get better. I’ll wait, go get yourself one. Or wine. Or some of the hard stuff. 

First tree:A Brazilian raintree that has been in its pot a little too long. It’s a wee bit pot bound. But, it not only has the much sought after nitrogen fixing nodules, but it has a healthy mycchorizae  colony too. That’s the white fungus. The round balls are the nodules (you can read about them a little more in this post). It’s adapted to my neglect, the nodules feed nitrogen to the mycchorizae and the mycchorizae feeds it (and helps with water uptake) to the tree. Or something like that. The roots are so thick that even removing half of them, there’s still a thick mass left. Since I took off so much, I’ll defoliate this  time, as I usually do (if you scroll back a few posts you’ll see that I’ve been experimenting with adding sphagnum moss on the soil to help with moisture loss after a repot on my Brazilian Raintrees).  It’s ready to push new growth anyway, as evidenced by the swelling buds. If you see them, it’s usually safe to defoliate. Sometimes the foliage will look like it’s always wilting, or kinda yellow and ragged,  even after it’s been watered. You’ll probably see those same buds at those times. I’ve observed that it’s almost like the tree is asking for help in shedding its old leaves, so a defoliation is almost always in order. I’ve even done this in the middle of winter and the tree popped out new growth within a week. Anyway, a quick potting. 

Some wiring….ummmmmm……well, after a quick beer….hard root beer after a hard root prune. How appropriate….

…..and on to the next tree. A wrightia religiosa (it might be a wrightia vietnamensis, the dwarf water jasmine, but I’m not sure. It does have small leaves. I had a big specimen of the dwarf water jasmine but I sold it to Mr. Seth Melon on the agreement that he would propagate it and I’d get the first few new plants, but he seems remiss in his promise. Maybe this public humiliation will set a fire under his butt and get me some cuttings). 

I got this cute little guy from the Hukyu Auction in Clearwater a few weeks ago. It’s my first real mame, which means a miniature bonsai under a certain size (which varies depending on who’s book  you read, but about 4″ or so) 

A quick thinning and some wiring. 


And I think I’d like it in another pot. How about this one?I like the color but……maybe a little more fancy. How about this one?

Yeah. I just need a little more soil and moss….It’s so cute! I can hardly wait for flowers! It gets little white and very fragrant flowers that hang down. They call it “water jasmine” because the only way to see the bloom is in the reflection in a pool of water. 

…and now, on to my daughter’s willow leaf ficus. I almost killed it (and another one)  last year at this time after working it heavily and repotting it all at once. 

So there won’t be a repot but I’ll trim and wire it. I’m learning, really, I am. I’ll still defoliate it. 

Ain’t nothing wrong with that. I still get the question often: Why do I defoliate? 

Well, first, I do it so you all out there in the ether can see the branch structure in my photographs. Scroll back up to the after pic of the wrightia…..can’t see much except leaves there, can you? You can’t really see how I applied the wire or how I placed the branches, can you? Not really instructive that way. Just kind of a before and after. 

Secondly, defoliating a tree, done at the right time, will cause back budding. At the base of the petiole is what the botanists call an axillary bud. By removing the leaf, you will activate the buds growth and you’ll get, not just a new leaf, but a new branch. Ramification. 

Thirdly, it’s way easier to wire without leaves. And I’m a male in the 21st century. I need things to be easy. 

Now, make a big note and tape it to your fridge, Defoliation is only effective at the correct time of the year, and only on appropriate species of trees that, most importantly, are healthy. Dig? Don’t go defoliating your black pine (unless you’re plucking needles…..doh!) 

Some pruning for taper. 

Wire. 

See how easy that was without them pesky leaves? 

And viola! Now, tell me what you’d see if it had leaves….

Not much. 

Aftercare. A good application of fertilizer on all three. The raintree will go into the full sun, as well as the water jasmine (I didn’t touch the roots much on it. It went into a bigger pot). But the ficus will go into the shade. That’ll help the fine twigs (thinner than usual for this tree) from getting sunburn. Like this one just did:

Looks good here but….

 

This is today. 

This was a willow leaf I almost killed last year at the same time as my daughters tree. I was testing a theory this year, whether it was the repot or the tree going into the full sun that damaged the branches. So I didn’t repot it, but it went into the full sun. And bam!Almost that whole branch is dried up. 

I’m going to have to go with exposure to the full Florida sun as the real culprit. 

Like I said, I’ll learn. 

In the shade you go then, until I see new growth on all the branches. 

And that’s that.

Next post, a ficus microcarpa and what happens when you fertilize it. See ya’!

Posted in branch placement, rare finds, redesign, refine, wiring | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments