I found this little beauty in my nursery this time.
I haven’t done much writing on the initial styling of a bonsai yet so I decided to show y’all how I do it.

I’m pretty sure I grew this from a cutting. I know I’ve had it for awhile because, for some reason,I had a real dislike for the green island ficus. But, with some counselling and the proper meds, I think I’ve reconciled with them now.

This will be the front


First, we get nekkid!

20120802-201728.jpgfor those that don’t know, a ficus is a fig. The one used for food is the ficus carica. The fruit is called an infructesence. The fruits on the green island ficus don’t get much bigger than this. They are edible and they’re purple when ripe. Do not eat them unless you know that the tree hasn’t been treated with a systemic insecticide used to combat thrips. Thrips are a common pest that is hard to beat without the use of a systemic.

Woohoo, I can see your noodle!

There are two reasons to defoliate and many reasons not too.
If the tree is healthy, defoliate the tree in the initial styling stage so you can see the structure. (it’s also easier to wire).
The second reason is balance. I’ll be root pruning this to put it into a training pot and by cutting the leaves, I will stimulate the tree into growth.
There are many trees we don’t do this to. So don’t think that what I do to this ficus is good for a juniper.

I cut here for taper.

This growth habit is typical of the green island. It is more of a shrub than a tree and it likes to fall down and throw roots down etc etc. and this was one reason I didn’t like the species. But it’s also one reason to like it too.

Here is the soil it’s in. The organic has broken down quite a bit and ,if it dries,the soil ball is a bit like a brick. It does have sand in it though.

Which is how one can account for the fine roots we observe.

This is a lizard egg. A Florida Anole; “Polychrotidae Anolis “, most people say gecko or lizard.

This is the native green one.There is a brown variety (that has been more successful and is overtaking the native one)that was imported from Cuba a long time ago. My nursery is, it seems, is a major breeding spot (bowchickawowow!); I find eggs all the time. I re-bury them when I find them, the anoles eat bugs.

Time to untangle the roots.

Now, I know that some of you don’t care about tangled roots. Some of you care very passionately about untangling them. Some wonder what the hell I’m talking about. Some people don’t want aerial roots at all; some wish very much to have them. We call them Californians.
I like them,but I like them,mostly, untangled.

The roots will, contrary to what some may teach, grow tangled in the wild. It depends on the species. And they will grow from the trunk as well as the limbs.

Again, it depends on the species

I don’t mind aerial roots from the trunk. I think it gives a character to the tree that’s says “tropical ficus”

This is a good look

As well as this

This is what some strive for.

Bonsai is an Artform. In art, it is not the goal for the artist to copy nature (thats what forensic photography is for) but for the artist to see “something” and present that image so it translates that “vision” into a language or medium that the non-artist can appreciate.
So it’s a process of simplification, addition or subtraction, and visual trickery. Example: If we are painting a landscape of a pond and trees and we want to show nature, we probably won’t show those power lines. If we want to show mankind’s intrusion into nature we will, and put in some litter and abandoned cars as well.
We might add a heron or duck to the first and show a dead fish in the second.
It is the artist’s story to tell. But it should be a conscious thing to leave in or take out various details.

Anyway. I choose to comb out these roots.



Here’s a trick, if you want an aerial root but don’t have any, you can take a branch and bend it down so the tip goes into the soil.


The branch will root and become that root (take note Californians) you can also take a rooted cutting and thread graft it through a horizontal branch, thus creating your aerial root.
I won’t do either here but it does work.

I’m tempted to put in one of these pots but I think one more year training in a deeper pot will give me quicker growth.

I love this brand pot.

I am constantly preaching about tying your trees into the pots. It isn’t enough to just hand twist it though.
Grasp the wire

Pull it tight

Twist it in.

Make sure it’s secure.

Here it is before wiring.

And after.

This is the growth habit of a broadleaf tropical tree. The canopy is wider than tall; spread out to get all the sun it can.
The live oak will do this too.

Right side view. A little bare

These limbs need to grow

To fill in here a bit.


20120804-103737.jpgand after.
Just needs to grow.

6 thoughts

  1. Fascinating photos and descriptions. To what do you wire the base of the plant? Through the holes in the bottom of the pot? What is the medium used? Thanks so much for the lessons!


    1. The wires do go through the bottom of the pot to hold the tree in.
      I use a mix of pine bark, expanded shale, calcined clay and lava rock generally. I have used diatomaceous earth particles as well.


  2. I know this is an old post, but what is the brand of pot you mentioned that you like. Found your site, I’m new to the bonsai art. Been reading through your old posts. Great information, I’ve recommended your site to our local club in Scottsdale, AZ.


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