Well, it’s kinda like this..I was thick in the moment, working on my trees, and I just grabbed this ficus and chopped it back without thinking
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I got it at the BSF convention to use as the subject for a progression series on the blog.
So here is a pic from the convention highlight,
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not a very good pic, I admit, but it was just a small detail of that post (click here to read it).
So thats all I have for a before pic. I promise that all I did was chop the tree back
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and comb out a few roots
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By now you’re wondering about the title and what post was actually part one though, right?
Part one was on this tree,

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which we saw last at the end of September. I plan on working on it too.

So what do I need to do to the first tree to rejuvenate it?
The first thing I did already: I chopped it back.
Next I need to cut the roots
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Wait, you say, you remember the previous post with this name (click here to read it) and what I counseled then was restraint and patience.
Ah, dear readers, that was on September 26, ficus are not growing in September.
It is now the end of June, I can toss a cutting on the ground and it will root.
Welcome to the “Wild Abandon Bonsai Show”; throw caution to the wind, burn your bras and hold onto your concave cutters!
Welcome to the Jungle, Baby!

Comb out the roots and straighten them (mostly)
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The visual nature of this tree can allow for some crossing roots.
Here’s its new pot
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Which looks awfully familiar.
The one detail I want to be specific about is the correct placement of the aerial roots.
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I believe they should be arrow straight into the ground. Design wise, the straight line contrasts with the undulating and organic shape of a ficus and shoots your eyes to the “ground” and frames the trunk.
Horticulturally that’s how they grow in nature.
A little wire
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And we have straightness
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You may be wondering about this soil
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The mix is Diatomaceous earth (white) expanded shale (grey) and pine bark (pine colored). I had a gallon of it left over from my soil post (click here) and I decided to use it.
It was an experimental mix that I put together for purely aesthetic reasons.
We will see how it works horticulturally now too. It’s a mix where it should be easier to find the components locally. Red lava is hard to come by.

Ok, now the star of the show: ficus microcarpa “retusa”!
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It actually looks kinda boring, right?
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Not really a good nebari either
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Why am I bothering with it?
Well….I know the ending now, don’t I?
Lets proceed:
instead of defoliating I’m cutting the branches back
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At this point I need to push the growth in and get the tree to bud back.
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Whoops, missed a leaf!
Got it.
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If you’ve read my styling posts before, you’ll remember that I like to repot first and then wire and place the branches.
This is backwards of how most people do it.
So, contrarian that I am, let’s repot
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One thing to consider: if you are trying to grow a tree and grow branches, its usually best not to detail wire the tree (you can place primary branches and such) until its in a bonsai pot. Putting it into the smaller pot slows the growth and you won’t be rewiring so often (and you won’t get the unspeakable sin: wire scars). Conversely, a tree in a big pot is easy to forget and wire left on too long will cut in badly.
As always, cut the bottom roots directly under the trunk
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and comb and trim enough so you can fit it in a small pot.
And, wow! Look at the base
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Pretty nice, huh?

Now, it seems I never have the right pot
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People ask me all the time if I sell pots.
Usually I say
“No, I’m not a pot dealer. I only buy”
Choices, choices, choices…
How’s this one?
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No, not bad but not good.
This one?
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Looks good but, to the left I think
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And some soil
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Now, it’s the time of the Preacher.
When I showed restraint in November, it was in anticipation of this: wire the heck out of it.
My arsenal
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Every branch (well, I missed one or two) is wired.
The result:
Blam!
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It’s a modest, mature looking tree with a good nebari (base) and good branching. It has a few aerial roots but not flamboyantly so.
It’s a good tree.
Side by side comparison of our two trees
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I suppose I should draw a picture of the first tree for your perusal and enjoyment.
How about a lesson? Sure.
First I take a photo
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Then do what is called a figure sketch (this should take 15-30 seconds)
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I usually start at the pot and then fill in the tree.
Next I give some depth
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By defining what’s in front or behind.
Then some shading
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(I was taught that a pencil is a linear drawing tool so that’s why my shading consists of lines and not smudges.)
The next step is pure make believe (although I hope that it will grow this way)
I put some branches (at this point you should have this song running through your head. From Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings)
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And then I erase the guide lines and darken those I wish to keep.
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Then I add leaves
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And… almost done
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A few finishing touches and my signature
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That grey turd looking thing in front is a kneaded gum eraser on the tip of my pencil.
And as you see, I photoshop the pic of the finished drawing a bit too. That’s what’s called “color correction”.
Not bad for an hours work: two trees and a drawing.
Time to relax
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See ya’ next time.
Maybe I’ll work on some strangler figs. That should cause some controversy.

5 thoughts

  1. Can’t wait to see the large ficus after it develops! Not usually a fan of the banyan style roots – but it really looks good on this tree. I’ve been using that same soil mix for awhile now and so far so good. I use O’Reilly’s Optisorb for the Diatomaceous earth. It seems to have larger particles than NAPA so you don’t lose as much after sifting.

    Like

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