As promised, here are the goodies I picked up on the Central Florida Bonsai Club’s field trip to Mary Madison’s place.
First, as a representative of the Bonsai Societies of Florida, I got three demo trees for the 2014 convention.
Two medium and one tall.
The scary thing is that I am officially the chairman of the whole 2014 BSF convention
And one of my jobs is the procurement of plant material.
Besides the sheer number of trees I have to get, the biggest challenges are getting material that people want, at a cheap price but still superior in quality, and that the artists know how to work.
The three artists headlining are Enrique Castano, Ed Trout and Peter Warren.
All three artists are very well versed in the many different trees we use in bonsai, but each one has his specialty and different teaching technique. It’s a little hard, to say the least.
Mark you’re calendars: May 23-26 2014 at the Florida Hotel in Orlando.
Registration and workshop prices will blow your mind with how affordable they are.
When we get the specifics specified I’ll let you all know.

For my own enjoyment, I got three trees.
Two buttonwoods and a ficus salicaria.
Yeah, a ficus from Mary.
Weird, huh?
The salicaria
The first buttonwood
And the second one
I’m gonna have fun with the second buttonwood
But it was just collected this year so I’ll let it recover first, fertilize it, and make sure it stays alive.
The first buttonwood I can do a little work on. It is two or three years from collection and well established in the pot.
It’s not as twisty as some of her other trees but there was something that called to my creative side about it.
Maybe because there is so much work that needs to be done on it?
Or that there will definitely be some carving.
The growth is a bit leggy
and I’ll have to cut it back before I have anything useful to work on.
This branch,
especially, needs some back budding
or I may just Jin the whole thing.
All I’m doing this year though is just a quick prune and a thorough repot
The roots are well developed on the tree, it’s not too pot bound.
It should push new growth quickly.
Some recycled bonsai soil and a new pot,
and that’s all for now.
I raised this root above the soil so I can carve it a bit later, it is slightly rotten though, so I’m not sure how much will remain (wait, buttonwoods don’t rot, do they? Indeed they do. It’s only those deadwood pieces subjected to salt spray that will resist rot.)
Now, on to the salicaria.
You’re wondering why I picked out this ugly little tree, right?
Where do I start with such an ugly turd?
At the bottom, of course.
It looks like this might have been an air layer at one point.
The roots are emerging radially around the entire perimeter of the base.
The only branching I’ll keep is on the top.
I would keep this but it’s on the front of the tree
The top is growing too well.
We can’t allow that now, can we? (that’s not a joke, by cutting the top it will make the tree grow more on the bottom)
New pot.
One piece of wire-
The first bend will be towards the back, right corner of the pot
The next bend is a coil to the left
Another bit of wire-
And some more bending-
And that’s it.
I need branches here
“So what’s up Adam?” You ask.
Why do I like this little ugly tree?
One thing is specifically this hollow
It looks like the trunk chop site, but the way it’s healing is also very natural looking.
I buried the tree a little deeper than it will be eventually.
I’m also fertilizing heavily,
I want a lot growth established before winter. I use my standby, Milorganite fertilizer.
What else do I see in this tree?

Heres my sketch-
What I see is that very old, gnarly trunk. Those are hard things to come by on little ficus salicarias.
When choosing material I always look for some focal point or distinguishing mark that sets that tree apart from the thousands of others for sale.
Leave the cookie cutter, perfect little 123 bonsai for the next guy. Be selective, be discriminating. You don’t need one of every species; if you don’t see a unique tree in the variety your looking for, don’t buy anything. It’s simple.
It may not be easy (trust me, I know) but try. You’ll end up getting rid of it later anyway. Usually at a loss.

6 thoughts

  1. I really DO appreciate your sketches, not only as artwork by itself, but also as a great teaching tool. As a new bonsai hobbyist, I’m just beginning to “see” the tree that it could become. Thanks again, Adam.


  2. Hi Adam , I have always been a fan of the “underdog” plants , but I must admit even I was skeptical after seeing those first pictures . But I must say you have a great vision and talent for the ancient art of Bonsai. I have always been fascinated by the process ,I even have a couple of books about it ,but was afraid to attempt it on a real plant except for 1. I was curator for the tropical collection at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens . We had dug up to the collection for the winter and it was housed in 2 96×42 ft greenhouses . I was back there cleaning ,pruning,and fertilizing . We had a gigantic ficus nitida , so tall I had to cut over 7 ft out of it to get in the greenhouse which of course after settled
    it grew like a madman. There was a root sucker the I decided to
    cut off and when I did it came out with a reasonable set of roots .
    To make an already too long story shorter , I potted it in a deep
    saucer ,cut the tops off and gave it a dose of Superthrive, Which I
    ABSOLUTELY SWEAR BY, it turned out to be a very beautiful little
    Bonsai. A guy I worked with there was leaving and I gave it to him as going away gift . That was about 16 yrs ago and he still has it ,
    it is gorgeous. The point of all of this is I have had a series of life
    changing , devastating events in my life the last 10 years and you
    have inspired me to again dabble in the art of Bonsai. Thank you
    SO MUCH for giving me something else to focus on . Wonderful
    informative information and demonstration. THANK YOU SO
    MUCH !!!!!!!! I look forward to more information from you in the future . Best Regards, Brenda Doerge


    1. Brenda, thank you for the story. I would like to see that tree.
      And I’m speechless. I hope everything is going well for you now.
      I will do my best to continue to live up to your praise.
      Thank you very much


  3. Hi, Adam, what do you think about propagation by cutting this species conocarpus? Congratulations for the work that you show us, thanks
    Mario Chica


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