Has anyone been to Florida at the end of August?
I don’t recommend it.
I have a lot of work to catch up on and it’s hot. H. O. T.
Which means: Hell On Tour.
It’s also one of the busiest tourist times. I. Don’t. Understand. It.
Enough whining Lavigne, suck it up, buttercup!
Four trees for your perusal:
Lets start with a ficus microcarpa.
First seen in this post, the ginseng ficus free for all. This is today
This was it in April.
The challenge with these ficus is getting the branches to stay in place and building ramification. Remember this is just a microcarpa, not any of the varieties like golden coin or retusa.
There were wires that cut into the trunk but even that couldn’t hold the branches down
I know it looks bad and that there are certain people out there who think that a wire mark on a branch is sacrilege but a ficus needs it to really set the branches.
In a year you won’t even be able to see it. Next spring I’ll wire these branches in the opposite direction (so I am essentially crossing these scars with the new wire). Then I’ll let the wire cut in again. And probably I’ll wire a third time and also allow the wires to cut in. Then the branch will be all gnarly and twisted and the bark will look old.
And I’ll probably need to wire the same branch 3-4 times.
Look here-
That branch was wired down like this-
This one as well
was down
The vigorous growth this tree shoes is strong enough to bend those wired branches up.
Remove the wire
And some trimming
Most ficus will put out annoying growth in inopportune places. This one is no exception
Besides removing those shoots I’ll be tipping each branch to push ramification (last year on the big specimen microcarpa I tried leaving the growing tips (and wired it) throughout the fall and winter, this year I’ll try the opposite, I think)
Some of the new branches, in order to get some length, I won’t tip trim
If you want length and thick branches faster, keep just the terminal bud on a branch.
My ultimate goal in this ficus experimenting is to figure out how best to utilize the different growing seasons for the types of growth that grow best during those seasons.
I could just super feed all the trees all the time and get insane growth but then the internodes will be too long and then I’ll have to graft foliage and that always looks a little weird.
If I can figure out the tree and tell you that, BAM, you’ll get a shoot here and it will take 18 months or a year to develop it then I’d rather do that than teach grafting. Grafting is too easy on ficus.

Next step is defoliating the tree
Everywhere except those few growing tips I left.
Fertilize and let’s see what happens next.
The second tree is the native Florida strangler fig from this post.
Just a quick update on it. I’ll remove the wire and trim it.
The funny thing with this was the wire was actually holding the branches up. When I removed it the branches flopped down because the new growth was so heavy.
All those curves I wired in did set (except that one lower branch).
I cut off about 90% of the foliage off
There were new shoots all up and down the trunk that I removed (which I think might become a full time job on this tree, it likes to grow) and the bevel cuts I made on the roots to taper them into the soil have all thrown roots out of those cut edges.
Which is pretty cool.
Here’s how it was in the last post.
And now

The next tree is the carved hornbeam (this post in the thread)
Looks good with leaves, right?
There was little excess growth on this tree.
Which was expected I guess. It is in a finished sized pot and that really slows growth (even an inch bigger can make the difference or so my wife tells me).
Here it was earlier in the year-
I think I’ll defoliate and give a quick trim at this time.
Carved section
Big leaf
Longest growth. Not sure if I want to wire or just clip and grow
The branching has a subtle growth habit already. I think I’ll clip and grow
I tip trimmed the shoot and put down some fertilizer andIi just need some sunlight now.
I should be able to double the ramification this fall.
This is the point where you should be jealous.
Remember that thought I had at the beginning of the post and you might not be so jealous.
You might still be. Sorry.
The last tree is a new one, I think.
It is also a hornbeam, I was told a Korean hornbeam but I’m not sure.
It once belonged to a Florida legend (Harold Harvey) and I picked it up after he had passed away.
I’ve had it for 5 or 6 years and I’ve been building the vigor of the tree. When I got it it was near death, the roots and the branches were weak. It took a few years to build the health where I was confident that it would survive a repot and then it was a matter of growing branches.
This spring I repotted into this long pot to help with the roots (and damn if it doesn’t look cool in it).
This year I got foot long shoots on it and I’ve had to trim 3-4 times already.
Just about every branch is wired.
I’ve kept this tree in dappled shade this year and it’s had its best growth ever. This makes me think it is a Korean hornbeam. The Florida sun is pretty harsh on them as a rule.
The back is facing the sun and the leaves are not as dense as the leaves are on the front.
All I’ll do on it today is give it a slight detail prune.
Doesn’t look like I did anything, does it?
I did trim a little.
Watch for this one to show up in it’s winter silhouette around February or so and I’ll dress it up with some moss and make it look pretty. Maybe I’ll put it into the 2014 BSF convention show next year.

5 thoughts

  1. Hey Adam, I thought a Ficus Microcarpa and Ficus Retusa were the same thing? Not a big deal, just curious. Also, I have noticed the branches on my ficus fighting upward, too. It’s indoor in a terrarium (you gave me some good advice via email a couple of weeks ago, thank you) and I am thinking of installing side grow lights to hit the tree horizontally. Do you think that would help to force the branches to grow towards that side light? Thanks and I hope you’re having a good time at the show.


    1. The name “retusa” is an old name for microcarpa. Now it’s a variety so you’d say f. microcarpa “retusa”.
      The branches growing up have a lot to do with gravity as well as light. A plant can tell which way is up and down grows up when young.


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