From time to time I get photos from my readers (no, not those kind, though I keep hoping) asking for my thoughts on their trees.
I’d like to share two with you I’ve recently received. A juniper and a ficus.
The juniper is from Danny who lives in Texas.
The ficus is from Guillaume from Canada.
Yeah, it’s weird but you’d think it would be the other way around. Right?
Danny is such a Canadian name and I’ve known like 5 Guillaumes from Texas……anyway…
I’m just going to throw the pics up of both trees and let the images stew a bit in my subconscious and then I’ll do some scribbling and sketching.
First, the juniper-
And now the ficus-
I’ll start with the juniper.
Danny sent me these pics on Google+ (which has a growing bonsai community, I recommend joining it).
The tree is pretty young and hasn’t been shaped yet.
I love these challenges, I wish I could get my bonsai-soil-stained fingers on it.
The main difficulty in this tree’s design lies in the branch placement.
It looks like a parsonii juniper to me but I’m not sure, but It’s definitely one that hugs the ground and the limbs are naturally contorted. And they are in odd places.
As far as I can tell (and I might be missing some branches) this is the limb structure:
The first, left branch is actually the continuation of the trunk:
The main problem is that every other branch is either falling back or originates in the back.
What we need is some wirin’ and some fancy bendin’.
Like this:
The main trunk/first branch would be wired as a cascade and the top wired so that, using the existing branches as they come of the side, filling in the spots where branches are needed.
And the end result would kinda look like this.
Pie in the sky?
Naaa…junipers like to fill in open, empty spaces and by putting the branches in the right spots, you’ll have a full tree quickly.
Danny may or may not need raffia to accomplish the twist. I’m not sure as that really takes an in-person feel of the tree and its flexibility. (Do I hear a “Road Trip!” ?)
Now, the ficus: it is easier and harder.
Looking at the tree I can tell that it’s been in training (trunk wise) for a long time.
The first trunk chop is almost healed:
And it looks to me like maybe there’s been some root grafting on the nebari;
A nice specimen to begin with, which makes it easier, but it’s harder because there had been some selection if branches that might have been useful.
This is how I’d approach it:
Turn the tree about 90 degrees clockwise. This is the new front.
Prune off these branches:
And this is the trunk line:
(I’m not saying to prune everything else off, just those two branches I pointed out)
Adding the branches back in:
The tree begins to take shape.
Some foliage-
The tree looks to me to be either ficus phillipenensis or ficus benjamina.
Since it’s not in front of me and I can’t really be sure, I’ll recommend to Guillaume that he only cut the branch to a leaf or strong bud. Keep green on the branch.
The pot is a good one for the character of the tree so I’d keep it.
Being in Canada it will take many years to achieve the ultimate design.
Maybe Guillaume will just ship it down here and I’ll act as caretaker and he can visit it from time to time.
And Danny will put in a good word in for me to take a tour of the Lonestar Federation clubs.
One can dream, right?
Hopefully I have helped out my Texas and Canadian friends and maybe even given some ideas to anyone else out there who is at a crossroads with a tree and can’t quite “see” the way to go.
Now it’s 5 o’clock somewhere (either in Texas y’all or Canada, eh?) and time for a beer.

7 thoughts

  1. Do you ever board trees for clients to help out with their development? Wishing I could sent my tree down south to speed up the development. I have the basic vision for it, but growing it out will be a 5+ year proposition for me up here.


      1. A really old tiger bark ficus. I’m training it into a sumo style. Currently sits at about 12″ high and about 15″ across. I broke the apex when wiring (I know, I know – two hands always!), so regrowing it has been slooooow.


      2. Yeah, I’m definitely serious. It would be really good for the health of the tree and development will be much faster. I’ll touch base closer to spring when the tree is safe to ship. I appreciate you entertaining the idea and will be happy to work out a deal with you.


  2. The Ficus looks as if someone has made an airlayer , sometime in the past, to deal with the “S-curve problem.”

    I like the way you shorten the tree overall, but to my eye, the finished design needs a little more visual weight on the viewer’s left. Comment?


    1. That’s a good thought but my thought was that just the thickness of the trunk was enough. The trunk above the nebari is thicker than a soda can by half.
      And the movement that was created in the original cuts I think should be highlighted and not hidden by a canopy.
      It’s a big tree with nice curves.


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